Unless you are Larsa Pippin or Kim Zolciak, Housewives and sports seldom mix. Many of you are probably not aware of my connections to a certain professional athlete, and that is just fine. I prefer to rely on my own merits and not the bloodline of my sons. My pedigree, by marriage, however, is not the subject of this post. It’s actually another celebrity meeting I had and the burning question I’m left with now that a certain shamed assistant college coach is in the news.
Back in 2004 my relative was being scouted by prestigious college football coaches. Having attended Penn State University I begged my then boyfriend to let me sit in on legendary football coach Joe Paterno’s visit. Admittedly I was only at PSU for a year and during that year I opted to go shopping when everyone else was at the games. As far as athletics I was a late bloomer and even today I prefer to play than watch (hey, this bitch does not view life as a spectator sport.) Boyfriend gave me the side eye at my bizarre, for me, request, but by this point we were already living together and it was easier for him to relent then share a bed with me and my “Why didn’t you let me go?” grudge.
Joe Pa arrived mid afternoon with a tall white haired assistant who, aside from bringing in a bag with a bottle of wine and a pepperoni, waited in the car. Mr. Paterno was not the imagined God I had seen in cardboard cut out glory standing in various dorm room windows. He was anything but larger than life. He was humble, friendly, and had a fabulous sense of humor. Unlike some other coaches, he wasn’t there to brag about his program. He told my relative that he was only there to tell what he could offer; that it was up to my relative to go where his heart felt at home.
The Joe Paterno I met that day was less a legend and more a simple Italian boy from Brooklyn who loved his family, football, and his job. He told us about his German wife, Susan, and his old world Italian mom, whom when he announced his engagement to a German girl replied, “What are you going to eat?” (I myself have been to Germany and the food is indeed terrible!) Now as I am bombarded by the trial reports on every newscast, I am saddened by the thought that this proud, humble man, who built such a brilliant career out of something he loved died amidst such a horrible scandal.
I’m not condoning anything that happened. I’ve worked with children my entire adult life and Joe Pa clearly mishandled the situation. Still I will always remember that afternoon with that nice little man…the twinkle in his eye…the pride in his voice…and the assistant in the car…whom, to this day, I wonder…was it Sandusky?
*By the way, that boyfriend is now my husband.