His was not a face made for TV and his body … well in his tribute to him last week the great writer David Kindred described him as a “graying, pasty, lumpy” man. And another great writer, Tom Callahan, described his voice as “The voice of a plumbing fixture gargling Drano.”
With Beano Cook, though, it was what he said, not how he said it, that mattered.
At the height of his popularity, Beano Cook was to college football what Dick Vitale was to basketball.
He was a cult figure, less enthusiastic, perhaps, than Vitale, but no less involved, and it didn’t matter if he was working for Pitt, for ABC, for the Miami Dolphins or CBS.
His influence was enough that when he died at 81 last weekend after battling diabetes for a number of years his obituary found its way into no less a newspaper than The New York Times, which pointed out that his nickname was “The Pope of College Football.”
His secret to success was quite simple. Beano was what he was. That guy you saw on TV, that was no television persona … he was just Beano.
And being Beano meant that you worshipped at the altar of Rockne, that Vince Lombardi may have earned his fame at Green Bay but never was better than when he was one of Fordham’s “Seven Blocks of Granite” and that the greatest invention of all time was USC’s “Student Body Right.”
But, with it all, he being a Pitt guy, it still came back to the Backyard Brawl. He was an expert on the history of the Brawl, a history that was dominated in the early days by Pittsburgh and in the later days by West Virginia.
He had many favorite games, but none more than the 1955 Pitt 26-7 victory over West Virginia that put them in the Sugar Bowl. He called it “the most important win for Pitt since the 1938 Fordham game. It put Pitt back in the national picture.”