Tragedy in State College

18 Dec

I’m a fan of the classic tales of morality, irony, wit, wisdom and philosophy that come to us from ancient Greece and Rome. One sadly reminds me of Coach Joe Paterno’s present predicament.

This story concerns Solon, the wise Grecian lawgiver, Croesus, the rich and powerful king of Lydia, and Cyrus, ruler of the Persian Empire. It goes this way:

Croesus heard of Solon’s wisdom and invited him to court. He asked the Greek if he had ever known a happier man than he. Solon told the king a living person cannot judge his own happiness until his life is over, just as one doesn’t crown a wrestler while he is still in the ring.

Fate, he advised, is an ever-present hazard.

This greatly offended Croesus. Later, when he was defeated by

the Persians and put upon a pyre for burning in front of Cyrus, Croesus remembered the advice of the sage and cried out, “O Solon!”

In an extremely fortunate twist, Cyrus stopped the execution to find out what god or man was this Solon. Croesus explained, was spared and became an advisor to Cyrus.

There is no twist yet with JoePa, but the parallels are clear. Joe could easily have been judged one of the happiest men on Earth. He spent his life working a dream job; earned a generous salary greatly enhanced by endorsements; was a near god in State College; was respected by all and honored everywhere. He wore a perpetual cloak of dignity.

Paterno had reached a pinnacle of accomplishment few ever reach. But he had not left the ring.

Like Croesus, he has lost everything. The un-removable title of “coach” has been removed; respect has evaporated; dignity is gone; he has fallen off the cloud and must walk naked.

With twinges of the Biblical Job, he nurses a fractured hip and is being treated for cancer. He must be haunted by the coming infamy he will face in court.

It takes a strong person to remain whole after such a fall.

Some hide from greatness to ensure that greatness gained will not be greatness lost. Those wily, irony-loving Greeks were aware that happiness never remains long in the same place. Like Croesus, former Penn State Coach Joe Paterno now knows this.

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