Cancer's Timing All the More Painful

John McDonnell/AP

If the cancer had been more kind, it would have come earlier. The cancer would have come, say, in late summer.

Joe Paterno would have been deified then, with the funeral of a head of state. Everything he'd accomplished would have been celebrated as his school began a season without him, and a long, remarkable life would have been saluted without compromise.

Later, when the scandal followed, there still would have been questions. But the Penn State Board of Trustees wouldn't have had to decide what to do with him, and Paterno wouldn't have been forced to mumble a sad regret.

But cancer is rarely kind, and it wasn't early Sunday.

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In death as in life, timing matters. Had Joe Paterno died Jan. 22, 2011, he’d have been hailed as the one coach who’d negotiated the murky waters of contemporary college football and left, both his sport and this... more »