I'm not ashamed to admit I cried when the news of Joe Paterno's death was announced.
I cried because everything that Paterno has done to make Penn State a better place was unjustly tossed to the trash by an out-of-control media. I cried because the very school that Paterno loved and dedicated nearly three quarters of his life to lost sight of what he did for Penn State and what Penn State meant to him.
I cried because an elitist self-righteous so-called Board of Trustees didn't once say "Let's hear what Joe has to say before we kick him to the curb."
I cried because these same self-righteous wolves didn't have the courage to face him with their decision, but instead sent a messenger boy with a note to "call this number."
I cried for his family, who have been tortured and harassed by media outlets all over the country, are now having to face losing their husband, their father, their grandfather.
I cried because I remember the first time Joe spoke to me. I was 20 years old and saw him walking on the sidewalk to his office in Rec Hall when I was working in landscape in West Halls. I made it a point to be in that area every day at that time, always smiling at him and saying, "Good morning, Mr. Paterno."
He always replied with a smile, a wave and a good morning. After about two weeks, he turned to me and said, "Hey kid, why don't you call me Joe?"
The coach, the legend, told me at 20 years of age to call him Joe. That is the Joseph Vincent Paterno that any Penn Stater knows.
Even after he was stripped of his position as head football coach, one he held proudly but humbly for 46 years, he held no animosity toward the university. He even donated $100,000 to Penn State in December, just a little more than a month after the school he loved and helped to make what it is today, surgically removed him from the ranks.
That is the Joseph Vincent Paterno that any Penn Stater knows.
Penn State will never be what it was when Joe Paterno paced the sidelines of Beaver Stadium. Those who have had the pleasure of watching him lead the blue and white onto the field on game day should cherish that thought. You were witness to the coach with 409 wins in college football, surely a record that will stand for an eternity.
But if it's broken, that really won't matter to Joe.
In his own words, "They ask me what I'd like written about me when I'm gone. I hope they write I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach."
Joseph Vincent Paterno, nobody could have done it better. Thank you for all the wonderful memories you have left all of us with.
That is the Joseph Vincent Paterno that any Penn Stater knows and will never forget.
He stood for more than football
Being a Penn State graduate, I've always taken pride in the football program, even before Joe Paterno became the head coach.
My first experiences with Penn State football were as a member of the Williamsburg High School band, participating in Band Day every fall. It was special to march out on the field of old Beaver Stadium on a cold October Saturday and stand, anchored at our four corners by members of the Blue Band, and play the Star Spangled Banner.
I remember one of those years, Penn State played Syracuse, whose formidable running back, Jim Brown, was to become a football legend. In those days, I never dreamed I would someday be a proud alum.
A high school athlete from my hometown won a football scholarship to Penn State, and knowing Galen Hall made the game even more important to me. His mother was my French teacher in high school. He married my best friend. I was a bridesmaid at his wedding. And he introduced me to Joe Paterno, then an assistant coach - the quarterbacks coach - and Galen's mentor.
One Saturday in the fall of 1961 we waited for Galen outside the locker room, and when he came out, Joe Paterno was with him. We were introduced, and that was that. All I knew about Joe was Galen thought he was a great guy, a fine coach. That was enough for me.
As the years passed, I learned even more about Joe. How he set standards for his players. How he expected them to behave like gentlemen on and off the field. How he played by the rules and didn't give in to the "win at any price" philosophy that drove the sport on many campuses across the country. How he saw his players as a team, not as individual superstars, though many of them passed through his program. Plain uniforms, no names, plain helmets, no badges of honor.
We took pride in all of that. We were Penn State.
We Americans have so much, it is easy for us to be cavalier - to think our good fortune is only our due.
Joe wasn't like that. He wanted to work hard. He wanted his players to work hard. He wanted us to earn our place on and off the scoreboard. Like any Penn Stater, I took pride in the football team - never missed a game if I could help it. Celebrated Joe's success. You can have all the standards you want, but nobody is going to notice unless you win games.
So Joe won games - 409 of them. In the process he brought the Penn State family, and through us, the nation to the understanding that pride must be built on substance.
Then came the 2011 season, and the bottom fell out. Our beloved coach was mired in a scandal so ugly, so vile, it was unbelievable for the Penn State family. This wasn't us. We stood for all that was right and good. And yet ...
There was no denying the accusations. No screaming in self-defense. No insistence on a fairer hearing. No finger pointing at the press. Joe went home. He thanked the students who supported him, sometimes in the extreme. He expressed concern for the innocent victims of abuse. He wished he had done more to help them. He spoke his gratitude for the loyalty people showed him. He thought he'd been lucky to have lived the life he lived.
On Jan. 22, a Sunday morning, he died, a class act to the very end. How will he be remembered? To those who knew him only as a football coach, the whole story will fade as new teams, new coaches and new rivalries take the stage.
We love our football, and the passing of one man isn't going to have much impact on that. But to those of us who knew him as our representative, the hard-nosed, courageous symbol of all that we are or ever hope to be, Joe will live on.
This tragic, exemplary man who did so much for others, whose fate was to have his legacy forever tied to scandal, will live on in the hearts of Penn Staters everywhere. Those who would revile him and place his tragic flaw above his exemplary lifetime of accomplishment, please step back and let us mourn, because, thanks to Joe, We Are Penn State!
Judith Redline Coopey
O'Brien showing quick results
Despite everything working against Bill O'Brien and the new Penn State coaching staff, what a job they did in keeping the ship afloat and convincing current recruits to stay the course and then going out to pick at least six recruits of their own.
This was a pretty good days' work in getting 19 recruits to sign up and play for the Nittany Lions.
And on top of getting the 2012 class signed, sealed and delivered, defensive coordinator Ted Roof and others started sending out scholarship offers to recruits of the 2013 class.
Speaking of an outstanding job done so far, what a classy gentleman Penn State has in defensive line coach Larry Johnson, who took over the temporary job of recruiting coordinator.
The job of completing the 2012 class is not finished as there were 23 slots that had to be filled.
I think we will get a few more players down South. The 2013 class will define what direction O'Brien is taking this program. His primary focus will be landing the perfect quarterback to fit his system.
In turn, this four-star or five-star player will be a magnet to bring in the best tight ends, wide receivers and tailbacks in the skill positions along with developing a support staff on both sides of the line.
All in all, the Penn State coaching staff did okay considering. Let's now turn our attention to spring ball and the Blue-White scrimmage on April 21.
Rome's program offensive
On Monday, Jan. 23, I had the misfortune of listening to the Jim Rome radio show on the local ESPN affiliate.
This man is an idiot and should be off of the local airwaves. He spent his hour or two berating Joe Paterno and his legacy. If I hadn't known better, I'd swear he (Paterno) was responsible for the sexual abuse of these young men, incidentally the real victims.
Rome proceeded to have guest after guest, email and tweet to belittle Joe Paterno and his legacy.
I hope that WVAM 1430 will consider taking his show off the air and replacing him with an unbiased show.
Benjamin C. Spiridigliozzi
'Sixth man' helping B-A basketball teams
The Bellwood boys and girls basketball teams are enjoying great regular seasons.
This is a testament to the hard work the players and coaches have put in over the last several months.
This letter is to give some props to the best "sixth man" north of the Cameron Crazies. This, of course, would be the Bellwood High School student section.
From their "theme nights" to inventive chants to just being flat out loud and proud, this shout out goes to all those kids who make the home games an event, and help push their team over the top in the tight ones.