I was born in 1972. I'm going to be 40 years old this year. Joe Paterno had been the head coach for Penn State University for 46 years, and he had worked with the Penn State football team for 61 years. I am from Pennsylvania, and while I didn't become a football fan until I married a man from Green Bay I still grew up knowing Joe Paterno's name. Pretty amazing since no one in my family watched football. There has never been a time in my life that Joe Paterno's name was not around and associated with Penn State Football. He was loved and respected by all, whether or not you gave a rat's butt about football.
Additionally, those of us from Pennsylvania (and probably the neighboring states) would look at Joe Paterno and we would see a sweet, cuddly man. Sorry, but I see a picture of Paterno and I just want to hug him. He is very much a grandfather figure to many of us, and who doesn't love a grandpa?
Is it natural to feel this way about someone you've never met? From a college that I didn't even attend? No...it's not, but he was no ordinary man. His coaching record was no ordinary record. And his tenure at Penn State was of no ordinary length. He truly was one in a million and I would say that most people that live/lived in Pennsylvania or that attended Penn State probably feel like a little piece of them is gone right now. A piece of sports history and Pennsylvania history has written it's final chapter, and it's sad when such an epic tale ends.