So I finally get a normal day off and my wife and I are on exodus from our two sons. We've just finished some Christmas shopping and we're going to some swanky restaurant for dinner. All is good ... my cell phone rings. It's a fellow Penn State beat reporter. I ignore it. It rings one minute later. Same guy. I answer it. Did you hear Paterno got a three-year contract extension? F---. I check my cell again. I have four missed calls. Doh! I check my office voicemail. Four missed calls. Why don't I have a Blackberry? Oh, right, I work for a newspaper.
I call the missed calls back and all my other sources. No one's answering. Heck, I'm going to dinner. I have the best Striped Bass I've ever had. We're driving home. My editor calls. Did you hear? Yeah, I'm (kinda) working on it. Penn State just released a statement. OK, I'll be home in an hour. I'll have the story to you asap. (Here's the end result, this morning's story.)
Another great day off.
This is what it's like covering Penn State football. I'm not complaining (sorta). I love it. But I'm not sure if I can take another three years of the Paterno watch, because that's what it's going to be (By the way, there are several reporters who have been on this beat for years, God bless their hearts). When you cover Penn State you are, of course, covering the team, but more important, you are covering an icon. His every move is followed like he's the President. His every move is diagnosed like a Beatles cover album. You're always on call. The Internet hasn't helped. But you get to cover an legend, godangit. It's a blessing and a curse.
So what does this extension mean? No much really. Every one knew he was getting it. Well, we thought he'd get the one year, maybe another. The other two? They're just for show. They're for the recruits. Of course, who here thinks Joe -- barring unforeseen events -- doesn't last those three years? Raise your hands. Didn't think so. The clause in the contract that says both sides can re-evaluate the contract, perhaps cutting it short or adding years was at the behest of the administration. They need an out in case Joe gets sick, insane, says something crazy in public ("Ahh, a girl knocks on your door ..."), ten players get arrested for rape in one weekend spree or the team goes 0-12 next season. Those are about the only things that could keep Paterno from not finishing out the contract.
So it's three more years -- at least (!). I thought I could outlast him. Many reporters felt the same way. They could not. I'll try my best. But it should be an interesting three years. Hope my marriage survives.