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Friday, November 11, 2011


DISCLAIMER:  Defending Penn State, or even Joe Paterno does not, in fact, make me, or any of us, pro-child abuse, sexual abuse, or pedophilia. 

I went to Penn State.  Main Campus.  I lived, unhappily, in Happy Valley for four years.

Most alumni from the ever great STATE address that same first sentence boldly.  Perhaps, in CAPS.  Most alumni bleed blue and white.

I am not that alumna but not because I am not Penn State proud.  I do believe Penn State, Happy Valley, is one of the greatest places on Earth.  I chose Penn State because of the pride on the streets, the pride that travels across the country, across the ponds.   I chose Penn State because, most of us, bleed blue and white.

I am not over-dosed with State pride solely because of the state of mind in which I existed during those 4 dark years.  Lost, unsure, scared, and completely insecure of my present day and the future I was supposed to be preparing for, I was not able to revel in the glory of State.  That glory, however, did not go unrecognized.  And, somehow, despite the wall of steel I had built and the sticky resinous shield I carried, that glory managed to seep through.  I am glad that it did.

I also was a student athlete.  My stint was short lived.   So short that I hardly earned the right to say “student athlete.”  But, it was long enough for me to learn that being a Penn State student athlete earns you certain privileges.  Sure, we were held to higher standard but, still, privileges come with the title.  I am pretty confident that my first privilege was the acceptance letter I had received.

I put all of this out there so that I can be clear in my point of view as I write the rest of this….opinion.

I can state and re-state what the world is screaming…that this scandal is horrific.   I can use any of a handful of adjectives and my point would be the same.  I can shout just as loudly that these poor boys were victimized in ways that nobody ever should be; that these crimes are unforgivable; that there is no proper justice. 

But all of that has been said.

So, where do I stand?

I stand behind Penn State.  What has happened is disgraceful, unconscionable, and unforgivable.   But, if I am to walk away with my back to my Alma Mater over this than I, like everyone else, am making Football larger than the University.  It is not.  It never was.  It never will be.  The fact that people believe it is, is the first offense that allowed all of these other crimes to come to be.

Sandusky is a heinous villain hardly worth my mention here.  No good he has ever done can outweigh the crimes he has allegedly committed.   He deserves to die.

I have mixed feelings on Joe Paterno, his role in this scandal, and his legacy.  So much so that I have had a hard time properly stating my point.  JoePa is a football coach, and a legend.   He is the embodiment of everything Penn State is.  Or was.  He has dedicated his life to the University and, so it goes, he can dedicate his downfall  to the University.  He did report the “crimes” to the proper channels though he never went above their heads to proper authorities.  Let’s say, for a minute, that he assumed that everyone did what they were supposed to do.  He did.  So should they.  And so, he went on with his job of being football coach.  I am not saying he could not have done more.   I am not defending his actions nor his inactions.  But, it is very easy to judge a situation that we were not in.  It is easy to say what you would do until you are there, presented with issues that go way beyond anything we have read in grand jury reports, or through media scandals, or facebook statuses.  And, as the facts indicate NOW, JoePa did not witness anything and he had no proof.  One can’t go to the authorities on hearsay, despite that fact that it would be Joe Paterno saying so.  
Although it may be weak, or far from the perfect standards of a legend, it is not illegal to act cowardice when one needs to be brave.   Most people are cowards in spite of the tough talk they spill from the outside in.  Still, the right course of action is Paterno being dismissed from football.  From the University.  His time has come.  For better or worse.

And, so must the others.  They all must walk away, step down, get fired.  They  must take that same pride in Penn State that they feel elevated them, that same pride that may have forced them to sweep such atrocities under the rug, and realize they are now causing more harm than good.  And walk away.  Goodbye.

As for the rest of us.  The Alumni, the faculty, the students, and the future students. Those of us innocent of all moral and legal crimes related to this scandal.  We must not walk away.  Not now, not ever.  Because it is of vital importance that we let the whole world know that Penn State is not just Sandusky, Curley, McQueary, Spanier, or Paterno.  Penn State is not just football.  Penn State is an institution of greatness above and beyond all of this and it is our responsibility to prove that.  We must be brave and hold our heads up high because if we are not than we too are nothing more than cowards. 

There are such things as good and evil, and we must burgeon with the good, the greatness of Penn State. Otherwise, we will perish with the evil.  The evil does not represent us, it does not represent Penn State.  Unless, of course, we let it.


Jessica @FoundtheMarbles said...

Fantastic post, Wendy. Beautifully said.

Rachel Blaufeld said...

I second - excellent post!! Yes, we still need to be proud! I like what you say about Joe Pa - maybe he assumed all channels were operating as they should. I do feel bad that this is how his career ended and what he will be remembered for - Rachel

Katie McPeak said...

Awesome....The more I read about the scandal, the more disturbed I am. A bunch of us in SF are getting together to talk about this. It's hard living in California during this time!

Anonymous said...

Loved your perspective..... I do feel though that Joe Paterno could have been a real hero....IF ONLY he had not assumed all channels were operating as they should and followed up on what was being done....I too am a Penn State Alumni and strongly agree Penn State is a great school - not just a football team!!

Wendy said...

There is a reason superheroes are make believe. Most of us, sadly, are only heroic in our minds. That is why i am always so amazed by real life heroes. They are the most rare treasure. I sure wish JoePa was one of them.....really I do.