Morning Bytes: Goofy goings-on in Happy Valley

Joe Paterno is 84, but the Penn State football coach still is patrolling the sideline at Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley.
Joe Paterno is 84, but the Penn State football coach still is patrolling the sideline at Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 25, 2011

Maybe it's time we start referring to the bucolic Central Pennsylvania valley in which Penn State resides as something other than Happy.

Goofy seems particularly appropriate at the moment.

Let's review the current state of sports in State College:

As we all know, the football team is coached by an 84-year-old. At 84, men should instead be driving the golf ball 145 yards, searching for men's rooms, and telephoning newspapers wondering why last night's Red Sox-Indians box score wasn't in their edition.

I don't care how learned and respected Joe Paterno is, having a man born during the Coolidge administration leading kids born when Bill Clinton was president is bizarre at best, counterproductive at worst.

Then there's hockey. Last year, the university got an $88 million gift and decided to build a hockey arena. The fact that the university did not yet have an NCAA-sanctioned varsity hockey team apparently was no deterrent.

The baseball team, meanwhile, is coached by Robby Wine, the son of Bobby, a former Phillies shortstop who had a career batting average of .215 and hit 30 home runs in 12 big-league seasons.

And this week comes perhaps the strangest news of all. Penn State men's basketball coach Ed DeChellis has resigned to take the job at Navy.

Yes, Navy.

To summarize, the coach of a Big Ten team that advanced to the conference tournament final in March and earned an NCAA berth in the process is leaving to direct well-educated midgets in the Patriot League.

This is like Charlie Manuel resigning to coach the Camden Riversharks. Or the New York Mets.

DeChellis is a nice man, but his explanation rang as hollow as Bobby Wine's bat.

"It's not about the job," DeChellis said. The Penn State job "is a great job. It's a Big Ten job. We've got great facilities. We've got all the bells and whistles you need to be competitive. For me, it's not about the bells and whistles. It's not about the large arenas anymore. It's something different. It's about me doing what I want to do, which is working with young guys and recruiting young guys who want to represent our nation."

I'm not sure what word best describes that rationale - patriotic or idiotic. Couldn't he have satisfied those same urges by staying in State College and volunteering with a Boy Scout troop?

I know it's not easy coaching basketball in Goofy Valley. A lot of inner-city African American kids would prefer playing collegiately someplace where there are a few more residents of color. Like Nome.

The school's basketball reputation is a lot like Auburn's academic reputation. It's easier to digest a plate of Chickie's and Pete's crab fries than to name a Penn State basketball great. But Navy? Come on.

No, clearly something more is afoot here. Whatever it is, let's hope it has nothing to do with the coach's health. DeChellis, if you recall, endured a bout with bladder cancer several years ago.

As for a replacement, if Paterno is the guideline, the school missed out on the ideal candidate. John Wooden died last June at 99.

And put some in the bank

The NHL, in which nobody gets rich except Barry Melrose's hair-gel supplier, announced this week that its salary cap will at last be going up.

In return, however, players will be expected to take out the trash and keep their rooms neat.

Apocalyptic omen

Apparently, one of the signs that pointed kooky minister Harold Camping toward his May 21st end-of-the-world prediction was the fact that the Cleveland Indians had baseball's best record.

Don't think twice

In honor of Bob Dylan's 70th birthday Tuesday, it seems like a good time to answer readers' questions with Dylan song titles:

Can you describe the average field at Philadelphia Park? - "All the Tired Horses."

Has this Phillies lineup earned a nickname yet? - Yes, "Desolation Row."

What's David Akers thinking these days? - "I Shall Be Released."

Haven't been to the South Philly Sports Complex, can you describe it? - "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'."

U.S. tennis is down, any way an American might at least reach the third round of the French Open? - Yes, "Bye and Bye."

What's the next hot fashion trend for Phillies fans? - "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat."

What two-minute-drill strategy does Andy Reid favor? - "Mixed-Up Confusion."

Never been to a NASCAR race. What can I expect? - "Motorpsycho Nightmare."

Is there anything better than a regular-season hockey game? - "Sitting on a Barbed-Wire Fence."


Morning Bytes: NASCAR Note of the Week

Carl Edwards damaged his car doing a victory spin-out after his win at Charlotte on Saturday. That set off the NASCAR nuts (redundant?) who claimed the driver had done it intentionally to hide something illegal.

"It's fine. It doesn't matter to me," Edwards said. "Nothing could ruin my night. If I had flipped over and broke both my arms, I'd still be sitting here smiling."

Though one suspects he'd have trouble signaling turns on the ride home.

- Frank Fitzpatrick


Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068 or ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com

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