November 8, 2011 by David Gillaspie
Joe Paterno and Joe Frazier do the heavy lifting.
The great Joe Frazier answered the last bell yesterday. If the sweet science is allowed in heaven, he’s the main event today.
Joe Frazier was the anti-Ali, the fighter without the tassles, without the poems, without the repeated reminders of how pretty he was.
A story going around about his beard during the early years had Frazier pulling it out with pliers to toughen his skin. You never heard Joe called a bleeder.
The train from Philadelphia to New York passed by his gym. From the tracks above the street you could look down at the storefront.
The first time I saw it I thought it was a shrine.
Joe Frazier. Smokin’ Joe Frazier. A bar near the University of Pennsylvania called Smokey Joe’s wasn’t named after him, but it fits.
What did this Joe carry? He carried Muhammad Ali.
When Ali came back from being stripped of his heavyweight title, he needed a fight, a big fight.
Joe gave him the biggest fight in the world when he could have dodged him for years. Instead, they got into the ring together to settle the question: Who is the real champion?
Along the way Ali worked the pre-fight by casting Joe Frazier as the white man’s tool, an undeserving champion who hadn’t earned the belt.
Joe Frazier was good enough.
After he belted Ali and his tassles to a win in 1971, he was more than good enough. He stood toe to toe with The Greatest and came away with victory.
Does it get any greater?
Joe fought like you’d hope to fight. Since no one before or since shined like Ali, Joe was the fighter for the rest of us. He carried the dreams of the guy who could take a punch, who could stand his ground. He was the guy who made others shut up.
Joe Frazier left Pennsylvania just as the train rolled up for Joe Paterno, who is carrying a load with him.
Both Joe’s had long careers based on trust. Joe Frazier couldn’t have expected Ali to turn on him the way he did; can Joe Paterno expect better from Jerry Sandusky?
Sandusky, the man in the middle of a child sex abuse scandal, seems the least likely candidate for the freak hall of fame.
He’s a man who graduated at the top of his college class and build a career as one of the best coaches in college football. He was trusted and revered by all.
But he had a secret life.
When we hear of great men going off the tracks, the cause usually comes down to personal quirks. Clinton had his less than attractive lady problems. A New Jersey governor came out as a Gay American. A New York governor came out on a Girls Gone Wild girl.
If you have to choose, those three might make you cringe, but Jerry Sandusky’s choice brings a differenct reaction.
A serial child molestor isn’t a candidate for gentle treatment. Clinton finished his term. The Jersey guy finished his marriage. The NY governor is back on television with his keen political insight.
Jerry Sandusky is finished.
More than that, he’s taking those who hire and trust men to work with younger generations down with him.
Coach Joe Paterno’s name will be linked to Jerry Sandusky’s the rest of his life. Families of campus administators and security staff will ask questions of their men, the first being how they could ignore an eye witness’s account of the celebrated Sandusky raping a ten year old boy?
No son wants to ask their dad that question, but they will.
Men of stature expect things from others. In turn, they raise expectations for their own conduct. When it’s all good they create an unbrella of excellence others strive for.
Joe Paterno did that.
Jerry Sandusky trashed decades of hard work. He trashed the legacy of a great coach and the teams he led. Not everyone leaves their field at the top of their game, but memories fade and the good times are all anyone remembers.
Sandusky’s sordid past erases the good times.
Instead, questions will remain. Who else was involved in serial child rape? How did he get away with it and keep a presence on campus for ten years? When did it stop and who did it stop with? He adopted kids and took in foster kids?
Even worse, all coaches, adoptive parents, and foster parents will come under more scrutiny than they deserve because of one Jerry Sandusky.
How does this end? Poorly for all concerned, worst of all for the kids he abused.
He took more with his selfish perversion than anyone has a right to take. The boys he raped would have had a difficult enough time making their way, like everyone else. The burden he put on them pushes it to the breaking point.
How should it end? A man accused of improper behavior with kids might get treatment and rehabilitate himself.
Is that good enough?
A local man of honor was accused of the much less than Jerry Sandusky and hung himself. A local college athlete was found guilty of acts similar to Sandusky and went to prison. A few years after getting out, he was found hung in his van.
For the those who turned a blind eye, there is a price; for the victims and their families, there is no justice.
Mr. Sandusky, do you want to spend the rest of your life in jail? Hard time cons don’t like child rapists. Chances are they have kids of their own. They won’t be your friends.
Your time is running out, Mr. Sandusky. Remember, they take your shoe laces in the lock-up.
Do the right thing.