Archive for November, 2011

My Dad and Joe Paterno

November 11, 2011

Growing up in a home in blue collar NJ sports was as front and center as it could ever be as a part of a boy’s life.  This was particularly true when you Dad is a diehard ex-football player and youth football coach.  To be fair, we never felt forced or coerced to play football we actually loved the game.  Our Dad wasn’t one of these modern parents who had dreams for his son’s to leap from the neighborhood to the NFL, he just loved the sport and loved teaching kids to play.  He always seemed to cultivate kids that were small and frail, or big and slow with a few real athletes mixed in.  He consoled parents who were worried about injuries and he lectured kids about the importance of school and its role in putting the tough streets we lived in behind us and becoming good citizens and living a decent life.

Over the years my Dad always seemed to fashion these rag-tag groups of tough kids into a cohesive team that by all outward appearances were as good as any they ever faced.  I watched him spend extra time teaching the fundamentals to kids who in my opinion never possessed even an ounce of talent and he always played them all, no matter what.  He won with them and lost with them and he always remembered every kid that ever played for him.  I remember him painfully bidding goodbye to former players visiting their old coach one last time before they made their way off to Vietnam, and he cried when some didn’t come back.

In his life he had two real idols, one was Vince Lombardi the other Joe Paterno.  It had to do not just with football but with their philosophy of education, responsibility and dedication to family.  They seemed to exemplify the core values my Dad always displayed, hard work, sacrifice and willingness to help others particularly children.  He read their writings, he listen to their speeches and he felt akin with who they were and what they were about.  Even though he had only met the two of them for a moment as they passed through the airport where he worked, he held them in the highest esteem.  They were his vision of greatness propelled by the sport he loved.

Over the years I watched my Dad live his core values right up until the very end of his life.  He never stopped giving and his players never stopped caring about him.  Unfortunately, we now know some realities about the men he idolized. These were the people who he strived to be as good as, if only in our neighborhood.  It is a funny thing about good men, they never waiver from their core beliefs and the actions precipitated by them.  My Dad was good and moral and an unwavering champion for kids that no one else wanted to help.  The fat kid, the weak kid, the tough kid all had a friend in him.  He would never back down from a fight to help them and gave all he had all the time.  I like to think he made a difference in every one of their lives even if only while they were under his care.  In fact, I know he did, as many have told me so.

It is too bad that he is gone I think the world, and Joe Paterno could use a role model like him, a truly good man.