I got a late start watching the football game between Northwestern and Penn State this weekend. By the time I turned on the game, it was already 21-0 in favor of the visiting Wildcats.
It turned out I was just in time to watch a truly great comeback by my beloved Nittany Lions.
I'm not sure why I felt calm and so sure of the comeback, but it may have been my grandfather's spirit telling me to enjoy what was about to happen. My grandfather Edward was one of the first people who made me a lifelong Penn State fan. He also was about three months apart in age from Joe Paterno.
Maybe that's why watching Penn State football always makes me feel like I am watching my own grandfather out there coaching up the troops. My "Pap" always liked JoePa because of what he stood for on and off the field. He always commented on how Paterno would never rub victory in the face of his opponent by running up the score intentionally.
He always mentioned how Paterno would show nothing but respect for the opponent he was facing, even if it was a game PSU was 99 percent sure to win.
Think about it, have you ever heard Paterno disrespect an opponent before in your life?
I didn't think so.
In today's world of sports, success is fleeting, and it seems like head coaches are always being fired for having a bad season. I've been pretty fortunate to root for two teams that believe in stability at the head coaching position, the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers and, of course, the Penn State Nittany Lions.
As the final moments unwound on victory number 400, I found myself watching in amazement that an 83-year-old man who is constantly being told that the game has passed him by continues to fly in the face of logic and win games for Penn State.
After the final gun sounded, Paterno was greeted by two of his offensive linemen, who picked the old coach up (very carefully, of course) on their shoulders and began to carry him reluctantly for just a little bit. Paterno deserved this moment. He always tries to deflect the spotlight away from himself and his players and onto the next opponent, but this moment deserved to be his and his alone.
It was nice to see him smile and enjoy it.
I was especially touched when Joe's wife Sue found her way to him and the two enjoyed a moment together. It was like seeing your own grandparents unafraid to share their love for each other even after so many years of marriage.
I think that's why this day and this moment were so uplifting to me. It was almost like seeing my own grandfather achieve his dreams.
That's why I know I'm in no hurry to see Joe Paterno retire from coaching. He's like a grandfather to me, and God knows we should treasure every moment with our grandparents before they are gone forever.
Joe Paterno is the embodiment of everything our parents taught us growing up. Be respectful, teach them the right way, not the wrong way. Above all else, with 400 collegiate victories, I think he’s proved that he knew what he was talking about all along.
Hats off to you, Joe.
Think you have another 100 in you?