Joe Paterno’s Happy Valley
This chapter examines the ways in which Penn State University football “fans draw their sense of community from the shared belief that Happy Valley is not only a mythic place, but a singularly righteous one as well.” It puts legendary coach Joe Paterno at the center of the narrative and sees “Happy Valley as a fantastical American Brigadoon” that may vanish after him. The State College, Pennsylvania, area acquired the “Happy Valley” nickname because of its seeming immunity to the economic misery of the Great Depression. Paterno came to State College as an assistant coach in 1950. Four years later, Brigadoon debuted in American movie theaters. It was the tale of an enchanted village that appeared once every hundred years; by covenant, if anyone left, the village would disappear forever. This chapter discusses Paterno's success with Penn State's football team and argues that he has done far more good for the game and for Penn State than he can possibly undo in his fading years.
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