Once upon a time, years before Joe-Paterno’s-Penn-State-Camelot came crashing down in the Sandusky scandal (over 10 years ago), I convinced my wife, who to this day still thinks that football is a waste of time, to come with me and hear Joe speak. I focused on what a great public speaker he was, and that won the day. Since her job entailed a great deal of public speaking, she was curious as to how he did it.
We endured Friday afternoon traffic, got to the hotel, and found a few open seats at one of the many tables in the large auditorium. Then we waited and waited. Just about everyone was a PSU grad – Philly transplant so there was a lot to chat about. It was a few days before the Penn State – USC game and we all wondered how PSU would fare against the mighty Trojans.
Finally, an hour late, Joe arrived. To much applause, he picked up the mic and said something like, “If SC’s defensive line is anything like your traffic, we’re in trouble!”
Everyone laughed. Then he said, “Come on up. Say hi. I’m not going anywhere until I meet everyone.”
And the line, made up of hundreds of people, began to inch its way toward the evening’s honored guest. Joe took time to speak to everyone and never once did a smile leave his face.
Finally, an hour later, it was my turn.
I shook his hand and said how happy I was to meet him in person. The only thing I had in my pocket was one of my Arthur J Smukler, MD, psychiatrist, business cards. I took it out and asked if he’d please sign it. He read the card, looked me square in the face, and grabbed me around the neck. He yelled, at the top of his lungs, “I need this man! I need this man!” I’m 5’10” and Joe was maybe 5’6″. Then he stepped back and pointed to me so the entire auditorium could see. “He’s a psychiatrist!” he yelled again. “Now you know why I need him!” The whole auditorium rocked with laughter. Then in a quiet voice he said, “Thank you, Dr. Smukler, for everything you do to help people. It’s an honor to meet you.”
With a huge smile, I sat back down at the table. Later, as we ate dinner, Joe talked all about the football program. How many football players were honor students and how in order to play they had to be successful in the classroom. He stressed leadership, hard work, and academic excellence. During the Q & A someone said, “I hear SC’s offensive line is impossible to stop. Can you do it?”
Joe shrugged. “I don’t know.” Then with a big smile he left the stage.
As the years passed, we all learned that Joe wasn’t perfect.
Please check out another Joe. Joe Belmont, my imperfect character in THE REAL STORY, a mystery.
#JoePaterno #Sanduskyscandal #PennState #JoPa “Psychiatrist