Written by Patrick Williams
The fallout from the twisted saga that has plagued a town in central Pennsylvania is still ongoing to this day with the shockwaves resonating around a once proud culture, perhaps too proud. And it seems that everywhere you turn there is a new development or someone throwing their two cents in on everything that has occurred. With more twists than any Hollywood script could ever hold, the Jerry Sandusky and Penn State University drama is unlike anything most people have ever had to wrap their heads around before. It is with that in mind that the most vocal Penn St. supporters need to start changing their ways for the future.
Change is never easy; it is a scary and unnatural emotion for a human brain to deal with rationally. And when you spend the better part of six decades becoming accustomed to a way of life and a belief system it is hard to comprehend drastic changes in a significantly short period of time. Still, it is quite sickening to see how some of the alumni, staff, and fans of Penn St. are behaving in the wake of one the most heinous crimes and scandals in college history. Before we go any further it is important to point out that the acts and voices of a small percentage should not be generalized as including a whole group. But please realize this percentage, however small it may be, of the extremists that are making their voices heard are coming off as the representation of an entire university right now. And it is not a pleasant picture they are painting for the rest of the world to see.
While it has been said that a few bad apples won’t spoil the whole bunch, it can also be said that a bitter taste left by those few can turn you off of apples for the rest of your life. Such is the case with the staunch Penn St. supporters right now. In a time when remorse and healing should be occurring these extremists are taking to any form of media outlet they can find and dragging what is left of a proud family down the drain. And make no qualms about it, those media outlets will be happy to let you set your own house on fire right now because this story is a ratings grabber. And like eating those sour apples the rhetoric being spewed from these diehards is enough to make you sick, literally.
College is supposed to be an awakening for most people. A time in your life when you have new experiences, discover who you are on your own, and set the foundation of your beliefs for you will become as a person in life. The impressionable will tend to latch on to something as long as it gives them worth. The strong will see through and pave their own paths. Still, with all of the historic protests that have occurred at major universities in the is country in the last hundred years there may not be one that is looked back on as being as misguided as what has occurred since November in State College, Pennsylvania. From riots on the streets and flipped news vans, to candlelight vigils for a released coach, to gatherings and tears for a statue, all of this is energy that is being misused, misplaced, and way off the mark from common decency towards what is truly important, caring for our fellow mankind and the welfare of those who cannot protect themselves.
When the talks of punishment began to arise for the Penn St. football program I was on the fence as to what I thought would be fair. I heard all sides of the story and have read every document, like so many of us had. I wanted to be objective and I was of the belief that an act of so few should not crush so many other innocent bystanders, especially after what had already taken place in ruining so many young lives already. I too felt it was unfair for the university to receive the death penalty and for the student athletes and town’s people that rely so much on a few Saturday’s each fall to maintain a certain quality of living. I took into account how Penn St. football is the cash cow in Happy Valley and that all other sports that are able to take place at the collegiate level there need that revenue to exist on some level. On paper it was just too much of a punishment for something that one person essentially had done and a few others had made worse by failing to do their duty, not as a law abiding citizen, but yet as a decent moral human being should do.
However, the more I thought about the subject the more I came to terms with how shutting down the program for a season or two may be just. That what was needed in this case, above all else, was indeed to send a message moving forward that athletics are not the most important thing in life and certainly not at an institution for higher learning. I likened it to when you are in school and a few people get caught cheating on a test and the teacher punishes the whole class by failing everyone. Or in sports terms, when one person does the drill in practice wrong and the whole team must run sprints afterwards. For I needed to understand that everyone was at fault in some way, even if we had nothing to do with anything that actually occurred. That we all are going to feel the effects one way or another and that it didn’t matter what happened to all the aforementioned programs and students, they were collateral damage of a monster. And it is true, one person, or group of people, can ruin it for everyone else.
Any punishment will certainly seem unfair, I can understand the hurt that comes from the loss of scholarships, the bowl bans, and the fines that were placed on the University for the next four years. I can relate to the rationale of if I didn’t do anything why am I being punished? However, I can see through that to understand that sometimes things work out that way and that at the end of the day it is not as important as what went on for years and that I should not and cannot complain or draw attention to myself, let alone paint myself in any kind of a “woe is me” light. That is something that is not being grasped right now by so many people that are the voices of Penn St.
Now is certainly not the time to for any of that. It is not the time for the board of governors to complain that they were left out of the decisions process to accept sanctions the NCAA would impose on the school. It’s not the time for the Paterno family to cry afoul on every news station that they can fit in their humble kitchen that their beloved father is having his once proud name and legacy dragged through the mud, unjustly or not. It is not the time for students to shed tears or gather around a statue. Nor is it time for the diehard fans and alumni to take to social media and the radio talk shows to show your allegiance to a program and idol that has made the mistakes they have for so long.
Instead, it is the time for healing. For quiet recognition and taking in all that has occurred in the past year and beginning to comprehend the magnitude of just what had occurred with Jerry Sandusky during his tenure at State College. It is the time to become aware and to learn from our mistakes. A mistake being that we should not put any human being up on a pedestal as we did with Joe Paterno and his program. And that is something that is so polarizing and hard to understand as a person. That sometimes good people do bad things or make mistakes. That nobody is perfect and while you can still love them for the good they have done that you need to also accept their flaws and not picture them in a way that neglects to accept them for the whole of who they really are or were.
Now is the time to pay our respects to the lives destroyed by an evil man doing unthinkable and despicable acts, all while doing it in the most sinister ways possible, using a foundation set up to help. If you are doing anything other than that at this point in time then you have truly not learned from all of this.
Sure the NCAA is as crooked as a governing body can be and any punishment they hand out to anyone can be looked upon as hypocrisy. But a crime was committed here, and not even the one in a legal sense is what needs to be acted upon as far as the NCAA is concerned. More importantly to the NCAA it is needed to set an example of Penn St. One that says you cannot put a program above all else. You must look out for the best interests of all and not be too powerful that you fail to do your civic duties. It is not just Penn St. that is at fault, it is all of us, as sports fans and just as people. This mindset is found at many major universities across the nation. And to think it couldn’t happen again, that would be naive. We should look no further than Syracuse, in fact, as we still aren’t exactly sure what all took place with that incident either.
So Penn State University and your followers, all eyes are on you now, right or wrong. You have the spotlight and it is what you do in it that will set the groundwork of what your school will be known as moving forward. Will it become a place where people feel remorse for all involved and just a dark history that can be risen above by going the extra mile and doing and saying the right things, or will it be the arrogant cult like mindset returning that probably had as much to do with what occurred in covering up a single man’s crimes as anything did? It is your time to turn the page, just make sure the ones holding your pens are writing what you all agree needs to be written, because You Are… Penn State.