Let us pray that no Halloween prankster messes with Penn State's mojo

Frank Fitzpatrick, who used to toil on the old Reading Times city desk before moving on to become an acclaimed author and Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter, has a nice piece today on how great team chemistry has helped rekindle the flickering embers of Penn State football into a roaring autumn campfire.Of course, as Fitz points out, other factors have helped the Nittany Lions cease being knuckleheads in helmets … such nuclear elements as an infusion of more speed/ athleticism, a big-play spread offense, a defense you need sonar to detect all of its landmines, and Joe Paterno’s recent discovery that freshmen with talent that shouts to be seen can actually contribute before they’re fifth-year seniors.Still, the premise of Fitz’s article is that a more adhesive bond has been signficant in transforming the Lions from poodles into Dobermans.Indeed, 11th-ranked Penn State is 7-1 overall and sitting peacock pretty in the Big Ten at 4-1.Fitzpatrick reports that Paterno insists that this Penn State edition is as tight as any he has ever coached.And coming from a guy who seemingly has been coaching since the days when George Washington’s squad pulled an end run on the British, that’s saying something. In an ultimate team sport like football, exceptional chemistry can sizzle and throw off more sparks than a frayed electrical wire. And sparks have been known to light a fire.And make no mistake, these Lions are on fire as they prepare to play patsy Purdue this Saturday at Beaver Stadium.Let’s just hope that the Lions can maintain their chemistry, which has been such a potent brew in rescuing them from the boiling cauldron of bad bounces, bad luck, bad karma and bad football in recent seasons … an apocalyptic axis of evil if there ever was one. Chemistry, however, is an intangible commodity. It’s extremely difficult to distill and then bottle. And even if you’re fortunate enough to bottle it, as Penn State has, it’s easy for the genie to pop out of the bottle in an instant and defect to some other team. Unlike a fire deep in an old mine that smolders forever, chemistry can be a fickle creature.Which is what worries me about this Saturday. Granted, Purdue is a patsy. But this is Halloween weekend. All sorts of ghosts and goblins could be bewitching Happy Valley.Consequently, I hesitate to ask the unthinkable: Could some sort of pagan hocus-pocus cast a spell on the Nittany Lions and enable the Boilermakers to smash our heroes to smithereens? And would such a monumental upset leave the Lions quarreling and bickering at each other’s throats?I think they had better nosh on plenty of hot dogs and orange soda together after tonight’s pep rally to ensure the adhesion in their bond is strong enough to withstand a sneak attack by the occult.

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