- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
That week Penn State beat Indiana on a remarkable goal line stand. The next week the Nittany Lions won big at home over Michigan State. The next year they won all their games but one: a two-point loss at Michigan in front of 111,000 people. And Penn State football is once again predictably successful.
"Nobody else believed," Adam says. "Nobody. Not even people in the program. Only Coach Paterno believed. And then ... everybody believed."
He's like you, Angelo. Everybody says so. You went back to high school after getting out of the service. Then you went to night school for college. Then you went back for law school. One of Joe's strongest memories is of you studying at three in the morning to pass the bar. Will. Joe has always had plenty of your will.
Another memory, though, a more bountiful one, is of the beautiful arguments that raged in the house, arguments about everything from politics to religion to literature to music. No one argument stands out in his mind. He remembers only a house filled with sound and you, Angelo, in the middle, shouting, "No, how can you believe that? What are you talking about? How can you say something like that?"
Yes, he is like you. Joe has ridden the wave of arguments. They energize him. They give his program life. Even if he agrees with an assistant coach's idea, he often attacks it with a frightening flurry of questions and doubts just to see if the coach's idea will withstand the challenge. Then, every so often, Joe tosses out an idea he doesn't believe in, just to see if his coaches will speak their minds.
"Why can't we talk without calling each other names?" Joe asks. "I mean in the world. Everyone around, they scream at each other about politics or what's happening. Why can't someone just stand up and say, 'Why? How? When? What does it matter?' Let the power of the idea fight for itself."
The power of ideas. This is what moves him at 82, same as when he was 22. He doesn't golf, hasn't golfed since he was a young assistant coach. ("He claims he was once close to a scratch golfer," Jay says, "and I remind him that everyone he played with is dead, and he can say whatever he wants.") He doesn't fish; he took his children fishing once, in a fully stocked river where fish were practically jumping into the ice bucket, and in an hour and a half they caught nothing. ("I don't have the patience for it," he says.) He gets antsy on vacations, isn't about to start gardening, hasn't gone to even five baseball games since the Dodgers left Brooklyn.
No, he reads: the classics, history, novels, biographies of Winston Churchill and Alexander the Great. Through happy tears, he tells the story of his courtship with Sue. She was a student at Penn State, he was a young assistant coach. She was dating a player, he told her the guy was cutting classes. ("You like that guy?" Joe asked her. "'Cause he's not gonna be here long." He wasn't.) After they had seen each other for a while, he bought her a copy of Albert Camus's The Stranger. He asked her to write a paper about it. He also read the novel and wrote a paper about it. Then they compared the papers—and he saw their worlds were aligned.
Not long after, he asked her to marry him. They've been married for 47 years.
"I'm not a deeply religious guy," Joe says, "but I go to bed at night and I say, 'I don't know why, God, but you've been good to me.'"