Peachy Paterno

He still likes to have fun with you on a Tuesday afternoon.

When a reporter asked 84-year-old Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno about his chances against the Crimson Tide of Alabama this weekend, the top Nittany Lion roared with delight with an opportunity to answer.

“So, I think that what we’ll do this Saturday is we’ll try to win the football game. Whether we do it with two quarterbacks or one, I can’t tell you right now. And for me to get up here and tell you this guy ought to play or that guy ought to play right now, geez, we went out yesterday just to get a feel for the thing. So that’s a long answer to a simple question. Which appears to be a simple question but it’s a tough question. I like both those kids, and I think that hopefully we’ll do what’s best, the fairest for both of them and the football team,” Paterno explained in a roundabout way that’s refreshing in an age of professional orators masking as head coaches.

Joe Paterno knows football better than you know anything.

He’s won 402 games, a pair of national titles, three Big 10 Titles and was named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated.

He’s coached football at the highest level 13 years longer than I’ve been alive. Every few years or so people beg for him to retire. Every few years or so he takes a team to a major bowl game at the end of the season.

He’s the only person in the world someone would be shocked to realize that he only makes one million dollars per season. Most big time college football coaches make between three-five million per season. Joe doesn’t need the money, he’d give it back to the University anyway.

For a guy that graduated from Brown University, Paterno loves Penn State. The library is named after him and he continues to make significant donations to anywhere and everywhere in University Park. When I called up a sports information director about Penn State basketball a few months ago, the official decided to make some small talk. First order of business? He let me know that Peachy Paterno finally is in season at the Creamery on campus.

Joe Paterno’s team isn’t good enough to beat Alabama on Saturday. That doesn’t mean much in the big picture. College football lives on tradition more than anything else. I’m sure Joe Paterno wouldn’t let his team walk out in the uniforms we saw the University of Maryland sport on Monday evening.

Oh, and he’ll be on the sideline on Saturday afternoon. I can’t imagine a time when Paterno won’t coach a college football game.

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