For once I am going to dispense with the pleasantries. You know as well as I do where I’m going per the title of this blog entry. I’m kind of shocked and bewildered with myself that it’s taken me this long to craft a formal response to this situation. Maybe you are too and maybe you aren’t. In truth? I don’t really know why it’s taken me this long. I think I was waiting. Waiting to read the grand jury report… waiting for the dust from last November to settle a little… waiting until Paterno had passed… waiting until the trial had ended… waiting until the Freeh Report had been made public and lastly, waiting until the NCAA and the Big 10 had levied their respective sanctions on the university whose colors I have, for many years, proudly donned. Will I continue to do so after all that has happened? Am I still Penn State Proud, even now? There is a simple answer to that question, but before I get to it I’d like to cover a few necessary points.
To Sandusky’s victims and their families: I am so, so sorry. My heart breaks for and goes out to each and every one of you. Nothing that I can write or say… nothing that I can do will give you back all that you have lost. I understand that the scars that you have carried with you and the ones that you will carry with you for the rest of your respective lives can never be fully healed. I will keep you in my thoughts and my prayers in the hopes that one day, you will be able to find some degree of peace. God, gods or whatever deities you believe in bless.
To Sandusky: You are below reprehension. You are a sick and twisted, demented and disgusting, choose-your-adjective-and-insert-it-here-so-long-as-it-is-derogatory man. There is no punishment that fits your crime… no penalty severe enough for your actions, and while I derive a bit of solace in the knowledge that at the least you are going to rot in prison for the rest of your natural life, nothing short of public castration followed by a painful execution would make me happy. I’ve never been a proponent of the death penalty but you’ve made me a believer. Congratuf*ckinglations.
To the University Brain Trust that covered this up, Misters Spanier, Curley, Schultz and Paterno and anyone else that knew: You disappoint me. All of you. Through your actions, nay through your inaction you spat in the face of everything that Penn State stands for. “May no act of ours bring shame, to one heart that loves thy name.” Does that sound familiar? It is the beginning of the last verse of Penn State’s Alma Mater, the university that you were once the faces of. An Alma Mater is crafted, among other things, as a representation of the core values maintained by an institution, specifically of a school or a college. Said Alma Mater must be upheld at the most fundamental level. You failed to do so, and through your actions you cast a pall over everything good that the university has stood for since it was founded 157 years ago. Congratuf*ckinglations to you four, too.
End points. I now return you to our regularly scheduled question, already posed above: Will I continue to bleed blue and white? Do I remain Penn State Proud even after all that has happened? The simple answer?
You’re damned right that I do.
Let me be upfront with you before I continue. I figure I owe the between 35 and 60 of you that faithfully read “Random Musings of a Psuedo-Madman” that much. Afterwards, you can decide whether you want to continue reading or not. I will not hold it against you if you look away. My first exposure to Penn State? It was not to their football program. Though I knew said football program existed I was not overly infatuated with it. It was at a weekend, Forensics tournament (speech and debate for those of you that think I’m referring to something out of “CSI”) that I attended while still a sophomore in high school. Between rounds, I was allowed to roam freely across the campus and through the town and the more I saw of that happy, little valley at the geographic center of Pennsylvania? The more I knew that I had to go there no matter what the cost. I applied to and was accepted to two colleges: Saint Joe’s in Philadelphia and Penn State in University Park/State College. I unblinkingly opted to attend the latter at a satellite campus–then Ogontz, now Abington–for financial reasons despite the fact that I had a Forensics scholarship to “The Joe.” I have never and will never regret that decision. Why?
Because I remain Penn State. Class of 1997. I always will no matter what. Penn State is myschool… my Alma mater and no other will ever replace it. I look back fondly on my experiences there and I’m not just referring to the football games that I attended, the parties that I went to and the bars that I frequented. The culture of the school that I attended? It’s conscience?It was not… it is not just football and alcohol. Far from it despite what every magazine from Playboy to Sports Illustrated claims. It was and remains superior academics: A 93% first year student retention rate and an 85% graduation rate as of 2011 (source: About.com). It was and is a community of students, teachers and townies spread out across the entire world, united by a common thread: Their pride in their school. If you are Penn State you have been and always will be a member of Nittany Nation, regardless of whether you attended a satellite campus or University Park… regardless of whether you finished your BA, MA, PhD or “other” there or at another university. I still smile when I see a set of blue paw prints on the back of the car in front of me or a big, white “S” flag on a blue background hanging from someone’s porch. I still grin with pride when I look at the diploma that hangs over the nightstand in my room despite the fact that the university’s now unemployed, once president signed it. I am… I will remain Penn State until the day that I die. That said…
A common misconception has developed amongst the general public as this sad situation has unfolded over the last eight months. That misconception? That the actions of one man and a group of cowardly university administrators are reflective of an entire university. Don’t get me wrong. Certain people have fueled this misconception through a combination of modern idol worship and sheer non-acceptance of the facts. “There’s no way. There’s no way Joe Pa could have known about this. There’s no way that Spanier would have let it go.” They Tweet and they post on sites like Facebook, CNN.com and ESPN.com their unwavering support of the administration that perpetrated the cover-up of Sandusky’s crimes. Some shout conspiracy theories from Old Main to Beaver Stadium… from the lion statue to the Bryce Jordan Center… from East Halls to West Halls to the Pattee/Paterno Library to the Pollock Library. Some. The same “some” that took to the streets in State College last November the night that Paterno and Spanier lost their jobs in an attempt to get their faces on television and veiled it under the guise of a semi-peaceful protest.
The aforementioned “some?” They are merely a small sampling of the university’s extended community despite the fact that for one night last November and since they have been the most visible. The others? The majority? They were no where near State College that night, or they were but were not actively involved in the protests. I, personally, was home with my wife watching on CNN and following developments on Twitter as my daughter slept upstairs. At the time, I felt no sympathy for Paterno. I remember saying, over and over again that “it had to be done.” That the Board of Trustees had no other choice. I maintain that their course of action was the appropriate course of action despite the fact that at that time, there was no evidence of a cover-up… no evidence that Paterno knew anything other than what he had previously revealed in his grand jury testimony. Why?
Because Paterno did not lose his job because of an administrative failure regardless of what new information has come to light in the months since, specifically the info in the Freeh report that implicates him as a co-conspirator in the cover-up. He–the once winningest coach in Division 1A, College Football history (now 12th… congratulations, Bobby Bowden)–lost his job because he violated a moral imperative. He knew about what was going on and he hid behind his position as a subordinate in the university hierarchy. He “reported what he knew” of a lone incident to Misters Curley and Schultz and he left it at that. He did not notify the authorities and let’s face it: He should have. Regardless of the university’s policy he should have done the rightthing. Not the thing that the athletic department’s by-laws dictated. The right thing. We are raised from childhood to know right from wrong. He… none of them were or are any different. And they failed. ‘Nuff said. That said…
I believe that the sanctions imposed by the NCAA and the Big 10 are fair, though I am concerned about the impact that those sanctions will have on not only the current students of the university, but the professors and employees of it and the townies, whose livelihood relies almost exclusively on the football program. $60,000,000.00 in fines to be paid over four years to external, sexual abuse centers unaffiliated with the university? Fair. A four year postseason and Bowl ban? Fair. The vacation of 111 wins from 1998 to 2011? Enh… I get it and while I think it is a bit extreme (as my one friend said, “changing history doesn’t solve anything”), I understand the NCAA’s need to remove Paterno from his pedestal. So if I agree with everything that the NCAA and the Big 10 did… if I agree with the Board of Trustee’s removal of Paterno and Spanier last November, not to mention their suspension or removal of Misters Curley and Schultz, why am I writing this blog entry, right now?
I’m writing this for the unseen victims of this tragic situation. The silent majority of Nittany Nation that have bled blue and white for weeks, months, years and in many cases, decades. Teachers, students and alumni… the ones that didn’t clog College and Beaver Avenues on that mild night last November when the sh*t hit the fan because they were either in their dorms/apartments studying, in their apartments/homes caring for their families or in boardrooms/offices around the world putting food on their and their families’ tables. People like myself who have reluctantly hung on every moment of this investigation, from the day that the initial charges against Sandusky were filed to the day that the university’s football program was given not the so-called, collegiate “death penalty” but a punishment far worse: A walking “death penalty” if you will that will keep it uncompetitive for at least a decade… perhaps longer if history is any indication (see: SMU circa 1987).
I take nothing away from the children turned adults who have suffered and continue to suffer because of what Sandusky did to them and what the upper echelon at the university covered up. Let me repeat that: Nothing. I would never, ever claim that the pain that I and others feel every time we hear a news report, read an article or see a story like the one that graces the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated–heading: “We Were Penn State”–is anything remotely comparable to what the victims of any type of abuse suffer. But the claim that the actions of a few individuals, however reprehensible, are reflective of the “whole?” They are ludicrous. And the calls by people not affiliated with the university to boycott everything and anything with the Penn State brand name on it? Alsoludicrous. This is a dark time for the university that I and many others love and have loved for as long as I… as we can remember. And it is going to get even darker before long. As time progresses onward… as civil suits and lawsuits are levied against not only the individuals that perpetrated these awful crimes but the university that was the backdrop for their transgressions, things are going to get worse. And worse. And worse. No one can say how long this is going to last for and perhaps it would be better to just look away… to attach myself to another school (I hear Temple’s bandwagon has grown exponentially in the last few days). So why don’t I?
Because I can’t. Because Penn State University is my Alma mater. Because what I learned there, the people that I met there and the experiences that I had there have made me in to the man that I am today. The man that my wife loves and my daughters… I hope… look up to. Because I look at those same friends that I met there, many of whom surround me daily and I see a lot of blue and white, even now. Because every time I sit down to write a blog entry or something more substantial I think about my college education and where I learnedto write a blog entry or something more substantial. Because I remain “Penn State Proud” despite how many people have critiqued me and called me, “proud, alright… a proud graduate of Pedophile State University,” or, as my boss called it, “Boy’s University” (incidentally, my boss is a proud supporter of the Ohio State University which doesn’t exactly make his an unbiased opinion).
To those people? The ones stigmatizing the whole because of the actions of the few, or the one (thank you, Star Trek) let me say this: You did not go to Penn State. You have no idea what it means to be “Penn State Proud.” The few that have been implicated by both the grand jury’s report and the Freeh report? They have paid and they will pay the price for their actions or inaction. And anyone else that was involved? No matter what their title, power or prestige they will pay dearly as soon as their involvement comes to light. I have faith that it will. How can it not at this juncture? But “Nittany Nation” as we call ourselves? Not just the students, the alumni association, the employees and the townies affiliated with the university but anyonewith ties to it? The silent victims of this tragic situation? They… we are innocent. And we will remain “Penn State Proud” no matter what happens.
“For the glory of old State, for her founders strong and great, for the future that we wait, raise the song… raise the song. Sing our love and loyalty, sing our hopes that, bright and free, rest, O Mother dear, with thee, all with thee… all with thee.”