A SCENE imagined last Sunday at the Pearly Gates.

ST. PETER: Howzit goin'? I'm Peter. They call me St. Peter, but you can call me Petey.

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JOE PATERNO: Petey? Are you from Brooklyn? You sound like me. Oh! My name is . . .

ST. PETER: Joseph Vincent Paterno. JoePa! Your reputation proceeds you. By the way, just between us, I owe you one.

JOEPA: You do? Why?

ST. PETER: I had a few shekels on the Indiana game. You won, 16-10, on the road. Nice goin'.

JOEPA: I don't approve of betting on collegiate football.

ST. PETER: Wow! You get in my face with that? Pretty gutsy, Coach.

JOEPA: I try to be honest.

ST. PETER: Joe, are you a Republican?

JOEPA: Yes. Why do you ask?

ST. PETER: We get so few of them up here.

JOEPA: What?

ST. PETER: Just bustin' 'em, Joe. Watch that temper. Anyways, as a practicin' Catlic, you know what I do.

JOEPA: Recruiting?

ST. PETER: Sorta. The Boss made me the gatekeeper to decide who gets in and who don't.

JOEPA: I think I know where you're going with this.

ST. PETER: Do you, Coach? You're a straight-up guy; tell me somethin' in your favor.

JOEPA: I'm not comfortable tooting my own horn.

ST. PETER: You mean like more victries than any other Division I coach ever?

JOEPA: That's what I mean.

ST. PETER: And two national championships?

JOEPA: That, too.

ST. PETER: Good thing, Coach, because you know what they mean here? Nuthin'. Goose egg.

JOEPA: I am not surprised.

ST. PETER: The victries mean nuthin', but I'm likin' how you took care of your athletes. More than 80 percent graduated, amazing for a winnin' football program. The generosity that you and your family extended to others weighs in your favor.

JOEPA: Thank you, but we didn't do it to curry favor. It was just the right thing to do.

ST. PETER: And that brings us to that other thing, when you didn't do the right thing.

JOEPA: St. Peter -

ST. PETER: Unh-unh.

JOEPA: OK, Petey. I would give anything, anything, to have those decisions back, but there are no mulligans in football. Do you know the John Greenleaf Whittier lines - "For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been.' "

ST. PETER: Yeah, Joe, we know you read. Don't go gettin' high-hat on us.

JOEPA: "It might have been." Maybe if I weren't so focused on football, I might have listened closer, questioned harder, followed up better on Jerry Sandusky.

ST. PETER: He's on my "no fly" list.

JOEPA: I did only what was required of me, the least. My regrets could fill Beaver Stadium. I neglected my own motto of "success with honor." I am ashamed of what I didn't do.

ST. PETER: Heavy, man. Your fans are tryin' to resurrect your reputation.

JOEPA: That doesn't matter to me now. The critics weren't harder on me than I was on myself, once I came to understand everything that happened.

ST. PETER: The Big 10 took your name off the championship trophy. That musta hurt.

JOEPA: I don't blame them, based on what they knew. They are not to blame. I am.

ST. PETER: The Paternistas are sayin' we gotta look at the whole book of your life, not just the last chapter.

JOEPA: That's nice of them. Thank you for telling me.

ST. PETER: You're welcome, Joe. Step inside. Considering everything, there's a place for you at the table.

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