As news has spread that former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, 85, died on Sunday, football commentators and news followers have struggled to find the appropriate words for mourning his loss. Had Paterno died a year ago, he would have been remembered with unequivocal praise for his record-smashing 46-year career at Penn State, wrote LZ Granderson on CNN.com. But a child abuse scandal involving a former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, implicated Paterno in failing to act quickly and effectively in protecting the safety of several children, resulting in a tarnished reputation and the loss of his job.

Granderson, an award-winning sportswriter, spoke up about the complicated issues surrounding Paterno's legacy. "For a World War II soldier who dedicated more than 50 years to one institution and one wife during a time in which examples of both grow rarer by the decade, it seems flags should be flown at half staff," wrote Granderson, adding that it wasn't that simple. "But that mourning for the Paternos subconsciously shifts to mourning the innocence of the little boys that could have been saved had Paterno fought to protect them with as much vigilance as he used to protect his good name in the aftermath of the scandal."

Paterno, who had been hospitalized since January 13 due to complications from lung cancer, was fired by Penn State's Board of Trustees with three games left in the regular season. His death comes 74 days after that decision was made after he had been criticized for not calling the police in 2002 when he receieved reports that Sandusky had been seen sexually abusing a young boy in a shower. "I wish I had done more," Paterno said then.

"I am numb,'' former player Matt Millen told USA Today after hearing news of Paterno's death. "Forget the football aspect. We just lost a great contributor to our society. He was way more than a football coach. There are many living positive testimonies walking around because of Joe Paterno. He straightened out many lives."

Paterno's family released a statement Sunday morning. "He died as he lived," it began. "He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been. His ambitions were far reaching, but he never believed he had to leave this Happy Valley to achieve them. He was a man devoted to his family, his university, his players and his community."

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