Another milestone in college football - 400 career wins for Joe Paterno, coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions. I happened to be at the Nov. 6 game to witness this bit of history. Now, it may not be as important to our overall historical view as, say, women's suffrage or landing a man on the moon, but still, for Penn State fans and for college football, it was definitely a momentous occasion.
While I was pretty darn excited about that, I was reflecting on the event later and realized that what struck me the most was how JoePa challenges, and maybe redefines, society's perception of senior citizens. Whether you love Joe, hate Joe, wish he would fade away into obscurity and let someone else take over or wish that he keeps on running out of the tunnel on game day, the fact is that he's 83 years old and still going strong. He's been around for 45 years, while in the meantime, 863 coaching changes have taken place in Division I football. There are fans in the stands shouting his name who could be his great-grandchildren.
As people get older, they often turn their thoughts toward what legacy they'd like to leave behind - for their children, in their career, or as part of a community. They think about what they want to do during their "golden years" with the goal of enjoying that time in good health and in good company. And many want to, and are, continuing to be productive citizens who "give back."
Now, I don't always agree with Joe, and he's certainly not always Mr. Personality. This isn't about his occasionally testy exchanges with the press, his handling of off-field incidents with players, or his sometimes perplexing play calls. It's about admiring Paterno for being the kind of person who dares to keep doing what he loves and who keeps trying to make a difference, no matter what age he happens to be.
That's a page we should all take out of JoePa's playbook.
-- Victoria Stanish, The Daily Press Editor