As we all know, Penn State fans have been alarmed over the past few months by Joe Paterno's health issues. He missed Nittany Lion Club "A Night With Joe" appearances and reports have trickled out about the rough shape he's been in.
On Monday, he appeared at Big Ten media days. He confirmed that he'd lost weight, and while he said he was ok, he sounded quieter, and a little slower on the uptake than most are used to, something David Jones noticed particularly.
It appears that the struggle Paterno has had over the summer with a lower intestinal bug and a simultaneous reaction to antibiotics from dental work has put a couple of long years on his usually chipper demeanor in a matter of a few months. The difference, just since his appearance in April before the Blue-White intrasquad scrimmage, is noticeable.
It’s much different than when he was in obvious pain from an arthritic hip two years ago and a shattered knee four years ago. Then, he wore the frown of a tough guy fighting pain.
Now, he shows no pain at all. It’s just that his speech was slow and slightly slurred, and his intellect seemed a little dulled and delayed — something that’s never, ever been true.
Since you could observe this clearly on television, it's hard to imagine it not being even more apparent to people like Jones, who in addition to actually being in the room have covered Paterno for years.
That said, in the rush to comment on Paterno's health situation, it's interesting to note how many seemed to miss this video yesterday from Fight On State (Thanks to dawsonPSU10 at BSD).
Without speculating too much, the man looked like himself. He was sparring with reporters, discussing a range of non-football subjects and, most importantly, sounding like himself, low quality mic and noise pollution notwithstanding.
Did anyone stop to consider that maybe Paterno just had "one of those days" on Monday?
Obviously, with all that's happened this summer, it's hard to avoid the topic of Paterno's health. That said, if he'd brought the same demeanor to a weekly press conference at any point last season, it's doubtful anyone would have called much attention to it. Paterno says he's fine, and his inner circle says he's fine, too.
We need to take them at face value. Constant questions about every bug he contracts or bad reaction to medication he has are going to drive him away from the game much faster than any health ailment ever will. He's always said he's going to do the job as long as he enjoys it and can do it well. How much would you enjoy your job if people were asking you every day if you were going to die?
It's time that we stopped writing eulogies every time Joe gets sick or hurts himself. When it's serious, we'll know, More importantly, he'll know and he'll step away. He wouldn't make us, his fans, people who love him, watch him deteriorate. He cares about us, and his staff and players, too much to hang around for selfish reasons.
From now on, when Joe Paterno says he's fine, I'm going to believe him. Choose not to at the risk of your own personal distress.