After a swift decline in his health, former Penn State coach Joe Paterno passed away this morning at 85. I’ll be thinking of his family, but his death is a tragedy in that it cuts short what could have been a process of education and seeking forgiveness. If Paterno had lived, and had been lucid enough to come to terms with his abdication of responsibility; if he had sought forgiveness for it and worked to help other programs become safer, more responsible and responsive organizations, he could have made a contribution to coaching far beyond his work elevating the Nittany Lions into a nationally competitive program.
Maybe he would have done none of those things had he lived, out of denial or a lack of capability. But his death forecloses an opportunity, however slight, to make recompense, and to remind the students who still saw him as a deity that there are more important things than football.