Derek Johnson Muses

Home of the Straight from the Cornfield Podcast

Thoughts as Paterno Has Passed from this Life, and a Few More on those Errenous Tweets

It used to be, before the Penn State scandal broke last falll, I would always get sick of those BTN tributes to Joe Paterno, but now that he has died, I really do feel like all those things have some extra meanings. Jonathan Franzen wrote that when his father died, his memories of him froze in his head. Now that Paterno is gone, I watched all those tributes on ESPN and heard everyone talking about what a positive influence Paterno had on them, I kept thinking to myself, wow, his life really meant something.

(This image comes via the twitter feed of Tim Gilbert [@TimGilb] and was taken Sunday night as fans gathered at the Paterno statue to pay their respects. Gilbert writes for The Daily Collegian, an Independent Student Newspaper at Penn State, and his feed provided some great moments from Paterno’s statue on Saturday night. Thanks, Tim.)
I’m a Lutheran Christian person, and I believe that God works in spite of our failures. As I’ve said yesterday, I have been critical of Paterno’s inaction in the Sandusky case, but that doesn’t have to blur out the positive contributions he made to the people around him, especially his own family. Jay Paterno said to Tom Rinaldi (in the ESPN inteview two posts down from this one), that in his final days as he suffered from cancer, Joe Paterno urged his children not to feel sorry for him and to care for their matters. It must not have been easy for him to give Sally Jenkins an interview, but he did that too, and those two things are the marks of a selfless person.
As a fan of college football, while I am sad today, I am grateful that today, we are remembering Joe Paterno’s best memories, and hearing from many coaches who he made better coaches. Yes, there will be days when we have to judge Paterno’s record, and I will undoubtedly be back here in this space to share my thoughts. But until then, I will be remembering the positives about Paterno.

It was very disappointing yesterday when errenorous reports of Paterno’s death leaked. After my post yesterday, I continued to monitor twitter. Up until 8:45 P.M. Eastern , there continued to be random tweets that referenced that Paterno had died, until finally at 8:45, many news outlets began to go with stories of Paterno’s death (and of course his Wikipedia page was update), until other tweets began coming out at 9 from official sources that Paterno was indeed still alive and fighting.

Here’s a good story that has a timeline of the most important tweets in the false reporting, to its correcting: Link

Ironically, this shows both the power of twitter to get things incredibly wrong and to correct them quickly. As I noted yesterday, there was some simmering on twitter that Paterno had died, which undoubtedly stepped up the pressure on the news organizations to find out if he had indeed passed or not. But twitter also allowed Paterno’s family to get out in front of the story easily, and stop it before it got too far, and saved the family and other news organizations from embarrassment. I’m guess Joe Schad and other ESPN reporters are very grateful now that they can’t break stories on twitter before they are broken on ESPN the network.

Either way, Yahoo! Sports columnist Pat Forde tweeted it best when he said that Paterno’s death was just something any news organization could get wrong, at all.

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