Today is a sad day for me. I got out of work, checked my email, and saw a report that Beano Cook, the “cardinal of college football,” passed away today at the age of 81. He died in his Pittsburgh home in his sleep overnight. No amount of words is enough to express how sick this news makes me.
You see, I’ve always been a huge, passionate college football fan, but it wasn’t until I started listening to Beano on the ESPNU College Football Podcast that I actually fell in love with every aspect of the sport—the traditions, rivalries, mascots, uniforms, stadiums, Heisman trophy winners, statistics, etc. It’s because of Beano that I am pursuing my dream of becoming a college football writer professionally. It’s his fault that I don’t have time for my girlfriend or my family in the fall. It’s his fault I have to watch every single Wednesday night tomato-can matchup on ESPNU or ESPN2 between two really bad MAC or Sun Belt schools. And, yes, it’s his fault I know the bottom half of every team’s depth chart ranging from Notre Dame to Kent State to Florida Atlantic.
If you don’t know who Beano Cook is, that’s okay. In short, he was the walking, talking college football encyclopedia who could rattle off stat lines, game scores, and depth charts of any game from 1931 to 2012. He was a historian, a prognosticator, and, most of all, the biggest fan of college football in the history of the sport.
Listening to him on his weekly podcast show with Ivan Maisel was imperative to how I scheduled my week. I always blocked out time to listen to him talk about college football for an hour a week. His stories about the sport dating back to the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and beyond were unmatched by any historian who covers another subject.
In the latter stages of his life, Beano was wrong more than he was right when picking games and predicting national title winners, but he was still sharp and knew how to follow the patterns of college football. He also knew what moves needed to be made for the sanctity of college football, and sure enough, those moves happened eventually, regardless if the topic was about playoffs or recruiting. Not to mention Beano knew what he was talking about when it came to head coaches. For example, in the wake of the Ohio State, Jim Tressel tattoo scandal, Beano announced that Urban Meyer was going to be the next head coach for the Buckeyes and very few people believed him. Guess what? He was right and now Meyer has the Buckeyes steam rolling through the Big Ten.
Another thing that Beano did was bring me closer to my mother. She enjoyed listening to Beano’s talks about college football just like I did, and my mother and I would often listen to him on the podcast when the two of us were on long road trips. My mother loved listening to his stories and she also loved how much I was in awe of Beano, himself. She knew I hung on to every word he would say, and she saw how, over time, I developed my passion for what I truly love today—college football.
On the ESPNU podcast with Maisel, Beano was known for two things. As Beano approached the end of his life, he would always proclaim in the month of August that the Lord cannot take his life during the football season. Beano was okay with passing away before or after a college football season, but he was a strong believer that God wanted him to tell the fans in heaven who won the last national title and what the final polls looked like when he got up there himself.
Beano would always end each show by saying, “Well, we fooled ‘em again,” in regard to the fact that he was able to get podcast listeners to stick it out for an entire show and hear his closing remarks. He would say it in a way like listeners needed to be tricked into listening to his stories and passion about college football. No one needed to be tricked, he’s the reason we downloaded and listened in the first place.
Well, Beano, for the last time, or maybe for the first time, you actually did fool us, as you left us today before the 2012-13 college football season came to an end. Something you were adamantly against happening to you. I’m going to miss you, but I also wanted to thank you. Not only do I want to thank you for what you did for us while you were here, but I also wanted to thank you for the conversations I had with my peers today, as my friends and I passed around our favorite stories of you and laughed at some of your zany remarks and approaches to the greatest sport on earth—college football. RIP Beano Cook.