Note: I wrote all that follows BEFORE this happened.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around all of this. I still stand by my statement at the end of this (spoiler alert) — Joe should go, but he should have been allowed to coach his final home game. For tonight, my sadness just got sadder.
I debated even posting about the Penn State scandal, but since it’s all I seem to be thinking about this week, I figured I might as well get it off my chest.
I come from one of those families. WE ARE Penn State (as the saying goes). My grandfather, father, brother and countless cousins are all proud PSU grads. I oftentimes kick myself for not going myself (particularly as I’m paying enormous student loans bills each month that would not exist had I chosen the mostly full-ride I had to PSU versus the very little ride I got to Syracuse. Damn private university).
My whole life, I’ve been cheering for the Nittany Lions. In fact, State College was my almost first home. My dad was a Penn State student when I was born, so a few months after I arrived, we moved to Happy Valley while he finished school. My dad was a pre-med student and was an athletic trainer for the teams (not football). But there’s an urban legend that JoePa supposedly squeezed my fat infant cheeks at a PSU wrestling match my dad was working.
And for as long as I can remember (until the past few years), I’ve made the annual trek to Beaver Stadium to watch our beloved Lions battle it out. There’s nothing like a Penn State game, particularly a Penn State tailgate. My 80something great-aunts and great-uncles STILL take an RV to every single home game and party right along with the undergrads.
My mom, stepdad and I sat through a miserable, cold, raining bowl game to watch PSU beat LSU in an exciting finish in 2010.
In high school, I attended cheerleading camp at Penn State, and one of the first times I got drunk was when my girlfriends and I visited one of our friend’s older brothers at Penn State.
This is a long-winded way of explaining how deeply woven the Penn State thread runs in my life.
So, even though I’m sure my friends and family members who are PSU grads are much more devastated than me, this horrific chain of events hurts me, too.
You know, I can still vividly remember the day in the third grade when my next-door neighbor told me that there was no Santa Claus. I tried to play it off like I knew that already (which I probably should have by that age) but I didn’t. I still WANTED to believe. I was heartbroken.
And that’s how I feel about JoePa. Suddenly, this mythical, moral figure is suddenly deeply, deeply flawed. How can we ever forgive him?
DadJovi and I have been arguing all week over Joe’s role in all of this. I’ve tried to think of every excuse in the book to justify how and why he could turn such a blind eye to these disgusting allegations, particularly when they were brought to his attention by a trusted assistant and former player (McQuery). Maybe he didn’t understand what he was being told? Maybe he believed his superiors when they told him it was being handled and he falsely assumed that there had been some mistake. Like many, I’m willing to cut him a teeny tiny bit of slack because of his age. I don’t think he’s been playing with a full deck for some time. But those are just excuses. He needed to do more. He had a moral obligation to do more.
Watching him struggle to come to grips with the full depth of the world’s outrage this week has been particularly sad. He is a man who had dedicated his entire life to not only the university but to supporting, encouraging and molding the young people of his community and throughout the country. He’s a benevolent figure who looms large over the great state of Pennsylvania. Joe Paterno is like a grandfather to all of us. Or, at least he was.
I’ve thought that it was time for Joe to step down for several years (my dad has nearly given up watching the past couple years because he’s been so frustrated with Joe). But I hate to see him go like this. I’m glad he announced his retirement and that he’ll get one more home game. Will he finish out the season? I doubt it. And that’s probably the right thing.
I fervently wish we don’t find out that Joe knew even more about Sandusky’s history of abuse and preying on innocent boys. I hope in time we can all remember the reasons we loved Joe but even more importantly, Penn State University. But I’m afraid it’s going to be a really long time until we can all wipe the stench of this off ourselves.
And I’d certainly be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to reflect upon the real victims in all of this — the young boys who were so horribly abused. These are the very children who NEEDED someone to stick up for them. Their whole lives were already so hard. To think that someone took advantage of the fact that they are the voiceless is beyond words.
So yes, football fans and PSU grads will all eventually move on with their lives and live to spend another Saturday cheering on the Lions. But for these children and their families, it won’t be that easy. And that’s not OK.
And that’s the real sad part of this whole story.