Alternate history part 1 - Game of Inches

Scene: A hall of the American Legion in Central Pennsylvania. On a tall chair - dressed in Timberlands, faded blue jeans with a Leatherman case on the belt, homemade Civil War "Iron Brigade" t-shirt, and Iowa Hawkeye Wrestling 2075 National Champions hat pinned with the tail of an elk - sits the night's bard, an old man of many years and many memories. After the Third Civil War, America is restored once again but in a darker age. Halls of the American Legion and VFW such as this one remain as reminders of past glory. Like the mead hall of Saxon culture, the bearded men gather in flocks inside.

You boys were all damn good fighters in the war and I'm glad you brought your sons with you tonight. You weren't all in Rambler's Elktails - the best light infantry since Kane's Pennsylvania Bucktails and Easy Company - but all of you were volunteers and proud fighters because of it. Still, none of you boys are as old as me, and you should praise the Gods for it! None of you are old enough to remember the era of the man we called Joe. Some called him JoePa, but to me it was just Joe. He was the only Joe I knew, but even if he hadn't been, my Dad - my only real fellow fan at that time - would still have known of whom I spoke.

Anyway, I've told you the beginning and middle parts of the great story before. Many a national championship was won and many a great back rushed for thousands of yards behind the bold warriors of Craig Cirbus. But as time slipped on, things began to fade. I would assume Joe, student of the past that he was, remembered the Romans of old. But I don't know if that clouded or cleared his judgement.

In any event, I've gone from the macro to the micro. And the microscope looks with horror upon November of 2004. For that, like the New Mexican crisis of 2039, is when the house of cards collapsed in a pile.

The Indiana game was an odd game. I recall little of the first half and third quarter. Mills and Morelli threw awful interceptions (What a theme that was!), Indiana was sloppy, Penn State was sloppy, it was a mess like your battles in Kansas that awful winter of '59. Back and forth, but not a good game.

I have forgotten the announcer's name but I haven't forgotten his call. When Mills threw the first INT, which set up IU's first touchdown, he said, "Oh, an ill-advised throw." One would assume he also said, "Beethoven could play the piano well", and "The Southerners were ill-advised to secede again."

Calm your laughter.

In the 4th quarter, stout-hearted Tony Hunt, a man comparable to our late General Robot V. Skullcrusher -

I thank you for your applause. The spontaneity of your response will not soon be forgotten. General Skullcrusher, may the Gods smile upon you as you smiled upon the cause with your leadership and valiance!

But to the story! Yes, the story!

In the 4th quarter, Tony Hunt the Brave, Tony Hunt the Pillager of Enemy Endzones, the great man Tony Hunt scored on a short run. Then Mills, whose arm was once called "candy-ass" by Jack Ham -

Thank you for your applause. Like some of you, I was immensely honored when our area's regiment was named 59th Pennsylvania by Governor Robot T. Crow! Dobro Ham!

Anyway, Mills scored the two points. The board read Penn State 22, Indiana 16, 4:31. An exciting game if ever there was one, only instead of John Elway vs. Joe Montana it was Candy-ass vs. Basketball school-ass.

Now, with two minutes and twenty seconds left to play, you will learn why I entitled this first in my history "Game of Inches."

Two plays stand out to me as the charge of the 1st Minnesota and the charge of the 20th Maine stand out in the great history of the First War Against Southern Treason. Both were devastating to the cause of Joe.

The Hoosiers, at around the thirty of Penn State, ran a screen with one of their tailbacks. The Hoosier quarterback lofted the pass like it was a paper airplane and Anwar Phillips, he didn't. He dropped it. I will now quote a book on the subject, the sad tragedy, a book by the man Frank Fitzpatrick.

"Here we go again," said Paterno as threw up his hands in disgust. "Holy God."

His lack of faith was reaffirmed on the following play when LoVecchio and Haney successfully hooked up [Like Satan and our nemesis General Mick Saban from the last war mating with one other after "hooking up" in a bar, the result was ruthless and disturbing!]. Phillips, "using both hands and every breath", managed to run down the receiver at Penn State's 1, but Haney carried him into the endzone. The extra point was good. With two minutes to play, Indiana led by one point.


[Tom] Bradley, by his own estimate, had written thirty such notes in recent weeks to Justin King, the hotly contested cornerback from Monroeville, a small town near Pittsburgh. Less than a week earlier, King, whose stepfather, Terry Smith, had once been recruited by Bradley and played for Paterno, phoned the defensive coordinator.

"Coach," King said, "I just called to tell you I've decided to go to Michigan. Also, Derrick Williams and, oddly enough, Deon Butler are here, and they said they're following me."

Bradley was silent.

"I know this is hard for you," King said. "I wish you all the best."

Bradley said thanks, and in his cool manner, engaged King in a conversation of thirty minutes before hanging up.

"Good luck, Justin, and the same to your friends," were the final words a Penn State coach would ever say to Justin King.

As you might imagine, gentlemen, the rest of the results were a foregone conclusion.

Nonetheless, it is a story that must be told. And what else have you to do but listen to a batty old man?

Where's my pipe?

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