A Blizzard of Birthday Cards for Joe Paterno
Scott Fata ’00, president of the Baltimore Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association, isn’t sure how the movement got started. But a friend forwarded him one of those emails that had been forwarded several times before, the gist of which was that the original sender thought it would be cool for as many Penn State fans as possible to send cards to Joe Paterno on his 85th birthday—which is today, Dec. 21.
Fata liked the idea a lot. He promoted it on the chapter’s website, and he tweeted it, as well. He also upped the ante, challenging fans and alums to send 109,000 cards—one for every seat in Beaver Stadium. He wasn’t the only person who got out the word (several Facebook groups were started in the past few weeks), but his suggestion got passed around a lot, and it seemed to strike a chord in the wake of the Sandusky scandal and Paterno’s subsequent cancer diagnosis and broken pelvis.
Some people believe Paterno has taken a disproportionate share of the blame and outrage in the scandal. Others think it’s not quite so clear-cut, but they’re distressed at how things were handled. And as the Altoona Mirror, which hasn’t been easy on Paterno, wrote in an editorial, “No one wanted Paterno’s magnificent career to end the way it did.”
Said Fata, “I think part of the reason, too, is that he was fired so abruptly—we as alumni never really got a chance to give him the big goodbye that I think a lot of us wanted to do.”
He had no idea whether anyone was following through until Jay Paterno tweeted Wednesday afternoon, “Saw boatloads of birthday cards for Joe at the house & realized that I’d better get him one before tomorrow.”
I wasn’t sure how many cards equal a boatload, so I checked with the post office. Someone who must remain anonymous said that an entire tray of mail—about 500 cards—went to the Paterno residence on Wednesday, and that three trays went Thursday, on Paterno’s actual birthday. So it’s at least a couple thousand cards.
Another birthday tribute to Paterno came from about 400 of his former players, who have signed this letter calling for “due process for Joe Paterno and the Penn State community.” At this link, it’s possible to add your comments.
Lori Shontz, senior editor