Joe Paterno told the media not to ask him whether he’s going to die, but, given his condition, that’s all anyone can think about. The legendary coach is 83 and markedly less ebullient. According to one writer’s honest observation, he may not make it through the season.
Here is a description of Paterno answering questions from Mike Gross’ Lancaster Online column.
The problem was the mechanics (for lack of a better word) of his speech.
Words took a long, labored time getting out. There was elaborate, juicy slurring.
His head occasionally seemed overtaken by gravity, his chin dropping to his chest and his lower lip gaping open.
It’s uncomfortable watching JoePa die. That is more to do with us than with him. It’s like visiting a relative in a nursing home. Seeing him felled forces us to confront our own mortality. We watch him get trampled and we witness his bowel problems. We hear a little too much truth injected into the “Come to Pennn Staaate!” commercial. We cringe. That’s us in however many years, if we’re lucky.
A sane man would retire. A sane man would have retired 15 years ago. Sane men seldom accomplish great things. Most work to live the brief moments when they are not working. Joe Paterno lives through his work. He needs to be useful. As long as he can make it to the stadium, he will be there. He won’t retire.
We would feel more at ease if JoePa retired, if he awaited death in a de facto coffin. We would have the montage canned and avoid the gruesome part. It would be sterile. It would be easier, for us.
Joe Paterno will coach this season. He may not see the end of it. He may collapse on a crisp autumn day, forcing himself up some stadium steps, but that’s for him to decide. He has earned it.
[Photo via Getty]