Big Lead Sports Bar


Joe Paterno Turns 84 Years Young

84 years ago today, Joseph Vincent Paterno entered the world, and 40 years later, he became the head coach of Penn State University's football program, a job that apparently is his for life. His stat line includes a record of 401-134-3, 24-11-1 in bowls, 2 national championships, 3 Big Ten championships, and 5 AFCA Coach of the Year awards, putting hundreds of players into the NFL along the way. He's contributed over $4 million of his own money to Penn State, and helped raise more than $13 million for their library (now named in his honor) in 1997. He's a walking icon.

I've taken countless shots at JoePa over the years (just click the "Joe Paterno" tag for visual evidence), but I've got to say, there's something to be said to having him around, as ridiculous as the situation's become at PSU. Much like Brett Favre, he polarizes fans with his refusal to walk away from the game. And much like Favre, it gets lost at just how unprecedented his accomplishment is. There's never going to be a coach at a big-time school at the age of 84. To quote the great Chris Rock, "They say never say never? I'm saying never."

Look at Paterno's opponent in the Outback Bowl. Urban Meyer's 46 years old and he's already quit Florida twice. Do you really think he has any interest in coaching another 40 years? With the pressure to win what it is and with the money he's already banked?

The situation between Paterno and Penn State crossed the awkward barrier years ago, gradually sliding into cartoonish territory over the past decade. I genuinely think he's going to coach until he is ordered by a doctor otherwise. So don't hold your breath on Bobby Bowden Exit 2.0 playing out in Happy Valley just yet. JoePa recently said he plans on coaching another five or six years, and I know he absolutely means it. But much like Favre, it's going to be doctor's orders that ends this coaching ironman's time in football someday. And then everyone can finally move on.

So happy birthday to Joe Paterno. I can't stand the fact that he killed the rivalry with Pitt, as I've brought up roughly 500,000 times on this site, but I recognize that there will never be another one like him - for good and for bad.

The Steelers-Browns rivalry died a bit when Cleveland went away in the '90s, then came back to life in 1999. It's never been the same, and Steeler fans felt a real feeling of loss when their enemy went away. I'd feel the same way about JoePa - I consider him a football rival, but I'd rather watch Pitt beat Penn State with Joe at the helm as opposed to, say, Tom Bradley. And I'm willing to bet I'm not the only one. We'll simply have to live with the fact that Paterno's last game against Pitt resulted in his team being shut out at Three Rivers Stadium as a legacy. I suppose that's good enough.

Mondesi's House: The Director's Cut (more links, commentary, etc):


Bababooey said...

Happy Birthday, Joe!

Steve said...

"What?...Speak up!" - Joe P.

Unknown said...

As a Penn State alum and fan I find it endlessly amusing that this Pitt-Penn State rivalry angst it so very one-sided.

I mean, playing Pitt would be cool, I guess, but it sure isn't high on my "list of things I am passionate about".

gpclay said...

(Disclosure - Pitt Law alum w/PSU alum sister)

It's easy to dismiss the Pitt-PSU rivalry given the depths to which the Panther program has sunk. Those of us who were around the rivalry in the 1970s and early 1980s understand what was lost. They were two of the best programs in the country and the battles every year in this football-mad territory were ferocious. Adding to the hurt of the loss was the timing of the formation of the Big East when both teams were still great and JoePa's role in (some say peevishly) deep-sixing the rivarly. Who wouldn't rather have had another 25 years of top-level in-state rivalry instead of not playing each other any more?

Anonymous said...

Weekend at Bernie's!

HomeRunFromBehindTheMeatballs said...

Happy Birthday JoePa!!!

@ Mark - good point!