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Alternate history part 2 - The Verdict

Well, boys, I won’t torment you with the long details. I can't do it to myself, heck.

They lost the next week to Michigan State. Pam Ward's orgasmic shrieks over Drew Stanton's scrambling ability still haunt me.

Anyway, Paterno left, refusing to cite a reason. Bradley was hired, a sound choice. The next year, the defense was most remarkable, but the offense only mediocre. They lost a frustrating game against Northwestern, but beat Minnesota. Movin’ on, they lost to Ohio State by a score of 13-10, Michigan by a score of 34-14 (Oh, that Michigan offense….Hart, Henne, Avant, Breaston, Manningham, King, Butler, Williams), Wisconsin, and even Michigan State in a terrible game. They, did, however win the crappy bowl game.

In 2006, Larry Johnson left to fill the vacant defensive coordinator position at Michigan. The team somehow, by the grace of God and Tony Hunt, went to a bowl game, but lost quite badly. Anyway, nothing could dull the horror of seeing Johnson high five Lloyd Carr after Michigan’s lines utterly annihilated ours.

2007 was the worst year of all. Another losing season, the loss to Iowa at home being the most pathetic display of football since….the last home loss to Iowa, in 2004. For the 10th straight year (Or so it seemed), Penn State’s passing game was an utter abomination. Bradley and despised quarterbacks coach Tom Bill (The fans taunted him with pictures of whiskey…God, it was awful) were both quietly removed at the end of the year. Rumor had it that Bradley was excited to get fired, to get out of what was quickly, for coaches, becoming a Chosin Reservoir without any Marines. Just swarms and swarms of angry fans chanting in a Sinic way and blasting the ridges with artillery until no coach was left standing.

Bradley’s replacement?

Do I dare write it?

I don’t. It begins with Matt, it ends with SURPRISE. No, that’s not how it ends. But it was a surprise, a dreadful, dreadful surprise, almost as bad as the later decision to hire Rich Rodriguez, the worst Rich since Kotite. And to think Kirk Ferentz was rumored to be interested! Ugh! What a decision we made!

Ah! It’s over. Mustn’t think of it. You know, that’s the bad part, over and done with, hopefully closed forever.

On with the story.

Ah, yes. The question: why was Paterno gone? Because man, while made in the image of the one called Yahweh by the Hebrews, suffers from many imperfections. The Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis, in words I have long since forgotten, stated as well as anyone else ever did that God, according to Christian belief, wanted in Heaven men who had been free to make their own errors, free to fix them, free to succeed, free to fail. Through imperfections and overcoming of said imperfections the ones worthy of calling themselves “sons and daughters” would consistently better themselves and get a pat on the back and a congratulations for running such a doggone good race. Well, those imperfections? Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, two of these, human chief imperfections are blindness to the obvious and blindness to greatness.

A classic example, in my view, is the man called Grant.

Grant, perhaps because of his total lack of flamboyance, his non-heroic heroism, whatever, he is, I think, the most underappreciated figure in all of American history. No Grant, no Union victory (Really). No Union victory….and God only knows. The past is done, only its record remains. And the record, as judged by those willing to look past biases, is as clear as spring water: Ulysses S. Grant was a great man.

Grant is most criticized for being a butcher, for winning only through superior resources. Hogwash. Grant’s armies suffered at least 50,000 less casualties than Lee’s armies. Grant, in May and June of 1864, wasn’t even getting enough reinforcements to keep things at an even flow – he was losing strength. If Grant had wanted a true, butcher-like war of attrition, he would have sat down at Cold Harbor and kept charging ahead for no gain. But what did Grant do?

He moved….again. He refused to let the mistakes and terrible losses of Cold Harbor stop the army. He went below the James, trapped Lee in the little city of Petersburg, and eventually won the war. All of this was classic Grant, and all of Grant was greatness – he was the confident, tough, veteran, and determined embodiment of the Army of the Potomac. Grant was, naturally, certainly the best anyone could expect from an Ohioan.

The point, gentlemen, is that humans chided Grant’s accomplishments as they chided the accomplishments of their political rivals, their sports rivals, even their own siblings. If they can miss the obvious good (or, yes, bad) of a person in their own family or in the distant, well-discussed past, then they could certainly do so in the case of a football coach.

But humans are individuals. And none are as individualistic as Americans. I recognize my own unstoppable madness (I could, at one time, get away with such madness due to the nature of anonymous life), but I refuse to let my opinions be swayed by anyone and anything other than what I see, what I read. And my considered opinion, group think be damned, is that Joe Paterno, while struggling badly, got a bad rap.

There is more to life than tomorrow’s game. What matters is what you take out of every moment, how you advance yourself and advance others. By God, who ever advanced himself and his charges more than Joe Paterno? Some did it as well as Paterno, but no one did it better. I believe this with all of my heart and with all of my small, zealous brain.

Again, though, this doesn’t always matter. A blowout loss to Michigan State couldn’t be tolerated by the fans, by the alums, by anyone. A new coach had to be hired, the Grand Experiment could continue then. That the good intentions of those in power didn’t produce good results is, of course, the tragic part of the story.

Still, it’s a story that must be told. Is it a happy ending, like in a Disney movie?

No. The story itself is what matters. The story of Paterno proves that man can succeed. It proves that America can succeed. Paterno, despite those last years, did win and he did do it with honor. He taught as many lessons as Aristotle and to more people, at least directly anyhow. The idea itself - of using football, of using one’s own life, of using everything to leave behind a legacy of advancing human society, of producing good people who themselves can advance human society and human freedom - is the idea of America herself. There were failures, because there will always be failures. Adversity is good for you, as Paterno said. According to Christian belief, God will welcome those who “ran a good race”, who used every failure, every success, and everything in between to get better, to become more like God. But humanity itself, or at least this man, well, I say Paterno ran as good a race as any.

Not everyone will understand this, but I understand it and I hope you do now as well.

I thank you for your time, gentlemen. I will return to my pipe, which was recently found. Return to your Yuenglings and remember that one day, when you are old, bored, and mad, you will like to talk to someone.

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