Beano Cook died in the night at 81, and we lost a bit of the fabric of college football.
You may have known him through the tit-for-tat, give-and-take sessions he had every Tuesday of football season with KJR morning host Mitch Levy, who did an excellent job bringing out the essence of Beano.
Cook, of course, was an old-time slice of the game, starting out as a sports information director before his career assumed a much higher profile as an analyst on ESPN.
I didn’t know him personally. Only interviewed him once, as I recall, about 10-15 years ago.
He was of a different time, a time when you could count on games being early on a Saturday afternoon, not at 7:30 at night — or Tuesday or Wednesday night.
He appreciated the pageantry of an autumn afternoon at West Point on the Hudson. Of course, he was overly into the mystique of Notre Dame, famously forecasting once that Ron Powlus, the quarterback, would win two Heisman Trophies (or was it three?) at the school. He was also reverent about Joe Paterno, as lots of us were, before Paterno gave us stark evidence of his flaws.
I think of Beano as sort of a Walter Matthau figure from the old film The Odd Couple. He never married, settled in the place he grew up, Pittsburgh, and lived his last years there, never very far from the reach of sports.
He had a razor-sharp wit and could deliver a one-liner like Chris Paul dishes a basketball. He didn’t have a lot of time for baseball, and three decades ago, when commissioner Bowie Kuhn announced he was giving lifetime passes to hostages released in Iran, Cook said memorably, “Haven’t they suffered enough?”
At the end, he didn’t see fulfilled a wish about college football, his passion. On a video on the ESPN.com site, he says, “I know I’m gonna die. Once the season starts, wait until the championship game is over. Don’t tease me.”