Posts filed under ‘Joe Paterno’
I’m back on the bus now between Baltimore and Washington, en route from the third to the fourth stop on the Penn State Coaches Caravan. As has been the case for every leg of our trip so far, Bill O’Brien and Patrick Chambers are posted up in the back of the bus, each habitually working their phones. They’ve been on those phones quite a bit over the past day and a half, but they’ve also spent a lot of time trading stories and banter. Watching and listening to them interact has been a blast.
Anyone who’s paid attention to Chambers since his arrival 11 months ago knows what the Nittany Lion basketball coach is all about: energy, intensity, and passion. O’Brien’s public personality isn’t quite as obvious; he’s intense, certainly, but not the non-stop salesman that Chambers (literally, a salesman before he was a coach) has shown himself to be. But these guys have enough obviously in common that it wasn’t hard to guess they’d get along.
Do they ever.
What I’ve been fortunate to see on the bus, alumni and fans have gotten a taste of at the three caravan stops so far. O’Brien and Chambers play off each other perfectly, riffing on each other’s roots in provincial East Coast sports towns (greater Boston for O’Brien, the Philly burbs for Chambers), their similar no-nonsense haircuts, and their insistence on being not just colleagues but teammates at Penn State.
That last part is worth talking more about. These men are similar in age (O’Brien is 42, Chambers 41) and experience. Both have young children. Most important, both have been on campus less than a year. As the football coach at Penn State, O’Brien will always be the focus of greater public attention, but in all the ways that matter to these guys, they genuinely seem to see each other as equals, and men who can contribute to each other’s success.
On the stage Tuesday in Baltimore, O’Brien joked about bringing the football team to watch basketball games next season “whether they like it or not” and opening up the revamped Nittany Lion weight room to other student-athletes. Chambers mentioned a burly incoming basketball recruit who “looks like a defensive end,” then glanced back at O’Brien as he warned the coach off his soon-to-be player. It goes on and on. There’s a natural vibe between these two—fellow jocks, to be sure, but not dumb ones. It’s been great watching it develop.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
It was, in many ways, like any other Blue-White Saturday. Tailgaters crowded into the lots around Beaver Stadium, and the fans who made it into the building came hoping the rain would hold off, and wondering if an obvious starting quarterback would emerge. But there were plenty of signs, both inside the stadium and out, of just how different this year’s spring football game was.
Walking up through the paved lots across Curtain Road, I saw a banner towering over a tailgate bearing the message “Joe Deserved Better.” Not far from there, a table was set up with stickers and flyers promoting a few of the 86 candidates for this year’s Board of Trustees race. Inside, the rules for the scrimmage promised a new and novel scoring system — two points for an “explosive” play of 15 yards or more, and defensive scoring opportunities (six points for a turnover, four for a sack) — meant to increase the game’s competitiveness. And of course, there was the big guy in the ball cap and sweats pacing the sideline, Penn State’s new man in charge.
It is, as we knew it would be, a new day for the Nittany Lions.
Ultimately, we didn’t learn much in the defense’s 77-65 “win” that’ll mean much this fall. The quarterbacks remain a work in progress (though backups Shane McGregor and especially Paul Jones both showed signs that they’ll make the race interesting), and there’s no telling just how tight a grasp these players have of the potentially potent pro-style offense that Bill O’Brien brought with him from the New England Patriots. Those answers won’t come until the fall. What was clear is that Penn Staters’ passion for their program shows no signs of having waned. That’s not surprising, really, but it was still something we hadn’t had a chance to actually see.
What we saw Saturday: An estimated 60,000 people made their way into Beaver Stadium for a scrimmage, on an afternoon when the forecast called for day-long rain. The clouds lingered, but not until well after the game ended and the stadium was empty did the rain start to fall.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Six months after the Sandusky scandal broke, there are still questions. Lots of them. And, as Penn State president Rodney Erickson told Alumni Council, “There may be some questions we’ll never have answers for.”
That said, Erickson and Karen Peetz, chair of the Board of Trustees, answered as many as they could Friday afternoon from members of Alumni Council. They touched on everything from the relationship between the trustees and the president (something they agreed is not well enough understood) to what Peetz called “the super-positive of the enduring spirit of Penn Staters.” And they fielded several questions about Joe Paterno, including one that’s been asked at just about every opportunity: When and how will Penn State honor its late football coach?
Peetz said, as she has previously, that Penn State must wait until the Freeh report, more formally known as the findings of the trustees’ special investigations task force, before moving forward on plans to honor Paterno. She called the upcoming report “the ultimate in transparency.”
Former FBI director Louis Freeh was hired by the trustees just weeks after the scandal and charged with looking into all of the issues surrounding the scandal since. His findings—which Peetz said will not be edited by the board—are expected in August or September.
The task force does not have subpoena power. But Peetz said she spoke with Freeh’s investigators for three hours, that more than 200 people have been interviewed, and that Freeh is working with the state attorney general. “These people are not kidding around,” she said. “This is the FBI incarnate, and I don’t think anyone’s lying, I’ll tell you that.” (more…)
Usually, when it’s time to let readers know that the next issue of The Penn Stater is on its way to mailboxes, we try to walk a fine line — to give you a taste of the magazine’s content without giving too much away.
But in the case of our March/April issue, the face on the cover won’t surprise you one bit.
On Jan. 22, when Joe Paterno passed away, we knew immediately what direction this issue had to take. Putting together the magazine was about honoring a man who touched the lives of every Penn Stater. For one story, alumni and students recall the day they met the man himself. In one of three essays, Jay Paterno ’91 reflects on his father’s legacy. And throughout the issue, you’ll find plenty of photos — some of which you’ve probably never seen before.
Your magazine should arrive within the next few days. Let us know when you receive your copy and, as always, let us know what you think.
Mary Murphy, associate editor
One of the interesting things about watching The Joe We Know—the new film in which former football players talk about their relationship with Joe Paterno—is trying to name the players.
The men who appear on screen throughout the hour-long film are not identified. That was a deliberate choice by the producers, according to former tight end Brad Scovill ’81, who introduced the film at the State Theatre last Sunday afternoon. The point was for former players to reflect on their memories of Joe and the ways he’s affected their lives—and thus it doesn’t really matter whether the player speaking was once a star or a third-stringer.
Still, you couldn’t help but try to guess the identities of the faces on the screen. Some, like Franco Harris ’72, Gregg Garrity ’83, and Shane Conlan ’86, were pretty easy to recognize. Others weren’t so well known. One in the latter category was a guy who who got emotional as he talked about his and his wife’s unsuccessful and frustrating quest to have children, and how Paterno’s influence made him determined not to give up. I’ve since learned that the former player is Joe Carlozo ’74. As he explains in the film, his wife eventually becomes pregnant—with triplets. (That revelation provoked a lot of laughter from those in attendance on Sunday.)
I later found out that that Carlozo, who owns a CPA firm outside of Baltimore, does some blogging on occasion. Some weeks back he wrote this post about his role in the film. It’s worth a read.
Meanwhile, 12 more free showings of The Joe We Know have been scheduled—all at the State Theatre on College Avenue, and all in the next week. The schedule is as follows:
Friday, Feb. 24, at 4:00, 7:30, and 10:00 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 25, at 7:30 and 10:00 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 26, at 4:00 and 7:30 p.m.
Monday, Feb. 27, at 4:00 and 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 28, at 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 29, at 4:00 and 7:30 p.m.
For those who don’t live in State College and/or can’t make it to any of those showings, keep an eye on the Web. A site dedicated to the film is scheduled to go live on March 1 at www.thejoeweknow.org, and it’s possible that other ways to view the production will eventually become available.
Tina Hay, editor
The premise was simple: Gather as many of Joe Paterno’s former lettermen as possible in a limited timeframe, get them in front of a camera to share their memories of playing for—and learning from—the legendary coach, and compile them in a film to be presented to Paterno on his 85th birthday.
The filmmakers’ only disappointment was that they didn’t finish it in time for Joe to see it.
Instead, The Joe We Know is a posthumous tribute, an hour-long collection of remembrances by former Nittany Lion football players. Presented last week as a birthday present for Sue Paterno, The Joe We Know was screened Saturday night in State College for an invitation-only audience, most of them former lettermen and their families. Those of us lucky enough to be in the State Theatre were treated to an hour of terrific, high-pitched Joe impersonations, anecdotes that ranged from hilarious to tear-jerking, and countless variations on a theme we’ve heard so often over the past month: former players who credit Joe Paterno’s role in helping them grow from boys to men.
Beyond this one-hour film, The Joe We Know is an ongoing project; the filmmakers hope to continue filming former player thought next spring, with additional footage compiled at thejoeweknow.org. The site is still a work in progress, but you can go there now to check out a handful of short clips. You can also sign up for email updates on the progress of the project, including when it might be made more widely available.
For those in or near Happy Valley, the film will be shown twice Sunday. As of late Saturday night, tickets were still available.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
I’ve been absent from the blog—and the magazine—for the better part of the last two weeks. I have an unusual excuse: I’ve been in Cuba.
It was, admittedly, an awkward time to go off on vacation, with Joe Paterno having just passed away and the magazine staff working in fifth gear to put together a tribute to him for our next issue.
But I had already postponed the trip once: I booked the trip months ago and was originally scheduled to go in early December, but the Sandusky scandal—and our need to scrap our Jan-Feb issue in favor of an issue devoted to the scandal—scuttled those plans and caused me to rebook for the end of January. Rescheduling the trip yet again wasn’t an option, for a variety of reasons, mostly having to do with the complicated nature of traveling to Cuba.
(Incidentally, I went there under a U.S.-approved “people-to-people cultural exchange,” which is making it possible for more and more U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba legally. Here’s a Washington Post story from last Friday about such exchanges.)
So I ended up watching from a distance, with only spotty Internet access, as the Penn State family mourned Paterno’s death. I wasn’t able to watch the memorial service at all—though I’m told that (more…)
The request was unusual. Sculptors don’t often receive commissions for living people, says Angelo DiMaria, who’s made his living as a sculptor for decades. But about in 2001, he was asked to sculpt the likeness of Joe Paterno, who was approaching his 324th victory.
DiMaria, although he lives in Berks County, Pa., had never seen a football game. He’d never been to Penn State. But he quickly realized the project’s importance. “We knew that this was going to become a mecca,” he says. “A tremendous monument. Although Joe Paterno didn’t really want the statue up. He was very humble about it.”
And DiMaria’s statue, located on the east side of Beaver Stadium since November 2001, has become a place for Penn Staters—including Jay Paterno—to gather and remember and mourn. When I drove past just before 8 a.m. Friday, the candles and notes and flowers surrounding the statue were nearly spilling over into Porter Road.
The statue was a surprise for Paterno, meaning he couldn’t pose for DiMaria. And DiMaria sculpts from photographs, anyway. So he went to Beaver Stadium “disguised as a reporter, with a tag around my neck,” he recalls, and was astounded by it. “It was an experience just to be there,” he says. “It looked like a giant spaceship, like in outer space somewhere.”
DiMaria snapped more than 100 photographs, then went back to his studio and worked on an 18-inch model to show the Paterno family for approval. He spent most of his time working to make the face—the portrait, he calls it—exactly right. “It’s something almost mystical when I do a portrait shot of someone,” he says. “It’s not enough just to get the features perfectly. You have to have that extra. I don’t know where that comes from. … You have to capture the spirit of that person.”
His assistants helped to cast the full-size model, which is bronze, 7 feet tall, and weighs more than 900 pounds. (And the statue’s raised finger, DiMaria says, has been misinterpreted; it’s not about Joe Paterno himself: “The pointed finger in the air stands for State College. Penn State. We’re No. 1, not Joe Paterno No. 1. But obviously he is No. 1, of course.”)
In our May/June 2002 issue, we published a photograph of graduates posing with the statue and noted, that it “already is beginning to challenge the Nittany Lion Shrine’s current standing as the best place for a photo op.” The connection many students and alums feel to the statue—and Paterno—was evident in November, when rumors repeatedly surfaced that the statue would be removed in the wake of the Sandusky scandal and Paterno’s firing. Even repeated denials by president Rodney Erickson couldn’t stop the rumors.
Those rumors distressed DiMaria, too, and he’s pleased that it’s no longer a worry. “They can’t dare take it down now,” he says. “It would be traumatic. There are too many emotions involved.”
DiMaria never met his subject, which is kind of a shame—he grew up in Sicily, and no doubt would have had plenty to talk about with a fellow Italian. “It was just an honor to do the statue,” he says. “I’m happy with that.”
Lori Shontz, senior editor
There have been a million reminders this week—on Thursday especially—about how Joe Paterno’s life was about so much more than football. And so it undeniably was. But football was the binding agent that brought Penn Staters together during Paterno’s tenure, and the medium by which his reach was able to extend so far. It mattered here, as it does in many places, and I have no doubt it still does.
I thought about this late Thursday when I came across this article on SI.com about Penn State’s 2012 recruiting class. On one level, there should be nothing further from our minds this week, but as an alum and season ticket holder, I know it won’t be long before I start focusing my attention on the program’s immediate future. And I know I’m hardly alone.
None of us can predict how Bill O’Brien and his staff will fare next season or in the seasons beyond, and none of us can know the impact the turmoil of the past few months will have on the program. Short-term, we know the scandal and coaching change cost Penn State some of its highly rated 2012 recruits. But most of those recruits appear ready to honor their commitment, which they’ll be able to make official on national signing day, Feb. 1.
Two of the Nittany Lions’ 2012 signees are highlighted in this piece. One, Eugene Lewis, a four-star recruit from Plymouth, Pa., is considered the best player in the Lions’ class. His father is quoted as saying that, despite interest from other schools, Lewis stayed focused on his first choice: “He loves the university. He loves the campus. It was bigger than Joe Paterno. It was Penn State that he loved.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Steven Bench, a three-star quarterback from rural Georgia who had previously committed to Rice but held out hope of playing at a big-time program. Again, you should read the whole story, but here’s a glimpse at how Bench responded when he stepped inside Beaver Stadium for the first time during his campus visit last weekend: “It just hit me,” he said. “You start looking around and realize how really big Beaver Stadium is. I’m not ashamed to say it. I started crying. I had made it.”
I don’t think Penn State fans will have much trouble getting behind guys like this. And I think Joe Paterno would be pleased. As Kenny Jackson ’96 said Thursday in his eulogy, Paterno “always deflected praise.” It was never about him. Fitting that his legacy lives on in the young men who played for him, but also in those who never got the chance.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Father Matthew Laffey of the Penn State Catholic Center set the tone—and provided a broad outline of Joe Paterno’s life—in his opening prayer. “Thank you for this man. … How fortunate this corner of your kingdom has been.”
The details came slowly over the next two hours Thursday afternoon, as speakers at A Memorial for Joe painted pictures of the man who helped to build—and became largely synonymous with—Penn State.
We met the competitive Joe. “The bigger the game, the quieter he was in practice,” said Todd Blackledge, quarterback of the 1982 national championship team. “But the gleam in his eyes told the story.”
The literary Joe, who never called Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts, anything other than “Dean,” who donated millions of dollars to the library, and who clearly passed that love of literature on to his son. Here’s who Jay Paterno quoted in his closing eulogy: Sophocles, William Blatty, U2, John Adams, John Ruskin, Tennessee Williams, Martin Luther King Jr., and Arthur Ashe.
The funny Joe, so quick with a one-liner, who told Jimmy Cefalo’s mother on a recruiting visit, “Your pasta is better than Mrs. Cappelletti’s.” (more…)