A new statue of former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno is reportedly in the works. As originally reported by Onward State, the new statue being organized through private means will be located outside the Tavern Restaurant in State College and show Paterno sitting on a bench. The statue funding will come through donations and private funding, with a Kickstarter campaign slated to launch in July to help raise the $300,000 needed to pay for the new statue.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the national reaction to the idea of a new statue for Paterno generated many of the same old jokes we have heard before.
— Sportsyackontap (@sportsyack) April 23, 2014
— Kevin Ross (@BourbonWarfare) April 23, 2014
@CFTalk It’s gonna be life like. His statue will have it’s back turned to Sandusky just like it used to be
— BKI~WPS~ (@HEHF1) April 23, 2014
— Mike Piff (@Mike_PiFF03) April 23, 2014
— Dan Doherty (@ddohertyjr) April 23, 2014
At this point in time there is little use wasting time on arguing one way or the other on the legacy of Joe Paterno. We know the pros and we know the cons in the conversation, although to what extreme some are willing to latch on to one way or the other also creates a poorly directed conversation. With one extreme going against the other extreme, there is no room for a middle ground in the topic. But here is where I stand on all of this at this time.
First, removing Paterno as head coach of the football program in 2011 was the right call, although I believe it could have and probably should have been handled in a better fashion. Second, tearing down the Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium was also probably the right call given the circumstances, but doing away with the whole statue site seems like a wasted opportunity by the university to find another way to pay respects to either the victims or the Paterno legacy, for better or worse.
A statue is only as meaningful as the emphasis placed on it by a community. It really makes no difference to me if the statue is outside Beaver Stadium or the library or some other random place on or around campus. Personally, it means nothing to me, but it does mean something to many others. A statue is a symbol for many things. Some people may look at a statue and take pride in what a person stood for in the community. Others may look at a statue as a reminder of unfortunate circumstances. Not every statue has to remind us of the good in our lives. And that is why I believe a statue of Paterno is not out of line.
The Penn State community needs a statue of Paterno, because it offers a chance for closure and healing in a fractured community far and wide. This is not just about hurt feelings seeing a statue come down in the summer of 2012. It is about having a place to remember the positive impact one man had on a community and allowing others a place to remember the tragedies attached to his legacy, as distant or as close as he may have been. The intention of the statue will be to remind fans, students, alumni and other supporters in the community of all the good he accomplished during his tenure as head coach of the football team, but it cannot possibly leave behind the overall impact of the events that unfolded. You can suggest Paterno should have done more or that he did everything he possibly could. I do not even care what side of that argument you fall on anymore because at this point we are all free to have our own opinions if we review all of the available information.
A statue of Paterno, be it resembling running out of the tunnel or sitting peacefully on a bench, is needed for a number of reasons. It allows for closure for some, healing for others. That’s not a bad thing.
Photo via Flickr