Sunday, January 22, 2012

Goodbye, Joe Paterno
I don't think Joe Paterno, who died today at 85, will have the fate Shakespeare's Antony described in Juluis Caesar, Act 3, scene ii: "The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones". The evil of which Paterno was accused so near the end of his life was a sin of omission, but one that may have had very bad consequences. Fellow blogger Mark Koltko-Rivera, writing at the time the scandal had just broken and before Paterno was fired as Penn State's football coach, made a case, on both consequentialist and deontological (if, indeed, there is a real difference between the two) grounds, for firing Paterno immediately, thereby denying him a "last hurrah" at the Nittany Lions' then forthcoming end-of-season game.

Joe Paterno was a native of my now beloved adopted home, Brooklyn. He coached at a university near where my mother was born and raised and where I was born, whose teams I rooted for whenever they weren't playing against Florida or Florida State. I believed, and still believe, in his reputation as a good coach, not only in the sense of being a winning coach, but one who inspired respect and love from his players while instilling or reinforcing in them ideals of good conduct and devotion to learning, as well as to football. I don't think this reputation will "be interred with [his] bones", nor should it. The "evil" will also be remembered, and should serve to caution others who find themselves in a situation similar to that in which Paterno found himself when confronted with the information he was given.

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