The end is clear, if not near, for Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden.
Paterno won't leave Penn State until he's dead, possibly right there on the sideline. And Bowden, with more wins than any coach in major college football but just four more wins than Paterno, won't leave Florida State until Paterno has left Penn State. Which means Bowden isn't waiting for Paterno to retire. He's waiting, whether he knows it or not, for Paterno to die.
|At some point, consideration for JoePa's health has to take center stage. (AP)|
Joe Paterno, for the love of God, would you please retire? And take Bobby Bowden with you?
Paterno is 79. His health is failing. He visited a doctor this summer after a taxing outdoor walk with his family, and twice this season he has had to leave the sideline during games.
- At Ohio State on Sept. 23 he was overcome by a stomach ailment that caused his exit to the locker room -- twice.
- The following week he was flattened at practice, causing pain that kept him from running onto the field against Northwestern.
- And then Saturday at Wisconsin he was bowled over by one of his players, causing a broken leg and torn knee ligaments.
To Paterno's credit, he kept coming back at Ohio State, he coached against Northwestern, and he tried to stay on the sideline at Wisconsin. On Sunday he announced he would coach this week, despite his massive leg injuries. Paterno is one tough SOB. No question.
The question is: How selfish is he? At this point, with Paterno vowing to coach indefinitely even as his health is in decline, it is looking like he won't leave Penn State in anything but a wooden box.
Paterno has done more for Penn State, and perhaps for all of college football, than anyone. Please read that sentence again. But this is not the Supreme Court, and he has not earned a lifetime appointment. As Paterno has surely told his team, Penn State football is bigger than any one individual. That includes an individual named Joe Paterno.
But nobody at Penn State can tell him it is time to go. That enormous responsibility lies with Paterno alone, and he's not going there. Which is scary, because he turns 80 in December and works outside in extreme weather conditions, in a high-stress job with enormous bodies flying all around.
|FSU is turning into FAU right under Bobby Bowden's nose. (Getty Images)|
If you're struggling with that last paragraph, you're not alone. I'm struggling with it -- with this entire story -- because it is a hard, cold topic. But I feel like I'm watching a blindfolded man step into traffic. He's too far away for me to grab him, but I refuse to cover my eyes and hope for the best. At least I can shout my objection.
I'm shouting at Bowden, too. His health seems to be better than Paterno's, but his football program is in the intensive care unit. Problem is, Bowden's too detached to see it.