I was sitting at my computer yesterday morning when I saw Ivan Maisel's tweet that Beano Cook had died. Not sure why, but for a second, my breath left my body. I knew Cook had been sick—and I knew he was 81—but still, he was just one of those people I thought would be around forever.
I was a little bummed all day yesterday.
I am by no means a Beano aficionado. Back when I used to watch the WWL religiously, I'd catch him now and then on SportsCenter or First Take when he would come on to do one of his blurbs. He was polarizing and at times extreme, but I liked him. After a while I found his podcast with Maisel and enjoyed what I heard but when I purged myself of all things ESPN a while back, sadly, that was one of them.
As far as I could find, Beano never had any strong opinions about K-State. This is no surprise since the Cats weren't really relevant until the mid-nineties and national media in general—especially Beano's employer—still don't really look to Manhattan much. What little I did find was that Cook seemed to respect Coach Snyder and understood the gravity of what he has built and how difficult it was.
I think Beano and Snyder have a lot in common. Not so much in their approach to life or the way they present themselves—in those ways they're almost polar opposites—but they share an acute understanding of the history and tradition of the game and Beano wanted nothing more than for that to stay at the forefront—much as I imagine Snyder does.
Both of them cherish consistency. Beano used his hyperbolic style to speak out against Nike placing their tiny "swoosh" logo on Penn State uniforms, comparing it to "painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa". Snyder's teams have worn the same purple and silver Dallas Cowboy-inspired uniforms ever since he first took over in 19891. While other schools pander to the fickle wants and desires of the 18 and 19 year olds in the "me generation", Cook and Snyder's stance is one of eliminating distraction and letting what happens between the goal posts on Saturdays speak for itself.
In a recent interview with ESPN, Beano said "I think when God created college football, He intended for it to played on grass at 1:30 in the afternoon."
In the most recent weekly press conference, Snyder showed somewhat similar leanings when asked about whether he saw a benefit in playing early or late games:
"The game is so orchestrated by TV contracts. You see now that games are starting at ridiculous times on both ends. If you look a couple of years ahead we'll be playing midnight games and eight o'clock in the morning and that's not what all this is supposed to be about."
"There's a lot of things we're overlooking in this TV dominance of the game."
These similarities may seem like nothing. It would be reasonable to assume that a majority of the college football fans, coaches and analysts that fall into the age group of Snyder and Cook would share the same views. Some may generalize it as an "old school mentality". Some may dismiss it altogether in favor of the ever-shifting face of the sport we see today.
Whether you love or hate the old school mentality, any true fan of college football knows it belongs in the game. I'm sure he was too sick to care, but I know a healthy Beano would have hated those crazy uniforms the Irish wore for the Miami game last week. And I'll be shocked if I ever see a Snyder coached team trot out on the field in one of those "pro combat" abominations.
I myself am only 27 years old. I was raised and became a fan of college football during a time when schools were just starting to shift from the idea of promoting their teams to promoting their "brand". I like to think I'm old enough to appreciate the traditions and young enough to see the positives of the changes.
But I think the main reason I was saddened by the news of Beano's death was because of what he shares with Snyder and what I think is being lost in the game we all love. The consistency, tradition and pageantry of this game is why us die-hards prefer to watch games on Saturday as opposed to Sunday. There's just something about the spirit of the college game that makes it seem more pure, more true, more passionate. And whatever makes up that spirit is slowly dying. And part of it died Thursday with Beano Cook.
1. Yes I know, Prince changed the uniforms. But Snyder immediately changed them back when he returned.