Fans Flock to First Ever Virtual Birthday Party for College Football Icon, Joe Paterno

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PENN State, Joe Paterno Fans, Friends and Alumni Invited to Virtually Celebrate Legendary Coach's 82nd Birthday. Fans along with good friend and counterpart Coach Bobby Bowden contribute memories, laughs, and special birthday wishes on unique birthday blog. Calling all NCAA Football fans to add to the Paterno time capsule.

http://joepabirthday.blogspot.com

Well, what if you have a larger-than-life public figure that hundreds and thousands of people would like to say happy birthday to? That is the perfect recipe for a massive viral campaign, and that's exactly what's happening right now with Joe Paterno's 82nd birthday.

Nittany Lion Nation is gearing up for one of the biggest surprise birthday parties ever held- a virtual one for their soon to be 82 year old Coach Joe Paterno. With the anticipation of the Rose Bowl, news of Paterno's extended contract and his birthday fast approaching, fans have plenty to celebrate. Joe Pa will mark his 82nd birthday on Sunday, December 21 one day after arriving in Pasadena to prepare his 2008 Big Ten championship team and staff for the Rose Bowl.

Headquarters for Paterno's virtual surprise party is http://joepabirthday.blogspot.com. Paterno's friends, fans and Penn State alumni, are posting comments, video greetings and photos that document their warmth for the veteran coach who they affectionately call "JoePa."

Blogger Russell Scibetti wrote, "Normally when you wish someone a happy birthday, you call them, send them a card, or for the more Internet-focused, you send an e-card or write on their "wall." Well, what if you have a larger-than-life public figure that hundreds and thousands of people would like to say happy birthday to? That is the perfect recipe for a massive viral campaign, and that's exactly what's happening right now with Joe Paterno's 82nd birthday."

According to Sports Media Challenge president, Kathleen Hessert, "His fans can't be in Pasadena with him however through the power of social media and the speed and connectivity of twitter in particular, Nittany Lions fans can show their love. The momentum has been growing all week and by Sunday there's no telling how many loyalists will have contributed warm and funny JoePa stories to the one of a kind archive."

The Joe Pa Birthday blog created a platform to collect and archive valuable fan generated content that can become JoePa's personal time capsule. After being invited to the party via Twitter, 100's continue to flock to the blog to help blow out candles on the virtual cake and send their wishes to the iconic coach.

Life longs fans such as Kevin McGuire and Christ Redding are sharing their personal stories.

"Mom took 12 years of night classes at PSU and earned her degree in 1993. Dad had written Paterno and asked if he could send a quick note of congratulations. He did and today it sits framed on top of the computer desk at my parents'. Class act."

"I lived in Heritage Oaks north of campus and I often walked to school, right past his street. He was out walking one day and I was walking the other way. He actually said "Hello" to me first."

High profile coaches including another football legend, Florida State's Bobby Bowden have taken the time during all of the bowl madness to send their sincere birthday wishes to the venerable JoePa via the blog. And one post on the "Attention Moms" blog, prompts women can impress their husbands with their sports knowledge and getting drama queen daughters to post homemade birthday videos.

Hessert notes, "I've read skeptics quarreling with the idea of it being a surprise. How could it be on the Internet and remain a surprise? Think of it, with the Rose Bowl only a couple of weeks away, I doubt Coach Paterno will be on a computer for anything except watching tape and reading coverages."

Jo Pa may not have changed much over the years but his fans have and they're using new tools to create a virtual wave of affection for the venerable coach about to roam the sidelines for them one more time this season. Anyone who has a relationship, past or present, or simply admires Coach Paterno can contribute to making this virtual birthday party one for the ages.

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KATHLEEN HESSERT

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