Mickey Mantle Day, June 8, 1969.
No, it's because, for the first time since I began writing this thing, I seem to have gotten an audience – and hit a nerve.
Who's complaining? Fans of what team? The Mets – a.k.a. The Other Team? No. The Red Sox – a.k.a. The Scum? No. The New York Rangers – another team I call "The Scum"? No.
Penn State. It seems I insulted Saint Joseph.
Yup. I struck a nerve – and I liked it.
The other day, I posted my Top 10 Most Hated Opponents – non-players' edition. And here’' what I had at Number 1, truncated to match the points of the response I got:
1. Joe Paterno, Pennsylvania State University football. Ol' Ratface spent the better part of 30 years picking on the teams now in the Big East… running up the score on weaker Eastern opponents, thus inflating their records. And also for and poaching players from other territories...
The last time Penn State played Rutgers, at Giants Stadium in 1995, Penn State was leading 52-34, and Paterno had his quarterback pass with an 18-point lead near the end of the game. Touchdown, 59-34. When it was over, Rutgers coach Doug Graber did not shake Paterno's hand afterward, instead telling him what a classless SOB he is. Well, that may not have been Graber's exact phrase, but it might as well have been. And this great patriotic conservative Christian known as "Saint Joseph" among his fans, he cursed right back. Later, he apologized to the press for his profanity -- but not for his classless coaching, saying, "I should not have to apologize for (my quarterback) doing what he has been coached to do." (I won't name that quarterback here: He's a henchman, not the villain.)
Now that Rutgers is a consistent winner, that cowardly old bastard won't play us. Come on, Ratface, you deserve one last lesson in manners before you head off to that great press box in the... core of the Earth…
When he finally dies, the Shittany Lions will probably mummify him and turn the Beaver Stadium press box into their own version of Lenin’s Tomb. They already call the stadium “Saint Joe Paterno Cathedral.” …
Congratulations, Penn State: You are Number 1. You dirty bastards.
Someone identifying himself only as "Jim" wrotes back:
Mike McQuery was the QB. He threw to Chris Campbell. It was backup McQuery's only pass of the day and backup Campbell's only catch of the day. Hardly running up the score with backups.
Bullshit, Jim. If you’re up 18 points in the 4th quarter, you don't throw end-zone passes, unless you're a classless piece of shit. So either Paterno is one, or he recruited one, which doesn't reflect well on him, either.
Also, if you take a broader look at Paterno's record, you will see that "running up the score" has not been part of his repertoire.
Okay, let's take a broader, and much more recent, look. Let's take a look at Penn State's results from last season:
66-10 over Coastal Carolina. They're Division I-AA at best, and thus hardly capable of standing up to a college football powerhouse, so throw that one out.
45-3 over Temple. It's Temple, so we can throw that one out.
55-13 over Syracuse. I know that the school I tend to call "Sorry-excuse" has fallen on hard times, but was scoring 55 really necessary?
48-7 over Wisconsin, ranked #24 in the nation at the time. That's an impressive result. But if Penn State had scored half as many, it would still have been a decisive win. Was 48 necessary?
46-17 over Michigan. Michigan hasn't quite been itself lately, so was 46 necessary?
34-7 over Indiana. By comparison, this was rather restrained.
49-18 over Michigan State, ranked #15 at the time. The Big 10 title was already wrapped up, so why hang 49 on the Spartans? It's not like they're arch-rivals like Michigan and need to make a point of embarrassing them.
It’s rather easy to conclude that, yes, Paterno does run up the score. He did so 6 or 7 times last season, depending on whether you count Indiana – 4 or 5 if you throw out the results vs. Coastal Carolina and Temple.
Someone identifying himself as "Scott" said,
You might want to take note that PSU and Rutgers will be renewing their football series in 2014. It's been finalized.
At which point, Paterno will probably be retired or dead. Not his problem. The coward.
Oh and your record over the last 8 years is 46–51. Hardly a regularly winning team...
Over the last 4 years, Rutgers’ record is 34-17. That's twice as many wins as losses. Penn State over the same stretch? 40-11. Better, but not a lot better. And their bowl record is 3-1, exactly the same as that of Rutgers.
Hmm, I've never heard of anyone calling (Beaver Stadium) Saint Joe Paterno's Cathedral.
I can't remember where I first heard it. Possibly in some book about college football that I read. Well, you might as well call it that, since you worship Paterno.
Shittany Lions, that one is new to me.
That's because I made it up. If anyone else has thought of it, I'm not aware of it. But it's not like I hold the trademark. If anyone else wants to use it, I say, "Feel free."
Since when did 5 mediocre years out of 100 plus years of football make Rutgers a consistent program?
It didn't. Four good years – the last 4 years – made Rutgers a consistent program. No one's saying they're a "great program" – not yet. But then, the "great programs" – Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, USC, Miami, Notre Dame and, yes, now we know, Penn State (in fact, you could call this group "The Real Big Ten") – have had their issues.
Not running up the score is what many believe cost us a chance at the National Championship in 94. I can honestly say he doesn't do it.
Ah, yes, the ever-popular George Costanza Defense: "Jerry, it’s not a lie… if you believe it." So you're honestly delusional.
You couldn't find a Rutgers football fan before the program's moderate success and now they come out of the woodwork.
A small price to pay for seeing more Rutgers T-shirts than Penn State T-shirts in New Jersey's malls and on New Jersey's shore boardwalks. Hell, I'm even seeing Rutgers T-shirts at Yankee Stadium. But then, George Steinbrenner was more ethical than Joe Paterno. (At least Steinbrenner had the decency to try to hide his support for Richard Nixon.)
Let's see who wins the recruiting wars in the next few years though. I don't want to hear any excuses when we play the next game.
Don’t worry, we'll be firing off that cannon so many times you’ll be deaf for the rest of the weekend.
Sour grapes over Paterno. If Eastern teams were better coached and better performers, they would not have been such patsies for PSU. That Rutgers game? Paterno apologized for the "B*llsh*t" remark.
But he didn't apologize for the horseshit play-call. Neither do you:
But his 3rd string QB (if recall correctlly) was given a designed run play, not a pass play. But he saw a receiver get wide open, and he did what he was trained to do, toss it downfield. Not HIS fault that Rutgers had a porous defense.
What he should have been trained to do was not run up the score. Or, what he should have been trained to do was follow his coach's orders -- he did not. But I'm not going to blame the kid: As Mike Gundy, the coach at Oklahoma State, could have said, Paterno's 69! (At the time.) He's a man! Blame him!
In that game, Paterno showed he was no better than Tom Osborne, Barry Switzer, Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson or even Steve Spurrier.
Scheduling? No Big East team will agree to play PSU in anything but home-and-home series.
So play them in a home-and-home series. Or are you… chicken?
Schiano is a fine coach at a storied program that is past its prime; 3 more year, and Schiano will be gone, sorry to say.
I’ll address that point in a moment.
This is flat out adorable Uncle Mike, really it is. But seriously? You're going to hate Joe Paterno, who doesn't even do all of the recruiting incidentally, for out-coaching and out-recruiting your poor excuse for a football program? Come on buddy, this is flat out sad. I do, however, have to commend you on trying to turn one of the most lovable and respectable figures in all of sports into a cartoonish super villain. Kudos my friend.
Anybody who respects Paterno as much as you do is no friend of mine. Paterno is no more lovable than his old Pitt rival Jackie Sherrill, one of the most contemptible coaches of all time.
Trust me on this though, you aren't going to be able to get PSU fans to consider rutgers an actual rival, however, this won't make the embarrassing ways in which we beat you in '14 and '15 any less sweet.
No chance. The only way you're going to beat Rutgers then is if Greg Schiano gets lured into replacing the old man. Which ain't gonna happen, Dave and BSmith: He's already turned down Michigan and Miami, both top-tier programs. Which, considering how those programs have done since, turned out to be 2 good decisions.
And if he's going to turn down those two, who've actually won and earned National Championships since 1986 (well, January '87), he's not going to take that hick program in the middle of nowhere. Stick with considering Pitt a rival, and see if you can beat them: We can.
Then there’s "Jeff," who makes the guys who got here before him sound thoughtful by comparison:
Great. A 40 yo accountant who can't find a woman sounds off on a great American like Joepa! He's either a skinny weakling or loudmouth obese slob.
Actually, Paterno is the skinny weakling, and while I don't care if you're obese, you're definitely a loudmouth, and definitely a slob. You'd have to be, to think that Paterno is "a great American."
Just because Joe wins in recruiting and beathing the eastern patsies doesn't even compare to the Yankess buying players, making the clueless fans pay for them and the team can't win anything anymore anyway LOL Joe recruits ethically and gives kids a genuine chance to start life with a good head start.
He recruits ethically? You mean like those players he's had the last few years who've been charged with assaulting women and drunk-and-disorderly conduct? Check out the links.
Here's one from 2003. Isolated incidents? Here’s one from 2007, suggesting that he either lost control of these kids or that he looked their other way when recruiting wayward youth. Here’s one from last year. And here’s one from just last month.
That’s just what’s been publicized in the last 6 years. How do we know he wasn't hiding things all along, and got protected by the press? We can't trust a word he says, especially when he calls his program "clean." We certainly can't trust the word of anyone who says "JoePa does it right." Yeah, so does Bobby Bowden.
Who's next to hate? Hopefully TB's Joe Maddon a PA native who will dominate the aging Skankees for years to come. He's another classy guy like Joe, unlike Uncle Mike the NJ version of the 40 yo virgin!
Considering your homoerotic feelings for Paterno, I think you're on shaky ground talking about someone else's lovelife. Did you notice the rejuventated Yankees embarrassing Maddon's Rays this weekend? Maddon proved himself to be a whiny little dope with the umpires. He’' better enjoy that Pennant, 'cause the only way he'll ever see another one is on television. With the way the Yankees, Red Sox, and even the Blue Jays have been playing lately, the Deviled Eggs are destined to sink and stay sunk. In fact, forget about playing in the World Series again: The Rays may not even be playing in Tampa Bay much longer, if they don’t get that new park built!
So what do we have? We have Penn State fans with thinner skins than Met fans, Red Sox fans and New York Ranger fans.
That's a more stinging indictment than anything a Paterno player has ever faced in court.
Seriously: I've called Pedro Martinez and Mark Messier thugs, nearly killers, and hardly a response. But smear Saint Joe? Whoa, that's crossing the line! Apparently.
And I've noticed that not one of these Happy Valley Sallys even suggested an alternative, someone else who should be Number 1 on the list.
What does that mean? It could mean they were so angry they weren't thinking straight – which would be understandable, I suppose. It could also mean that they lack imagination – which is understandable, considering that Penn State still looks like a 1960s high school team with those uniforms. (Seriously, how hard would it be to put a block "P" or even a "PSU" on the helmets?)
But if they can see what other teams I don't like, surely they could find a reason to suggest Red Sox manager Terry Francona, for example. (I didn't put him on the list at all, but I suppose the explanation is a post for another time.)
The American college football fan now knows that the Penn State program has had its dirty moments, its dirty players, and at least one dirty head coach, just like most of the big winners and the less-big winners have, including some that I used to admire. And they know that Joe Paterno is a hypocrite, much like his Dallas pro counterpart, Tom Landry.
Which is fitting, because, like the Dallas Cowboys – and, I have to admit, also the Yankees – Penn State football is one of those teams that fans sometimes turn to when their own is inadequate.
You know how it is. Suppose you know a guy in your office went to, just to pull an example out of the air, Boston College. B.C. has had a reasonably good basketball team the last few years. During March Madness, this guy will cheer his guts out for B.C. But when B.C. is eliminated, suddenly, this guy will be saying, "Did you see Duke beat Would-Be Cinderella State by 40 points last night? I told you! Coach K is the greatest! I told you, man! Gotta love them Blue Devils! My Blue Devils are going all the way!"
In the immortal words of Jay Leno, "Oh shut up!" You probably threw away your Jordan 23 jersey as soon as Shaq and Kobe started winning with the Lakers. And is that a Favre 4 jersey I see in the hamper under your Brady 12? And under that Favre 4, an Aikman 8?
There will always be bandwagoners rooting for certain teams. But, thanks to what Greg Schiano has done with Rutgers, there's a lot more Scarlet Rs around New Jersey now, and a lot fewer Penn Traitors. If he goes on to do nothing else for us, that alone is enough reason to one day make it "Greg Schiano Field at Rutgers Stadium."
I don't care what Penn State fans think of me. But don't be blinded by the legend of Joe Paterno. He's like Wyatt Earp: The hero's story has been told for so long, it's hard to accept that the truth reveals something less than a hero. (With all due respect to Hugh O'Brian, a fine actor who played a heroic character who was based, only partly, on reality. The conflicted man played by Kevin Costner was closer to the truth.)
Maybe we can get Jack Nicholson to star in The Joe Paterno Story. He's already got the smarmy smile and the sunglasses, and a good chunk of the press in his back pocket – but not all of it. Nah, we don't need another New Jerseyan going to Slap-Happy Valley.
Of course, the ideal actor to play Paterno would have been Peter Lorre, who was the wise, admired Asian detective Mr. Moto one movie, a gangster's slimy henchman or a horror-film monster the next. But he's been dead for over 40 years. Paterno's not that old.
I close with this: Sports fans' blogs aren't like journalists' blogs, which are based on the facts the journalists can find. Fan blogs are about opinions, and have 2 purposes: To talk up your own team and to talk trash about your opponents. Most of them are just guys (or girls) blowing off steam.
Apparently, my little swipe at Ratface Paterno brought a little too much steam. Well, no one's forcing you to read this blog. If you can't stand the heat, get the hell out of the kitchen, because I'm not about to stop cookin'.
Postscript. This, of course, was written before the explosion of the Jerry Sandusky scandal forced the university to fire Paterno, who would have left the job soon afterward anyway, because, as it turns out, he was dying of cancer.
Penn State did beat Rutgers in 2014 and 2015, due more to Rutgers, under then-coach Kyle Flood, being incompetent more than to James Franklin leading Penn State well.
Greg Schiano did leave Rutgers for another team, the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he flopped.
Whatever Joe Paterno's name meant up until the Autumn of 2012, it now means a man who was more determined to win football games and keep control of a university's football program than he was to ensure that justice was done for the victims of what used to be known as "unspeakable acts."