Sunday, November 13, 2011

Joe Pa And Penn State: Ruin And The Path To Transformation

In what can only be described as a week of upheaval at State College in Pennsylvania, Beaver Stadium was the epicenter of emotions for more than 108,000 fans and students who came to see their beloved Nittany Lions play the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Many have called for the university to cancel the rest of its football season.  I don’t agree with that notion.

Saturday’s game was Senior Day.  It is not the players who should be made to pay for the child sex scandal that has rocked the university.

I tuned into the game out of shear curiosity because three days earlier, when Penn State officials fired Joe Pa, thousands of students rioted in the streets tearing down light poles and overturning a TV news van kicking in its windows.  Rocks and bottles were thrown.  A photographer was struck by one of those rocks.

Tom Osborne, Athletic Director for the Cornhuskers, cautioned Nebraska fans traveling to Happy Valley for the game to leave their Cornhusker gear at home—so as not to be a target—so concerned was he for their safety.

I heard one of the announcers at the outset of the game say that the players intended to give Coach Paterno the game ball if they won the game.  Paterno would not have deserved getting the game ball.

Ruin leads you on the path to transformation.

Since the rioting, the anger of earlier in the week has been tamped down.  Friday night, students held a candlelight vigil for the alleged victims and for the game on Saturday; the fans had a “blue out” acknowledging the victims instead of wearing the usual all white at home games.

Reading the grand jury testimony, you become sickened at the apparent cover-up.  The incontrovertible fact is that Coach Paterno failed to notify law enforcement of what he knew.  Letting only the school’s administration know what McQueary had told him about Jerry Sandusky and hoping they would take care of the problem was a betrayal of the victims.  It makes him complicit in the scandal.

Now, Penn State must purge the football program of the enablers of Sandusky.  Joe Paterno must live with the shame for the rest of his life.

Jay Paterno, Joe Pa’s son is paying a price too.  Interviewed after the Lions lost their game to Nebraska, Jay intimated that the letter he left with his father hours before the game said, “Just how proud I am of him.”  Overcome with emotion, he quickly ended the interview after adding, “Dad, I wish you were here.  We love you.”

It’s such a shame.  The program, the school and the Paterno name have been tarnished.  Just how badly and for how long depends entirely on the fallout that is sure to come.

Ruin leads you on the path to transformation.

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