Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dear Old State

Sunday night was an uncommonly cool night in San Francisco. I cuddled up in sweats and warm socks, curling my body into the sheets. Before nodding off, I caught the final moments of the evening news. Despite my exhaustion, I was suddenly awakened as local reports flashed the words “scandal” and “Penn State” across the screen – words I’d never pair together. Newscasters tossed in Joe Paterno’s name, plaguing him with blame for the ensuing sexual abuse of young boys. The allegations sent me reeling, and reviewing further negative and incriminating coverage the next morning elicited a dizzying effect.

Never have I hesitated to proudly wear my alma mater’s logos or name; never have I hesitated to chant “WE ARE” or the succeeding “PENN STATE” with fervor and pride; I know every word to our Alma Mater; I get chills when I look onto Beaver Stadium (now from a distance and via TV) and I emphatically defend Paterno’s prevailing value as head coach of the Nittany Lions.

Ironically, as reports of Ohio State’s tattoo scandal broke in the summer, I sat assured – and even delightedly relayed to friends – that Penn State would never be caught up such controversy, so long as Paterno was at the helm. While I’m one of millions of Penn State alumni, one of millions that worships Paterno’s legacy and impact to not only Penn State, but also college football, and I’ve never personally met him, he felt familiar. Growing up in a household where cousins, siblings and friends rallied together as fans and students, Paterno felt like family. I knew him only as an icon, but like many, I felt a bond with him.

For the major fans, college football is a bit like a religion. And although it’s controversial to state, Paterno was, in my eyes, God of college football. It seems dramatic to shed tears over the fall of a college football empire, but when you are raised praising his work, his morals and admiring his leadership, studying in his library, planning to name future dogs in his name - this news is a devastating and mind-altering blow. I guess this news is a bit like the first time a young child sees his parents hiding all the Christmas presents…

I’m not sure what to believe. In truth, I’m hoping somehow Paterno is cleared and it’s proven that he truly did do all that he could to prevent further altercations and was otherwise naive so that my instilled adoration for him isn’t all for naught. However, at this point, it looks like for the first time in 45 years, the Nittany Lions may take the field sans Joe Paterno.

Here’s some more perspective on the devastation of this news from Grantland.com.


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.

When we stood at childhood’s gate,
Shapeless in the hands of fate,
Thou didst mold us dear old State
Dear Old State, dear old State.

May no act of ours bring shame
To one heart that loves thy name,
May our lives but swell thy fame,
Dear old State, dear old State.