Friday, October 05, 2012

My Penn State Family

It’s been years since I’ve been to Penn State for Homecoming weekend and I’m packing up to make the 4 hour drive right now. I am excited and can’t wait to reconnect with my Penn State family - my old friends and make new ones. My Penn State family has been through the ringer over the past year and I wonder where conversations will lead. We are a community full of pride and its been rough. I’ve had strangers in parking lots point to my Penn State license plate and ask me “Aren’t you ashamed of that?” No, frankly, I’m not. I’ve also had several people point to my license plate and say, “Isn’t it a shame what’s been happening?” And we start a conversation and I discover they are a Penn State grad or they have a daughter/cousin/husband/sister/friend who went to
Penn State, or they are from Pennsylvania and are simply avid Nittany Lion fans.

I’ve heard vitriolic diatribes in bars about how Penn State Football should be shut down and I’ve listened calmly, understanding that these are visceral reactions to a terrible, tragic situation. And every time I hear them say that the children must be kept in mind, about how they suffered, I couldn’t agree more. But I find it hypocritical that they think that the football players should be punished, as well.

These young men don’t deserve to have their dreams taken away from them because of the actions of a sick pedophile and the self-serving paper-shuffling of higher ups who knew better. Aren’t we piling injustice on top of tragedy? These young men had absolutely nothing to do with that. And I’ve heard the arguments that the Penn State football program machine needs to be taken down a notch – that it is the untouchable attitude towards the money-making sports program that lead to this tragedy. I see their point and checks and balances need to be put in place – the administration needs to open their doors and be transparent. But I do not believe the football program led to this tragedy. Jerry Sandusky is the culprit. He did what he did. That is the source of this tragedy. And I agree, he should have been handed over to the proper authorities to be investigated immediately. That is part of the tragedy, too.

 So should we perpetuate the cycle of tragedy with more injustice? Convicting a dead man in the court of public opinion with no proof – not even the supposed emails – and taking away young men’s dreams and scholarships? I will never forget a popular sports channel running film footage of Joe Paterno on the field sidelines and the ticker underneath reading “Penn State Football couch accused of molesting young boys.” No Jerry Sandusky in that ticker, just a bold, outright attempt at boosting their ratings by making it appear as if it were Joe who was accused.

Believe me, this is not the end of the Penn State football program and no matter how many wins you take away from us or how we are vilified in the media, we will always know the truth. That we are Penn State…that we are strong and we will grow even stronger for all of this. And we will always remember Joe Paterno fondly, because there is no mistaking the man for anything other than what he was – an honest man who did the best that he could. And those of you who have never, in retrospect, wished you had done more or made a different decision, please, cast the first stone.

"Perhaps strength doesn't reside in never having been broken but in the courage to grow strong in the broken places." ~unknown source (if you know who said this, please comment and I will properly give credit)

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