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Published: Thursday, 10/22/2009

The End Zone: University of Michigan

Michigan beat writer Ryan Autullo Michigan beat writer Ryan Autullo
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Many of us figured the broken leg in 2006 would do it. If there was ever belief Joe Paterno needed to file retirement papers, it was that image of him being carted off after a Wisconsin player barreled into Penn State's sideline and executed a chop block on JoePa.

Personally, I thought Joe needed to unplug his headset for good earlier that season when in the middle of a game against Ohio State he sprinted to the lockerroom — to use the restroom. As one pundit wrote at the time, “It brought new meaning to the phrase, ‘Joe Must Go.' ”

But Joe is still here. And why the heck not? Sports is the only entertainment business in which we're quick to bury legends. No one is pleading for Al Pacino to stop filming. Elton John sold out Madison Square Garden at age 60. But for some reason we're perplexed that Paterno, Bowden, and Favre won't go away.

Is Joe as effective as he once was? Probably not. He's 82. He can't access Twitter from his typewriter. Cross country recruiting trips aren't as forgiving as they once were. Joe's critics are without fodder, but still lurk, waiting for another 4-7 season so they can once again circle the sky above Happy Valley.

PSU, 46-12 since 2005, is ranked No. 13 entering Saturday's game at UM, Joe's personal house of horror. Here's to hoping — and predicting — this won't be Joe's final visit to the Big House.



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