Saturday, August 20, 2011

Lesson 82: We Are Penn State

Recognize this photo above?  This is Ellen's Pop Art Era mural from my last blog.  I asked you in the photo movie if you could figure out what it says.  If you are like my mother and haven't figured out how to pause the slide to study it closer, and had to watch the entire show the whole time through, then you most likely gave up.  Here it is again in still form.  Take a minute and see if you can read the see some of the letters form, wait---there's, it's not about the state of New Jersey, Slovenians.  I hate that state.  Had a rough vacation there once---3 kids, one autistic, another 16 months old and not walking, and a hubby in a leg cast----let's not revisit, do you give up?

You read the message from top to bottom, left to right.  When you do, it reads:  It's the name on the front of the jersey that matters most not the one on the back   

The quote is from the legendary Joe Paterno, head football coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions since 1966.  I have loved that quote since I heard it years ago.  Yes, I am aware it is missing an apostrophe in the opening contraction.  Now don't get your underwear in a bunch over it, Critics.  It simply didn't fit in our 8 by 8 grid.  You can come to my house and put one in with white out if you feel like climbing a ladder.  This mural on canvas (featured in blog #81--I Like It) hangs in my garage.

Coach Paterno spoke these words in reference to the fact that Penn State football players do not wear their last names on the back of their very plain navy blue or white jerseys, probably the most boring shirts in the league.  It is the team philosophy that playing football is just that--about a team.  Individual players rise to stardom, no doubt, but the scouts have to work a little bit harder to remember their names.  What is important is that they play together for Penn State, one of the finest universities in our country, notably for agricultural studies.  

The montage at the beginning of this post gives you a nice 3 minute glimpse into the 50 year career of Joe Paterno.  Coach Paterno will turn 85 this December and is all set to begin this season as Penn State's head coach once again.  Joe took a bad hit by one of the players in a practice a few weeks ago.  At the bottom of this blog, I attached an article from the August 12th issue of Sports News out of State College, PA.  It is funny, so if your eyes aren't too taxed after reading my words, you can read some accounts of this year's players.  They are in blue.  Thank you to my nephew Chris for sending me this link.

More and more students are applying to Penn State in recent years.  Some have suspected that they are doing so because of the extra attention the university gets because of Joe Paterno himself.  Will he return to coach?  Can they snag another National Championship under his reign?  Will he ever retire or hold the position until his death?  
We have to bottles of Nittany Lion wine waiting in our basement for both of those things to happen, hopefully one before the other.  One we will open to celebrate the National Champion victory, and the other we will open to toast Joe's admirable career.

I've read lots about Joe Paterno in recent years.  All reports generally carry the same themes--that he is a tough nosed coach who speaks the truth in plain language.  Just like the jerseys, there are no frills or fluff about him; a "what you see is what you get" kind of guy.  From what I've read, his dedication and loyalty extends to his wife Sue and their five children.  I understand that they still live in a simple ranch house in Happy Valley and he gives much of his coaching salary back to the university.  Eloise likes this.  I wish I had that little thumbs up facebook thingy to put on right here.

Maybe one of these three will wear Penn State on their fronts someday.

They are all smart, so it is a possibility.  There is a Penn State branch campus 3 miles from my house, and that sure seems like a good place to start.  Sam's leash could reach that long and it would give me a little more sleep knowing he was close by.

I know my limits as a parent though.  I can't choose their futures for them, but I can try to steer them in the right direction.  Wearing Penn State lion attire and making murals of motivating quotes is a good starting place to get something good into their heads, don't you think?  From now until that time that seems to be fast approaching---post high school--I can only reiterate what Coach Paterno says, but in my Eloise sort of way.  It isn't so much about what the name reads on your back.  I have many:  my birth name, my married name, my pen name, and most recently "Cheer Mom."  It is what I wear on the front that matters most, and this is what I wear, and it speaks volumes without uttering a single word:

 And one day, when and if Sam ever applies to Penn State, I can only hope that the admissions people remember this, because sometimes the name on the back speaks volumes, too:

As for Ellen and her daddy, what they display on their backs means something too.  Hubby hopes that he has actual reason to wear his smurf-like wardrobe---perhaps there will be an alumni among us one day.  For dear, sweet Ellen, I believe the quote is more about surviving life with her little brother than the LeBoeuf All Star Softball Tournament that she played in to earn this t-shirt.

Don't forget to read the article below.  An extra assignment on a beautiful summer day I know, but it is quite good.
Looking forward to a great year on the gridiron.  We are.......................Penn State!

Penn State Players All Worried They're Going To Be The One Who Accidentally Kills Joe Paterno

AUGUST 12, 2011 | ISSUE 47•33  From SPORTS NEWS

STATE COLLEGE, PA—Hospitalized after a receiver crashed into him on the field last Sunday, Joe Paterno’s return to practice Wednesday came as a vast relief to Penn State players, all of whom live in constant fear of being the one who inevitably kills the 84-year-old head coach.
“Every day we go to the field worried about which one of us will accidentally bump into Coach, cause his entire body to fall apart, and kill him,” senior defensive end Jack Crawford said. “There’s no doubt we are going to be the ones responsible for his death. That’s inevitable. It’s just a question of who and when."
“At this point, it’s part of the Happy Valley tradition," Crawford added. "No names on the jerseys, ringing the victory bell, and being very, very careful not to be the reason Coach Paterno dies."
Paterno, who suffered minor fractures during Sunday’s accident, also had his leg broken during a 2006 game against Wisconsin and injured himself in a 2008 practice while demonstrating an onside kick. In fact, Nittany Lions players and coaches confirmed, Paterno has been close to death an average of once a week for the past 30 years.
"His heart and lungs actually first stopped functioning for a few minutes when Alabama upset Penn State in the 1979 Sugar Bowl," Penn State athletic director Timothy Curley said. "And I estimate about 13 times since then. For God's sake, don't tell him, but after that kid ran into him Sunday, Coach Paterno was clinically dead for five minutes."
Paterno has been a constant presence at practices during his entire 46-season tenure as head coach, and in recent years, players have developed special procedures to minimize the risk of inadvertently killing him. According to team sources, the Nittany Lions offense runs plays away from the fragile, ancient coach, and any ballcarrier who finds himself within 10 yards of Paterno is expected to stumble harmlessly to the turf.
In addition, Penn State has reportedly managed not to practice punts or kickoffs in Paterno's presence since 1996, when the then 70-year-old Paterno was lightly grazed by a member of the return team and had to be rushed to a hospital, where a cardiothoracic surgeon massaged his heart for 30 minutes.
"Every game, every quarter, every down, I’m terrified I might be the one who kills Joe Paterno," said junior wideout Curtis Drake, who now refuses to run sideline routes. "It’s not just playing football, either. The tough part is all the little things, like staying 3 feet from him when he's talking so you don't use up all the oxygen in the air, and making sure he's not standing in your shadow, where he could get cold.”
“There are just so many ways we could potentially kill this man,” Drake added.
Team sources said that while it may not be obvious to the casual observer, the entire Penn State sideline has for decades been more committed to preserving Paterno's tenuous hold on life than to winning football games.
"Of course, we hate to lose, because Coach could take it too hard and die,” sophomore quarterback Paul Jones said. “But we can't win by too much, either, because then he could get too excited and die. We also can’t not hustle or play hard, because then he might get angry and die. So basically our game plan is to establish an eight-point cushion and keep it there, easy does it, no drama."
"And if we do win, absolutely no dumping Gatorade over Coach Paterno," Jones added. "I mean, are you fucking kidding me? He'd fall apart like a stewed chicken."
While Penn State sources admitted the team's focus on preserving the delicate health of their octogenarian coach has somewhat limited their football program, all agreed that at this point Paterno's presence on the sidelines means more to the school than winning games.
"Joe Paterno is a national treasure, and as far as I’m concerned, he can coach as long as he wants,” Penn State president Graham Spanier told reporters. “I mean, without Penn State, the man would drop dead in a second, and I’m certainly not going to be the one to kill him.”

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