Ron Costello

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

There was a park adjacent to his State College home. Denise and I would take the three kids there after work. They would play on the swings and monkey bars, we'd sit and talk and sip gin and tonics from paper cups. (Come on, we were from Philly.)

Sometimes he'd come out the back door and into his yard and wave. We'd wave back. I would have offered him a tonic, but there was no drinking in the park. He might have accepted, Joe loved his cocktails.

On Halloween, we'd take the kids to his house. SuePa would come out on the porch with the candy tray. Once, Matt, about 11 asked her if Coach was home (I swear, I didn't put him up to it.) She laughed and said he was watching films. She called him.

On the Paterno's front porch. From left, Jen the wicked witch, 12; Caroline, 
the Nittany Lion, 8; and Matt, the crazy clown, 11. We  didn't take the 
Paterno's photo, this was way before Facebook!
"Joe, Joe, there's a clown out here who wants to see you." He came out and spoke to the children, and gave them a second round of candy. The thing is; he spoke to them like he cared.

That's the way JoePa was. No BS, no phoniness.

Early in my Penn State career, at the College of Agriculture, I worked with a Penn State mushroom scientist, Dr. Lee Schisler.  Dr. Schisler was a renown expert on growing mushrooms.  He and I worked together to raise funds for an endowment that would support mushroom research at Penn State.

It probably still does today.

Several of the mushroom farmers we visited, especially those of Italian descent, would give me a crate of mushrooms, fresh, canned or jarred. But not for me.

"Ron, take-a this to Joe Paterno, please. Do me a this-a favor. Capisce?"

I got to go to his house by the Park on McKee Street to deliver the mushrooms. Very cool.

Then later, I went with Joe to visit a Penn State alumnus in Pittsburgh to present a proposal. The coach could talk paint off the wall. Again, no phoniness or BS.

He was what he was.

Near the end of my Penn State experience, he spoke at a business school function, and I was the go-between with the Smeal College of Business and Coach. Held at the NittanyLion Inn, over 500 attended. Joe and I had to interact several times in person and by phone before the event.

Once, I called him, and his assistant put me through. Here's what he said. "Costello, what? You think I'm sitting around here all day with nothing to do, waiting for your call? What the hell do you want now?"

That's the way he was — not exactly a delicate flower. They told me when he spoke to you like that; he sort of liked you. But I'll admit, it was unsettling, and I was never quite sure.

At the event, he started his speech with a joke. "The nun runs into the  pastor's office and yells, 'Father, Father, what are we going to do about this  abortion bill?'"

With the punch line, Joe leaned into the microphone and said, "Pay it." It brought the house down.

He was a staunch Catholic with a great sense of humor.

What they did to him and his family, though, was criminal.

Now I'm not saying I was best-buds with Joe Paterno. Not even close. But knowing him a little, just a tad, I saw that he was so focused on football, I mean eat, sleep, and drink-focused. That's what made him a great man, a great coach.

In my opinion, he was a creative genius focused on nothing but football.

I'd also offer my opinion on the Sandusky thing, but who cares what I think? Just read between the lines.

Now, Penn State football is back to regular football, coached by a regular coach with regular players. Do you think Temple would have beaten JoPa?

Hmmm, maybe, maybe not. I'm not taking anything away from Temple's coach Matt Rhule, who's smarter than a meter engineer. Rhule outcoached Franklin. Temple went into the locker room and made adjustments.

Came back in the second half and outplayed the Nittany Lions, and Franklin couldn't stop the rush. That may not have happened under Joe Paterno.

Are Penn Staters starting to figure things out — about what they once had?

Is Pope Francis Catholic?

Thousands of loyal Penn Staters — behind trustee Al Lord and other leaders — are trying to get back the statue and the wins. They are the Penn State Faithful, and they won't forget.

Joe Paterno's reputation will eventually be restored,  I believe in my lifetime, but unfortunately, he can no longer help the football team.

That's the regular football team.

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