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Jay Paterno: Trick or Treat? Ponderings From Football to Politics to Autumn in Happy Valley

by on October 25, 2012 6:19 AM

Since Halloween is a few days away, this column will resemble a haul of trick or treating loot. It is a grab bag of seasonally relevant topics from football to politics to the autumn colors. I hope you’ll find things you like and not anything your parents have to check for needles or razor blades.

I promise, no razors in here, so dig in.

This week in State College the Ohio State game is the big event. The tents are up and the buzz of a big game week is in the air. That the two best teams in the Big Ten Conference are ineligible to go to bowl games will mean nothing come kickoff.

Penn State is the defending Leaders Division Co-Champions and Ohio State is undefeated. Forget Indianapolis this year, the game that matters is in Beaver Stadium. It also means that this conference is going to put out a watered-down slate of bowl teams.

In true debate style we pivot topics now from pigskin to politics . . .

With a Presidential election coming up, I have already begun to look ahead to 2016. I’ve decided that I will seek a position on the mysterious Commission on Presidential debates. My platform is a new, truer format.

This format will be a little longer. It will be 100 minutes, 10 10-minute segments. When time is up a scantily clad ring woman and man will come out holding big placards with a number on it, just like a boxing prize fight. Both candidates will have their microphones shut off immediately at the end of the 10 minutes.

Then the moderator will announce the next segment, and they will have their microphones turned back on and off they’ll go again.

Where this new format is different is that there are no topics. In segment one the first candidate gets to say whatever he or she wants for two minutes. Then the other candidate gets two minutes followed by six minutes of free-for-all. In the next segment they switch the order.

It is not unlike what we have now. Bob Schieffer asked about foreign policy and we heard Mitt Romney discuss his five-point plan for the domestic economy. The President talked about teachers. Then Mitt Romney talked about teachers prompting Bob Schieffer to mention that “we can agree that we all love teachers.”

Not so fast Bob, there were a couple that I wouldn’t go so far as to say I loved (one wouldn’t round up 89.5 percent to an A-minusv— you know who you are).

In our current debate system we pretend to have topics. The candidates say the points they want to make whether they are relevant to the topic or not (mostly not). My new format at least makes it honest. Just say what you want and let the other candidate say what he or she wants in response. After 10 minutes they go to their neutral corners and rest before coming back out to spar.

One of the three debates will have questions, the town hall meeting format. The voter asking the question has a button hooked up to an electric shock device attached to the candidates. If they don’t think the candidate is giving an answer to the question asked, they zap the candidate.

This fall has also zapped me in a positive way and helped re-acquaint me with a place I’ve called home for 39 of my 44 years.

Being out of football for the first time in over 20 years, I started to make big plans. I wanted to see the leaves change in the high altitude of Colorado, or bike on Cape Cod, or see fall in a whole bunch of places.

But as autumn approached I realized I had never even really seen this season in Happy Valley and in Pennsylvania. Can you beat a fresh Honeycrisp apple from any of the fruit farms around here? Not likely.

I fished Spruce Creek, and on Spring Creek a few Sundays ago I actually caught a few fish. But beyond fishing I’ve been stunned by how beautiful the leaves are right around us; hiking in places like Mount Nittany, Bear Meadows, Spring Creek Canyon, Mill Brook Marsh, and Black Moshannon State Park.

Driving route 3032 to Black Moshannon I was amazed by the colors of the leaves on the eastern facing slopes of the mountains. Once I got over the ridge, I noticed most of the leaves on the western side were already gone. All this was happening right around me for all these years and I never had a chance to see it.

Now with some time I am looking forward to learning to do some bird hunting. After my hike in Black Mo, I stopped into Miller’s Hoagies for a late lunch. On the way there I noticed the Gliderport along Route 220 and another thought occurred to me . . . may have to get my wife’s permission for that one.

No matter what is in your trick or treat bag next week, October is a glorious month. Let’s hope the rest of the month is a treat for everyone in Happy Valley.

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State College native and Penn State graduate Jay Paterno is a father, husband and political volunteer. He’s a frequent guest lecturer on campus and at Penn State events and was the longtime quarterbacks coach for the Nittany Lions. His column appears every other Thursday. Follow him on Twitter at
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