College football is a microcosm that shares many of the same qualities as day-to-day life, but also has many unique characteristics all its own. While the game itself continues to develop and evolve, the experience that the college game provides is emblematic of something greater than all of us.
Many people simply enjoy the college game for what it is on the surface—a game. But for others, a game in the fall is a life experience that stays with us forever. For those lucky few, experiencing a college game is like taking a trip through time. All at once it’s a history lesson, a work of art, a representation of life and a connection. The game is extremely simple, yet so very complex.
This complexity makes it incredibly hard to express in words how meaningful the game is, while the simplicity of the game makes it appear as if one could describe it in a matter of seconds. However, one thing is certain about college football: To many of us, the wins and losses are merely a fraction of what this game is all about.
This is why the passing of Joseph V. Paterno is so tragic.
Paterno was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in December of 1926. He attended Brown University and played on the football team as both the quarterback and a cornerback. In 2011, JoPa entered his 62nd season on the coaching staff at Penn State University where he set a record of 409 wins, the most victories by an NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision coach.
JoPa was the last “great one” and there will never be another like him. With his death, we enter a new world of college football. Our connection to the past is gone, and with it another college football experience is forever unattainable.
I once told a friend of mine that I was going to get on a plane and fly to State College, Pa. My whole purpose in going was merely to shake Joe Paterno’s hand. I did not want to take up his time or bother him for an autograph. I simply wanted to say that I had the honor of meeting Joe Paterno.
I never did catch that flight to Pennsylvania.
Much has been said about JoPa since his passing on Sunday, Jan. 22, and his absence will weigh upon this sport for a long time to come. Next fall, the skies will be a little grayer, a little bit cloudier and a little bit colder, as we will all experience the incompleteness of the sport without JoPa.
R.I.P. Joseph V. Paterno: 1926-2012