Last Night's Winner: Internet Rumors Of Joe Paterno's Health As Actual NewsS

Perhaps you've seen the email forward making the rounds. It claims that Paterno's health is completely shot, and that he's going to call it quits after the Outback Bowl. But which one of you mooks forwarded it to Sue Paterno?

We've had the letter sent to us a number of times, with provisos like "heard this from someone in the program" and "this'll be a huge scoop for you if you look into it." Here's the latest version of it, since it seems to change to suit every coaching hire announced.

There is a lot going on with PSU and the first email way below sums most of it up. It's almost certain that the Outback Bowl will be Joe's last game. He has some major health issues including a frequency of mini strokes called TIAs and possible intestinal cancer. He is not in good shape, sorry to say, and plans are in motion behind the scenes including several private jets filled with Paterno family members flying to the bowl game since it will be his last. The assistants have been told that Joe's successor will be hired from outside the staff which is why Bradley, Big Red, Vandy and everyone else is looking around at other positions. Bradley and Vandy both interviewed with Temple in recent days and Big Red will likely follow Bradley to whatever job he lands. Golden called PSU before taking the Miami job and PSU told him our next hire will be from outside PSU. Leading candidates seem to be Tony Dungy, Chris Petersen (Boise), Dan Mullen (Miss State, former OC at Florida under Meyer and native of Philadelphia/Ursinus/PSU grad father) but there are names flying everywhere and there seems to be a great deal more interest in PSU than there was for Miami, Michigan, etc. Some insiders seem to like the idea of Dungy coming in for 5-7 years and restoring PSU to the top tier, then Golden coming back to lead the program long term after he gets more experience on the bigger stage that Miami has to offer. The next couple of weeks should be very interesting…

1. Joe is apparently sick. The rumors vary as to what he actually has or has undergone over the last 9 months, but none of it is good. Anyone that has any sort of day-to-day contact with him has been saying this. Instead of looking bad once every 10 public appearances, he's bad every other appearance…we see it in the p.c.'s, but other people say its more evident when you see him in person. Some people literally thought he was at death's door during the season. It's been that bad at times. One rumor is that he has had 3 mini strokes in the past month. He is apparently no longer allowed to drive, and his short term memory is completely shot.

2. Apparently this all came to a head at the senior banquet. Tons of players tweeted crap about how out of it he was…..said it was going to be great to play in a "Thanksgiving Day Bowl"….someone in admin. Reached out to every living captain that played for him and asked them to write a letter to Joe, which was presented to him in a book. It was weird, because no one knew or thought anything was officially decided, but it was clear it was kind of like a send off. Anyway, he gets the book and is fine speaking for a couple of minutes, then tails off into nonsense and nobody can figure out what he's talking about….he finished up by saying "I gotta go beat my old friend Spurrier in the bowl game"… walks off the stage, and walks out of the room.

3. Within the last week, the family (Sue, Jay and whichever daughter is the power player…I forget who's apparently stepped up and said this is it. There are "extra planes" so that the entire family can make the trip.

4. The coaches know it and it's apparently clear that none of them are getting the job (Joe's choice was Vandy). Vandy is in consideration for the Ball State job…..Scrap has reached out to Pitt and told Big Red he'll take him with wherever he ends up. LJ is apparently considering moving on completely from coaching and seeking out other opportunities.

5. Multiple people have said "the" name is (Tony) Dungy, and that contact has been made in the last couple of days, and interest is mutual. I don't know if I buy that, but I don't know why the people who have said this would suggest him when they've all had other names on their wishlist ahead of him for a while.

Sadly for us, Snopes.com doesn't debunk sports rumors. But this one apparently gained enough traction to come to the attention of his wife of 48 years, who promptly shot it down.

Who started the crazy rumors?" Sue Paterno said. "He's fine. No one has to identify who starts it. We don't even know where it starts.

"It's just lies," she added. "I mean, he's (supposedly) in the hospital when he's sitting at the table for dinner. He wasn't even near the hospital."

"I told people when they called last week, I said, 'He's fine, he's in Florida,' " she recalled. "They said, 'No he's not, he's in the hospital.' I said, 'No, he's in Florida … you don't know what you're talking about.' I knew they were calling me a liar. But I knew where he was."

The news here isn't that Joe Paterno's healthy and coming back. It's that we've reached a point where schools feel the need to respond to anonymous email reports, much in the vein of Villanova players knocking up each other's girlfriends. It's almost as if the excellent editorial quality of online-only outlets like FanHouse and Yahoo have helped to re-convince old people that everything they see on the Internet is legitimate.

We take three lessons from this:

1. JoePa's never waffled about retirement. Unlike some other folks we know, he doesn't just float the idea and change his mind. So if he says he's coming back for 2011, we should probably believe him.

2. The Penn State fanbase has mixed feelings about Paterno retiring. This letter was crafted by someone with the knowledge and inclination to spend time on this, so either a student or alumnus. I took an informal poll of the PSU fans in my life, and while they all but worship the guy, and think he's earned the right to go out on his own terms, they'd sure like to be able to recruit again.

3. Don't believe email forwards. You know those ones that promise that if you forward it to 10 people, you'll get rich? How'd that work out for you? Still sitting at work on a cold morning reading Deadspin? Yeah, didn't work.