Friday, January 27, 2012

JOE PATERNO: 1926-2012

I wish I could say that I grew up at Penn State, but I can't. I did, however, grow up WITH Penn State. And that meant that I grew up with Joe Paterno.

My parents went to Penn State. My brother went to Penn State. Me? I only wish I had, but I had another calling from an Ivy League school in West Philadelphia that to this day, gets confused with Penn State. Yes, there really are "Not Penn State" t-shirts available on the Penn Campus. That never bothered me when I attended Penn; I knew the difference, even if the students at Penn hated that we were confused with a "football school." What they didn't know is that Penn State was a lot more than a football school.

But football at Penn State only set a tone for the school. It created a dynamic that drew you towards the University, even as a young boy.

Saturdays in the fall are still one of my most vivid memories of growing up. My dad and I would drive off to the local farmer's market, where we'd pick up 3 sides of beef that we would wrap up for the freezer later in the day. Always on that car radio was Penn State football, the voice of Fran Fisher calling names like John Cappelletti, Chuck Fusina, and all those Bahr brothers. Joe Paterno had recruited and coached the players that made Penn State football an experience. We loved Penn State football, even if, in the days before the federal lawsuits that opened up broadcast rights, you only got to see your favorite team play live on television once or twice a season.

But that was okay, because Sundays were time for the Penn State Football Show. The one-hour package of that weekend's Penn State football game was such required viewing in our house, that my dad and I would watch separate broadcasts on separate channels over the course of those Sunday mornings.

Listening to and watching all those Penn State games, I'd like to say that my father taught me to love and respect coach Joe Paterno. But he didn't. He didn't have to. You only had to watch Paterno, and listen to Paterno, to love and respect Paterno.

I admired JoePa so much that I bought whatever cause he was selling. Joe said there should be a playoff in college football. That worked for me. Coaches should graduate their players? I couldn't have agreed more. Plain uniforms without names on the back? Fine with me. Joe once said he didn't want to leave college football to the Barry Switzers.

Well, I didn't need Joe Paterno to tell me about Barry Switzer. It was easy to see what an ass he was.

When you went to a live Penn State game, there were two things you wanted to see. The players might come and go, but you knew that you could see, and wanted to see at every game, Joe Paterno and Mount Nittany.

Rising miles beyond the stadium, but seemingly as close as that coach in the khakis on the sideline, was Mount Nittany. As stoic as Joe himself, that big hill set the tone for the beautiful valley over which it rose. Much like Joe set the tone for an entire academic community.

He wasn't just Joe the coach of the football team. He was the coach of the entire school. He was everyone's coach, and could have been everyone's grandfather. More powerful than any administrator, move loved than any professor, more a symbol of the school than the mascot, Paterno's influence was not bounded by Beaver Stadium. Joe's contributions to the library -- there's a wing in the name of he and his wife Sue -- his "grand experiment" of combining athletics with academics, and his ever-faithful position as teacher and mentor to the Penn State community, is what set the tone for the campus.

Remember the last time Joe publicly spoke to the student body? You've probably seen the video of Joe on his lawn, addressing the shocked students in the wake of his dismissal from the 2nd great love in his life, as coach of Penn State football. Remember what Joe told the students gathered on his lawn? Told them to go back and study.

Joe didn't drill the academics down your throat, mind you. He didn't have to. He wanted his players to graduate. Well, heck, if the dumb jocks can get a Penn State degree, so can I. He gave his money not to build a new athletic facility, but to a library. And on the worst day of his Penn State life (with apologies to 4th-and-1 in the Sugar Bowl) he told the kids to go study.

That's the kind of man I wanted as the coach of my favorite football team. Or to coach my own son. In fact, when my boy was born less than two years ago, I said in my Sports Bar Newsletter that I hoped my son would grow up to play for Joe Paterno. I was only half-kidding; the thought that Joe would ever not be the coach at Penn State was almost unimaginable. I would not have been surprised to see JoePa still coaching the Nittany Lions when my boy got there in 18 years.

I guess my boy won't grow up to experience what a great man was Joe Paterno. But he will learn it from me.

Eventually, I had the chance to go to Penn State. Took the summer before my junior year at Penn to be a real Penn State student, if only for one summer. Penn State wasn't a place I *wanted* to go to, it was a place I NEEDED to go to. I had to feel that experience of being a part of Penn State. Studied hard, got all A's and a B that summer. Our dorm won the softball intramural title, playing the title game in the shadows of Beaver Stadium. We'd might as well have been playing in the shadows of JoePa himself.

I look forward to taking my son to Penn State, to show him where his dad won the softball title, and the library where his dad studied every night.

And when we do visit Penn State, Ryan will know Joe Paterno had been there as well. He will see it in the library, he will see it in the magnificent stadium and athletic facilities that exist because of Paterno. And my boy will know who was responsible for it, because I won't let him forget it.

But while Joe set the tone for the Penn State experience, he is maybe getting too much credit. You've heard it said that Joe was the embodiment of Penn State. That he *was* Penn State. Angelo Cataldi on WIP sports radio said the university "Would not exist" without Paterno.

Okay, so that might be just so much sports-radio-host hyperbole. Whatever the case, I think this part of the accolades of Joe Paterno's life is unfair to Penn State. Penn State was a great place before Joe got there, and would have been a great place without him. The academics, the alumni community, and the beautiful college town that sprang up around it, are all top notch. Penn State has more fundraising than I think you could find on any college campus. THON, the former Sy Barash Regatta, the Lady Lions Pink Out for breast cancer. You might not have heard about this philanthropy, but trust me, everyone connected with Penn State has.

So there is lots to admire and love about Penn State, and it would have been there without Joe Paterno. JoePa just made it a better place than it ever could have been without him.

We will miss you, JoePa. GrandPa. CoachPa. Penn State, college football, and the lives of an entire educational community were a lot better off because of you. I look forward to telling that to my son.


-- Brian, somewhere near Penn State

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


We're "black" today, to join the campaign against big business interests who want to control and censor the Internet.

Friday, January 13, 2012


So maybe god is be a Tebow fan, after all.

Cincinnati (9-8) 10
HOUSTON (11-6) 31
THE STATS: Houston RB Arian Foster 24-153-2 TD.
THE STORY: The game mirrored Cincinnati's season: Get off to an early 7-0 lead (started 6-2), then struggle the rest of the way in scoring just 3 more points (3-5 record to end the season at 9-7).

Atlanta (10-7) 2
NY GIANTS (10-7) 24
THE STATS: NY Giants WR Hakeem Nicks 6-115-2 TD.
THE STORY: New York's reward for an impressive win: Green Bay.

Detroit (10-7) 28
NEW ORLEANS (14-3) 45
THE STATS: New Orleans offense 34 first downs, playoff record 626 total yards.
THE STORY: Saints still haven't lost since before Halloween.

Pittsburgh (12-5) 23
DENVER (9-8) 29
THE STATS: Denver QB Tim Tebow 10-21-316-0-2 TD, 125.6 rating;
10-50-1 TD rushing.
THE STORY: Most memorable picture of the weekend wasn't Tebow Tebowing after the win, but the media rushing to get pictures of Tebow Tebowing after the win.

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Friday, January 6, 2012


So Tebowmania is dying down. Guess you gotta actually win to be a
pop culture icon.

Detroit (10-6) 41
GREEN BAY (15-1) 45
THE STATS: Green Bay QB Matt Flynn 31-44-380-1-6 TDs, 136.4 rating.
THE STORY: The Green Bay quarterback factory continues to turn them out.

TENNESSEE (9-7) 23
Houston (10-6) 22
THE STATS: Houston's first postseason.
THE STORY: How far can the Texans go behind T.J. Yates after losing quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart?

Indianapolis (2-14) 13
THE STATS: Jacksonville just one penalty, one turnover.
THE STORY: Colts horrible season proves the value of losing a premium quarterback. Now let's see if Indy goes and drafts one.

NY Jets (8-8) 17
MIAMI (6-10) 19
THE STATS: Miami wins in spite of being outgained 210 to 374 yards.
THE STORY: After two consecutive runs to the AFC title game, the Jets took themselves out of the playoffs by losing their final three games to teams with a combined record of 23-25. Someone has some 'splainin to do, Lucy. I mean, Rex.

CHICAGO (8-8) 17
Minnesota (3-13) 13
THE STATS: Chicago snaps 5 game losing streak.
THE STORY: Good news for the Bears: the crowds in Florida are thin this time of year. Enjoy your vacations.

Buffalo (6-10) 21
NEW ENGLAND (13-3) 49
THE STATS: Buffalo 1-7 on 3rd down conversions.
THE STORY: Buffalo started the game 21-0, then gave up 49 straight points. Kind of a microcosm of their season (3-0, then 3-10 the rest of the way).

Carolina (6-10) 17
NEW ORLEANS (13-3) 45
THE STATS: New Orleans 617 total yards.
THE STORY: Carolina was actually 6-6 until you factor in their 0-4 against the division's two playoff teams, New Orleans and Atlanta. That's something to build on in Carolina, but shows how far they have to go.

Washington (5-11) 10
THE STATS: Philadelphia TE Brent Celek 6-86-1 TD.
THE STORY: Eagles win their last 4 games, go 5-1 in the division, score the most points and give up the fewest in the division, but still miss the playoffs. How is that possible?

St. Louis (2-14) 27
THE STATS: San Francisco K David Akers 4-4 XP, 2-3 FG, 1-1-14-0-1 TD passing, 158.3 rating.
THE STORY: So 49ers kicker David Akers threw a touchdown pass to WR Michael Crabtree, who faked like he was leaving the field on a FG attempt. But why would the Niners roll out that play a week BEFORE the playoffs?

Tampa Bay (4-12) 24
ATLANTA (10-6) 45
THE STATS: Atlanta RB Michael Turner 17-172-2 TD.
THE STORY: Atlanta led 42-0 with 6:49 left. Not left in the game, but in the first HALF.

BALTIMORE (12-4) 24
Cincinnati (9-7) 16
THE STATS: Baltimore RB Ray Rice 24-191-2 TDs.
THE STORY: Baltimore secured the #2 seed, setting up a possible showdown in the 2nd week of the playoffs against #5 seed Pittsburgh. Just what we need, another matchup in this great rivalry.

PITTSBURGH (12-4) 13
Cleveland (4-12) 9
THE STATS: Pittsburgh time of possession: 39:11.
THE STORY: Pittsburgh needed to win to have a chance at winning the division, a first-round bye, and even home field. But they got no help from around the league, and settled for the #5 seed.

Seattle (7-9) 20
ARIZONA (8-8) 23
THE STATS: Tie game in regulation produces virtually tied statistics at the end of the game: Total Yards (Seattle Arizona): 369/388; First downs: 19/20; Turnovers 1/2; Total plays: 73/73; Passes: 35/40; Completions: 21/22; Punts 8/7; Penalties 7/9; Time of Poss: 33:42 / 35:19.
THE STORY: Last year, two teams with 7 wins in the NFC West would have been playing for the division title in Week #17.

Denver (8-8) 3
THE STATS: 2nd lowest scoring game in the NFL this season (Cleveland over Seattle, 6-3 in Week #7).
THE STORY: Denver's ride to the playoffs was like a Chris Berman home run call: "Back, back, back, back, BACKED IN".

SAN DIEGO (8-8) 38
Oakland (8-8) 26
THE STATS: Combined 983 total yards of offense.
THE STORY: Disappointing season for San Diego, which started 4-1 and finished 4-1. It was the 6-game losing streak in the middle that hurt. Even more disappointing was the Raiders, who could have made the playoffs if they had won, coupled with Denver's loss.

Dallas (8-8) 14
NY GIANTS (9-7) 31
THE STATS: Dallas 2 turnovers vs. 0 for New York, 7 penalties vs. 3, 6 times sacked vs. 2.
THE STORY: Playoffs began a week early for the Giants.

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