And one day passed away in his sleep
And his wife; she stayed for a couple of days
And passed away”
Joe Paterno, the stalwart icon of Penn State football, succumbed to the same fate. While I certainly do not discount his relationship with his family or his wife, Penn State football was JoePa’s life. His tenure in State College began in 1950 when he followed his college coach as an Assistant Coach. His relationship with Penn State lasted for 61 years.
The story of Paterno’s death really began three months before he actually passed. Abandoned by the school whose success as a major university and football powerhouse are closely tied to Paterno’s tenure, Paterno went home. Nine days later he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Three weeks after that he fell and broke his hip. Six weeks later he was in the hospital due to failing health. Nine days after he entered the hospital, he died.
While Joe’s passing was not as quick as the woman in the song lyrics, his death derived from the same source. Penn State was his life blood. While he still technically remained a tenured faculty member of Penn State, he was not the coach. He was forcibly put to pasture.
I have to wonder, had Joe left on his own terms, would he have fallen so quickly so fast? Part of me thinks not. The void left by Penn State football would have been large, but manageable. But, can anyone survive when their heart has been torn from their chest? Penn State was Joe Paterno’s heart.
While I find the lyrcis of “The Luckiest” touching and heartfelt - it is the song Samantha and I danced to at our wedding - the same circumstances found in Joe Paterno’s death are sad. Heartbreak is tough to overcome.