Looks like "An Evening With Joe" is about to become just "An Evening."
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ron Musselman reports today that no such speaking events involving Joe Paterno are planned for this spring or summer, a year after the 84-year old missed engagements in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Hershey with intestinal problems in 2010.
This time around, however, it appears Paterno is pretty healthy. In fact, the old man has been down right sprightly lately, popping up all around State College doing whatever the heck he wants. So why won't he be appearing at any of these types of events this year?
If you believe director of communications and branding for football Guido D'Elia, it's because they're losing their luster.
"I think even when [Joe] was involved, the audiences kept getting less and less," D'Elia said. "It's an old-style format where they trot the coach out in Scranton or wherever at 6 o'clock at night, and it's the same people every year.
"There wasn't anybody new in the crowd. So, it didn't make sense for the alumni or anybody to keep doing it the same as they had for years. It's been the same for way too long."
That said, it isn't just speaking engagements in other towns Joe has been skipping out on. As Musselman points out, Paterno cut his local event schedule back considerably last year, too, and hasn't gone on a recruiting trip in over three years, so D'Elia's attempt to hide behind a simple lack of demand for Joe's slowdown is wishy-washy at best.
The reality is, Joe is slowing down, and $30 a plate fund raising dinners for the Alumni Association in Pittsburgh just aren't practical for him any more. It's good to see he can recognizes this. As much as some have argued he's stubbornly holding on, his slower schedule over the last year suggests to me he knows when to let things go. Today, it's fundraising dinners. Some day, hopefully, it'll be the football team, and we'll avoid the ugly ending to his career many have feared.