Sunday, January 22, 2012

Joe Paterno's Legacy, Panther State, Cundiff's Pain

By Zach Borg

There's no right or wrong way to feel about Joe Paterno on the day he passed away.  I do think it's sad that he never did get a chance to try and atone for his failings at Penn State, or for that matter, really tell anyone what he really did know.  It's like Nixon in Watergate, we all want to know exactly what Paterno knew and when he knew it.  Paterno took that to his grave.

Can you totally throw away nearly 60 years of the good Paterno did?  Forget the football games he won, he did have a positive impact on so many more lives than we can ever know.  And he donated and gave more of his time and money to Penn State and furthering education then most anybody in coaching that I've ever heard of.

But how do you reconcile what he didn't do?  As I said, we'll never really know how much of this he was complicit in, but in Paterno's own words, he could have done more.

Does the good outweigh the bad?  What is his legacy?

In the end, I think Paterno's legacy is that he was just as human as you and me.  He did a lot of great works in his life and showed some of the best qualities in humanity.  Yet the man was far from perfect, and in some way, was either corrupted by power or insulated in the world that he had built.  As I saw in one of the comments in the blog last night, it's easy for all of us to show the outrage and say we'd have not made the mistake Paterno made if we were in his shoes.  But good people freeze or fail to act in the face of terrible acts not just in history, but every day.  We'd like to color things black and white, right and wrong, to make ourselves feel better about the way things are.  Most of the time just impossible in this world today.  Paterno was probably a good man who was just as full of flaws and failings as any of us. 

Forget the scores, what a surreal day it had to be for the Iowa women's basketball and wrestling teams to play at State College.  Before the scandal I think it was safe to bet that Penn State would likely have cancelled all events had Paterno passed.  Now it's an awkward mess on all sides.

I'm sure the Paterno family and anyone involved with Penn State really appreciates Jerry Sandusky's "statement" of condolences.  You should really be more worried about mob or prison justice right now Jerry, and this ain't helping.

Back to the toy department.....back to Earth for the Drake Bulldogs, and hopefully back to winning for the Northern Iowa Panthers.   UNI dismantled Drake, snapping the Bulldogs' four game win streak, 66-52 at the McLeod Center.

The Panther Student Section may be the best of the four in the state.  They're in the game from start to finish, and in this game they were in the minority compared to the other fans.  They're also cold.  Chants of "Billy Cundiff" were frequent, and they were ready for Rayvonte Rice.  Prior to the season Rice and Kurt Alexander were both suspending after stealing socks in the offseason.  UNI Students responded by chanting songs about why you shouldn't steal and held up socks during Rice free throws.  Nothing crossed the line in my opinion, just kids being kids, and it adds a little flavor to these games. 

UNI Students and their "Socks"
In what may likely be the final year everybody plays each other for a LONG time, UNI makes it a Panther State in Basketball, sweeping all four games against in-state rivals Drake, Iowa and Iowa State.  It's just the third time in school history that's happened, and if UNI somehow does make the Big Dance, or even the NIT, they'll likely have to credit the sweep.  Especially with Iowa and Iowa State winning that has to be helping the Panthers resume for postseason.  Only problem, as UNI's Seth Tuttle acknowledged after the game, is that the Panthers have almost no margin for error the rest of the way if they are to get in contention for an at-large bid to the Dance.  Best bet is to hope they get hot in Arch Madness ala Indiana State last year.

Good to see Bill Fennelly's Iowa State women finally get rid of the o-fer in Big 12 play against Texas Tech.

Tough day to be a Drake Bulldog.  The basketball defeat is one thing, but to watch football alum Cundiff miss a game tying attempt for the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship against New England was just painful to watch.  I remember interviewing Cundiff at his kicking camp as an intern in 2006.  He's a good guy who's given a lot back and been one of the league's best kickers.

Unfortunately, you wonder if this will be his Scott Norwood-type of moment.  Granted, this wasn't the Super Bowl, but as volatile as that Ravens team is (remember Ed Reed calling out his QB Joe Flacco the week of the game), it's hard to imagine how he'll get treated going forward.  After the game everyone seems to be standing up for him.  I hope it's genuine, and I hope that Cundiff can move on from this wherever he plays next year.

I'm guessing he will.  Almost immediately after the loss Cundiff  remembered his roots and called Des Moines Register sports editor Bryce Miller.  He took full responsibility for the loss.  It takes more than one kick to lose a football game, but it takes a lot of guts to face the music and own it.

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