"Just Left" Bobby Bowden Will Always Be "Wide Right" in Our Hearts

Jeff KessockFeatured ColumnistDecember 2, 2009

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 3:  Head Coach Joe Paterno of the Penn State Nittany Lions talks with Head Coach Bobby Bowden of the Florida State Seminoles during the Fed Ex Orange Bowl at Dolphins Stadium on January 3, 2005 in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Lions won 26-23 in triple overtime. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

TAMPA—Does this look like the face of a man who just lost a BCS Bowl game? Does it resemble the echo of a heart that has been defeated? Following the triple-overtime thrill ride of the 2006 Orange Bowl, Bobby Bowden showed us a glimpse of what life would be like for him when he finally had to hang them up.

And we all missed it.

Randy Spetman met with coach Bowden last night to discuss the options available to him for his gradual succession, that one might imagine, felt more like a secession.

Bowden has coached longer than the average NFL player has been alive. Today marked a day, one day, for a man who has lived through so many memorable days.

Bowden was once quoted as saying, in the words of his idol, Paul "Bear" Bryant, "Once you retire, there's only one more [milestone], you know, and I'm just not ready for that.”

Well, coach, I don't think a lot of us were ready for it either.

Florida State is Bobby Bowden. A program long identified by the successive bowl trips, the unfathomable NFL first and second round draft picks, top five finishes, national championships, and memorable rivalry games that forever changed the way college fans and pundits viewed football in the state of Florida.

In the end, winning seemed to be more important than the lore, the significant contributions to the University, or the uninterrupted pageantry Bobby created.

It would be easy to list off the names of the players he sculpted. Names like Charlie Ward, Warrick Dunn, Corey Simon, Chris Weinke, Thad Busby, Kez McCorvey, and Tamarick Vanover.

It would be even easier to list the coaches: Mark Richt and Chuck Amato, who went on to impressive careers in their own right.

The easiest thing to list would be the amount of people Bobby undoubtedly touched with his compassion, caring, and love for the game: We all were. Every last one of us.

In the coming weeks and months, we will all undoubtedly be recognizing the facts that are presented to us, those about a man who became the poster child for the most celebrated pastime in the land. Time and inevitability have claimed the career of one of the best men ever to coach the game, but his footprint will be cemented for generations to come.

He's left an impression that will last for lifetimes.

Memories of coach Bowden are hard to come by right now, as the sadness that an entire nation may be feeling is still making those moments seem somewhat hazy. While the "next milestone" seems to sadden my heart personally, the Seminoles of Florida State are already in mourning for such a loss.

Wins or no wins, he was the most anticipated person to watch every Saturday, and turning on the television, will not feel quite the same.

Was it not for you, Coach, our lives would have somehow been Wide Wrong, and nobody will ever retire that notion.

Bobby Bowden—truly unconquered.