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Time for JoePa to go?

Paterno needs to do right thing for Penn State and call it a career

Posted: Thursday November 4, 2004 1:53PM; Updated: Friday November 5, 2004 8:04AM
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Given the nation's ever-quickening pace toward obesity and video-addled inactivity, it seems absurd for anyone to say Joe Paterno can't coach anymore because of his advancing age. Granted, JoePa is so old Bobby Bowden calls him "Pops," but the 77-year-old Penn State coach has enough energy these days to smack down the average Lipitor-popping couch jockey in an arm-wrestling match. Just watch him on the sidelines -- he paced an estimated 5 1/2 miles during the Lions' 21-10 loss to Ohio State last week -- and you'll be convinced the Old Man has plenty of fight left. Or check him out at a postgame press conference, when he's blasting writers who dare to question his motives or strategies. Some old people are cranky. Others are on fire. Paterno must have asbestos veins, because his blood is as spicy as Cajun lava chili.

So don't go pushing him out of his PSU office because of advancing age. Paterno may not be able to get term life insurance at a reasonable price, but he's no fogy, either. And no one has the right to declare him unfit to coach the Nittany Lions. If it were not for Paterno, Penn State would still be a cow college out in central Pa. known primarily to the state's hunt-and-fish crowd. He has raised tens of millions of dollars for the school, contributed millions more out of his own portfolio and built a program from Eastern curiosity to national power with incredible visibility. For that, he deserves to stay on the PSU sidelines until he needs someone to pre-chew his applesauce.

Paterno is sacrosanct, a living, breathing icon. He wants to coach, he coaches. What, Penn State is 2-6, with an offense so impotent it would need a Levitra drip to find the end zone? Sorry, but Joe stays. You mean he threw away a year of eligibility for star QB Anthony Morelli by giving him meaningless time in the season-opening rout of Akron? That could get the coach Zooked at some places, but not at Penn State. This isn't about wins and losses. It's about doing what's right.

That has always been El Hombre's stance on the issue ... but even the world's greatest thinkers can change their positions.

The university continues to do what's right in keeping Paterno. And now it's time for Paterno to do the right thing and call it a career.

Remember in Godfather II, when Tom Hagen showed up at the Army base where the Feds were holding Frankie Pentangeli and sold him on doing the honorable thing to protect his family? Later that day, they found Frankie Five Angels dead in the tub. Joe needs to do what's best for Penn State, and that means retiring. Penn State football is clean, rolling in money and attracting 100,000-plus fans to every home game. But beneath that veneer of good health, the termites are eating away the foundation. Another losing season, and the Next Guy could find himself in the horrible situation of trying to sell a program based on the past glories of another man. In many ways, it has already reached that point. But there's a problem with living in the past these days. High school kids have no sense of history. Tradition to them is what happened on the last episode of The O.C. PSU's next coach will have to build a new identity for the school, if it is to reclaim its place among the sport's elite.

Paterno is hanging on to prove he can do it one more time. Maybe he will. Maybe Penn State will go 11-1 in '05 and win the Rose Bowl. That way, Paterno could ride into the shadows vindicated after having authored a glorious last chapter in a legendary career. Next year's schedule is certainly set up for a quick getaway, with home games against South Florida, Cincinnati and Central Michigan. Paterno's motives are probably pure. He'd like to prove he can do it. But more than that, he wants to win for Penn State.

That hasn't happened. This will be the fourth losing season in the last five for PSU. It's time for Paterno to step down, do what's right for Penn State and let the new era begin.

And then go out and train for the Ironman Triathlon.

Crude Keyshawn crossed line

MAILBAG
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If the TV executives in this country had any guts -- and the continued avalanche of pandering reality shows proves they don't -- they would declare a moratorium on any coverage of Me-shawn Johnson outside the most basic chronicling of his on-field performances. His crude, sexist, threatening comments in the wake of Pam Oliver's report about a squabble between the Cowboys receiver and Dallas coach Bill Parcells proved once and for all that Johnson is an insensitive boor who deserves little respect.

Johnson was angry with Oliver -- a true pro -- for reporting the dustup with Parcells, an event Johnson says never occurred. Then, Johnson crossed the line.

"I almost wanted to get on a plane, find where she is at, and sit her down and spank her with a ruler really, really hard, because it makes no sense," Johnson said.

The amazing thing about this is that after his disgraceful remarks, Johnson wasn't fined by the Cowboys or the NFL. If Johnson had a problem with Oliver's story, he should have been man enough to call her and discuss it. Instead, he gave further ammunition to those of us who consider him a selfish boor and the personification of every locker-room stereotype.

Of course, he did call attention to himself at a time when his team is performing as well as the latest Rob Lowe TV vehicle. Give him credit for that. It's the egoist's oldest credo: If the cameras are on, everything's fine.

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