Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Happy Valley No More

Disclaimer: Kids under the age of 10 –don’t read this next sentence. Remember when you found out that Santa wasn’t real? Remember how you felt let down, disappointed and disillusioned? That’s how I felt again when the Penn State scandal broke. 

I grew up worshipping at the altar of Joe Paterno. I’m from Massachusetts and we didn’t have a big-time college football team (Boston College does not count), but my dad grew up outside of Philadelphia and adopted Penn State as his team, and therefore mine. In the 1990s, my “formative years,” Penn State was a powerhouse, including their Big Ten Championship in 1994, when they also should have been National Champs (that’s right Nebraska fans, I said it). I loved all things Penn State football and wore my Nittany Lion pride on my chest – literally; I was the only kid in Boston who wore a Penn State Starter jacket.

In the last 10 years, Joe has definitely not been at his best on the sidelines, and I think turned into more of a figurehead than an actual head coach. But just two weeks after becoming the winningest college football coach of all time, he had a Homer-esque fall, with the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal coming to light. For those of you who never heard of Sandusky, before his retirement 12 years ago, he was one of college football's well-known and well-respected assistant coaches; a defensive genius who helped Penn State become “Linebacker U.” 

I won’t remark on the Sandusky charges themselves, except to say that they are just about the worst charges that can be made about someone. When those kinds of allegations are brought public, people want to see swift, harsh justice, so when it came out that Joe Pa may have known that something happened… well, it was inevitable that something had to be done.

I think all Penn State fans are feeling what I am – personally offended that a man we revered could have known about something so heinous and, basically, swept it under the rug to protect one of his “boys.” We all know the jock-loyalty mentality and it seems like that is the catalyst for Joe Pa’s undoing. We all wonder why Joe didn’t go further with his information; there are those supporting and defending his actions, saying he did his part – but I ask you, wouldn’t you have done more? If you heard of such allegations, wouldn’t you have done everything you could to ensure justice was done? For as much as he did, he might as well have slipped a note under the dean’s door. 

In the wake of this scandal, there are a few things we all need to remember, because in this great nation of ours, people tend to be quick to judgment. 

First, we must remember that these horrid allegations are just that – allegations. They are not (yet) known to be factual. Despite how horrific the accusations, even Jerry Sandusky is innocent until proven guilty. 

That being said, don’t forget about the children who are the real victims in all of this. In all of the controversy over Joe Pa should have been fired or not, a lot of people are forgetting about children who were allegedly taken advantage of a hurt. Joe Pa is not the victim here, the children are. Think of them.

Before two weeks ago, Joe Paterno was known as the legendary 84-year-old Penn State football coach, the winningest college football coach of all time, and an honorable and virtuous man. His program annually graduated more football players than any other public school, and was known for sportsmanship. But now, that reputation is tarnished and Penn State football will likely never be the same. 

Sadly, Penn State is Happy Valley no more.

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