That's the punch line to Joe Paterno's story, but it's not the moral. Not long after, Angelo, you asked Joe, "Are you making an impact?" Joe did not know what to say to that. Impact? He was an assistant football coach in a cow town in Pennsylvania. What kind of impact could he make?
"I'm trying, Pops," Joe said.
You died a year or two after that.
Joe ain't quitting. You raised an obstinate son, Angelo. Cocciuto come un mulo. Stubborn as a mule. He's 82 years old, will turn 83 four days before Christmas, and he's coaching Penn State football for the 60th consecutive season.
How can anyone wrap his arms around that much time? You know Don Shula? He won more professional games than any other coach. He retired 14 years ago. Joe is older than Don Shula.
Gordie Howe, Mr. Hockey, played his first season in the NHL in 1946. Joe is older than Mr. Hockey. Arnold Palmer won his first Masters more than 50 years ago, back when the whole idea of golf on television seemed ludicrous. Joe is older than Arnold Palmer. Here's another one: David Bell played 12 years in the major leagues and retired in 2006. His father, Buddy Bell, played in the bigs 18 seasons. His father, Gus Bell, played in the majors for 15 seasons and retired 45 years ago. Joe was born before Gus Bell.
Joe was born before Shirley Temple, before Andy Warhol, before James Dean, before Buddy Holly, before Mikhail Gorbachev. People celebrate Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon 40 years ago; Joe is older than Neil Armstrong. People commemorate Martin Luther King Day; Joe was born before Martin Luther King Jr. Elvis impersonators still haunt the Vegas strip; Joe was born before the King of Rock and Roll.
A museum piece, Angelo. That's how some see him. Sure, some want him to quit. Some say he's lost touch. Some say he's going to dull his legacy. What does he care? It's like George, your younger son, used to say: "Don't ever tell Joe he can't do something ... because he'll work harder than ever to make sure he does it."
People have been telling Joe to quit for more than 40 years, going back to the time in '67 when he went for it on fourth down in the Gator Bowl against Florida State. The Nittany Lions didn't get the first down, the game ended in a tie, and on the plane ride home a joker on that team, Jack Curry, walked back to the coach, who was sitting with his head in his hands.
"Coach, don't worry about it," Curry said. "There's good that comes out of everything."