In the span of 12 weeks, Joe Paterno transformed from beloved Penn State icon to Rorschach test on child abuse to ailing victim. His fate, the one that awaits us all, arrived with charitable swiftness. As tough as Paterno could be, at 85 years of age he proved no match for cancer.
Paul (Bear) Bryant, the man whose career victory record Paterno surpassed in 2001, famously died only four weeks after he coached his 323rd college football victory. Paterno lasted eight weeks longer after he won No. 409. Unlike Bryant, the former Alabama coach whose life and legend are venerated to this day, Paterno lived out his final days as the subject of controversy.
A man's death demands that we look to his life -- not just the last 12 weeks, swollen and inflamed by the heat of the vengeful -- but 62 years of coaching young men at one university. A legacy covers more than 12 weeks.
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