Alternative headline for the above post was “PSU Football Writer Cannot Tell A Lie, Paterno Is Anything But Spry”. All kidding aside, Ladies and Gentlemen, while this rapidly-aging editor finds constant references to Penn State’s 2000 Year Old Man head football coach as some kind of decrepit nincompoop to be ageist cheap shots, it’s difficult to take issue with the approach of the Lancaster Sunday News’ Mike Gross given that Joe Paterno began last Thursday’s media day by pleading the assembled press corps, “please don’t ask me if I’m going to die.”
He admitted that, “In the old days I used to grab a couple kids and shove them around a little bit,” but doesn’t any more, for one thing, because, “I don’t want to get like the guy at Texas Tech [Mike Leach], if you know what I mean.”
There were the usual assortment of questions about specific players, some of them relatively obscure players, and Paterno generally had detailed, thoughtful answers.
The exception was a fairly straightforward question about running back Evan Royster.
Joe had the questioner repeat it three times and never grasped it, so he launched into a monologue that had nothing to do with Royster, touched on the blocked punt in last year’s Iowa game and ended with, “That doesn’t answer your question, I know that.”
None of that was especially worrisome or even unusual. 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.
He acknowledged that he will no longer do the weekly call-in radio show that for years has been a goofy, alternately amusing and tedious but very real lifeline between Joe and the rank-and-file fans.
To that, I and a number of colleagues had the same honest, gut reaction:
Could he do it, even if he wanted to?
Then he got in his Mercedes and drove home.
Again, from the gut: Should he be driving a car?