By Tony Paige
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This has been one hell of a week for a couple of guys named Joe.
Both are iconic figures. One’s rep is intact while the other’s is in tatters.
One, Joe Frazier, was the former heavyweight championship of the world when the title actually meant something. He passed this week after a quick battle with liver cancer at the age of 67. People from all walks of life have been sending their condolences to his family.
The other, Joe Paterno, the legendary football coach of Penn State University, is very much alive, but the 84-year-old’s football career is very much in the past tense.
The contrast is striking.
Frazier pummeled his opponent with his signature left hook.
Paterno, with all his collegiate wins, did the minimum during the biggest debacle in his life.
Frazier was a blue-collar heavyweight. He carried that left hook in his lunch pail every time he stepped into the ring. He took multiple shots to the head in order to land one big shot.
He fought and won one of the biggest fights in history when he knocked down and defeated his main rival Muhammad Ali on March 8, 1971 at Madison Square Garden. Frazier would go on lose to Ali two times including the epic “Thrilla in Manila” in 1975, but his legacy was sealed.
Was he the greatest heavyweight of all time? No, but you could put him in the conversation because of his relentlessness. He fought like that runaway train in Unstoppable.
I remember watching Frazier sparring in Shubert’s Alley in Manhattan as he prepared for his rematch with nails tough Jerry Quarry in 1974. It was such a big deal that even Howard Cosell was there to call the action. Frazier was like a bull as he went after his sparring partners. The fight itself at the Garden was all Frazier. I was there to watch the Frazier machine take Quarry apart with Muhammad Ali in the house. The legendary Joe Louis was the referee.
For Paterno, you wish he was more stoppable in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal.
This story is the most reprehensible story in the history of sports. Ever.
Why? Because this scandal involved children. At risk children abused over a long period of time as adults did nothing but feed the cover up.
As someone who coaches youth sports as I do, you have two responsibilities. Teach the kids how to play the game and how to play as a team. In addition, you have to protect the kids. That is an unwritten rule.
If you read the 23-page indictment on Sandusky, you will be hard pressed to keep anything down in your stomach because it is that graphic.
It is scarier than anything Stephen King has ever penned.
Joe Paterno had a responsibility to the community to do more. Anyone can tell his or her superiors about the molestation of a child and leave it at that, but you are supposed to go the extra mile and tell the police.
Now everyone wants to talk legacy.
Joe Frazier’s legacy has been set for years. Nothing is going to change. He is in the International Boxing Hall of Fame and when you think of Frazier, you have to also think of Ali. They are joined forever because of their riveting trilogy.
His legacy is tarnished forever.
There is no way he should be allowed to coach this weekend against Nebraska.
Why does he get to go out on his terms?
Everyone should be deep sixed. Penn State University President Graham Spanier should be fired. Athletic director Tim Curley and VP for finance and business, Gary Schultz, should never been allowed on the campus again.
The then-graduate assistant who saw Sandusky raping a 10-year old, who is now on Paterno’s staff, should also be released.
He sees the crime and calls his daddy?
Why didn’t he help the child?
If he had, maybe this scandal never would have touched another child.
Every time I see the PSU colors, I will think of child molestation.
And Joe Paterno will forever be known, in my eyes, as the man asleep at the switch as the most horrific crimes were happening on his watch.
The children who were abused could have been yours or mine. In fact, they were yours and mine. We are our brothers and sisters’ keeper, unless you look the other way like any garden variety coward.
Where was the ability to be a decent human being and help these children and not spare the university?
And what now of Jerry Sandusky?
Yeah, I know … innocent until proven guilty, but there is a special place in hell for sub humans like Jerry Sandusky.
And Frazier and Paterno?
One Joe makes you smile, the other makes you wince.