There has been a long standing belief that Penn State, and their whole "Success with Honor" ideal, was somehow "better than" or "above it all" when it came to the football team, the football players and the coaching community. Personally, I've never been one to subscribe to those ideals; most college football teams are a lot more alike than their fans want to believe.
That feeling, for Penn State fans, stood strong even as the program bottomed out early in the 2000's. They were losing but it was because they had better people and didn't compromise values. The feeling persisted even after the fights and arrests that were enough for ESPN to show up in Happy Valley and do a story on Joe Paterno "losing control" of his team.
To be up front, this is not about the Jerry Sandusky scandal, in fact it must be noted that I'd prefer to separate that entirely because that was not about the football players or the football team.
In a recent article published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, we get more insight into just how much like everyone else Penn State's football program happens to be. As Brad Wolverton reports:
"I want to make sure everyone understands that the discipline of the players involved will be handled by me as soon as I am comfortable that I know all the facts," said the April 7, 2007 e-mail, which was signed "Joe."
That's an email from the coach who apparently never knew how to use email. Although, that idyllic image has been questioned by people for quite some time. The ideal that this is a one time course of action does not hold true as Vicky Triponey's correspondence proves a pattern of in-house handling of issues by Paterno and the program:
She wrote back to the president, saying, "Thanks for sharing. I assume he is talking about discipline relative to TEAM rules (note: he does not say that). Obviously discipline relative to the law is up to the police and the courts, and discipline relative to violations of the student code of conduct is the responsibility of Judicial Affairs.
"This has not always been clear with Coach Paterno so we might want to clarify that and encourage him to work with us to find the truth and handle this collaboratively with the police and the university," she went on. "The challenge here is that the letter suggests that football should handle this and now Coach Paterno is also saying THEY will handle this and makes it look like the normal channels will be ignored for football players.
"Can you remind them of police and University responsibility?"
Success with honor is a great ideal to subscribe to. It sells itself to recruits. It gives fans a false sense of being "better than" their opponents and the scumbags in the sport. Perhaps that's something that fans need. A tent pole of sorts to latch on to and justify their rooting interest. Perhaps it is just the type of canned motto that makes people feel better about themselves.
Look, I'm not entirely surprised. There are still people out there who think "The Carolina Way" is a real thing at North Carolina. People who think that somehow the University of North Carolina is a "better than" type of a place, above the fray, as compared to the other schools. Even after an NCAA scandal and academic fraud being exposed as rampant.
Save the canned mantras for the recruits that you are attempting to brainwash. They have no place in fandom, at this point in 2012 the fan has enough information to not buy into any of this garbage. It is fraudulent trash that kids buy into but a grown, adult should never be so gullible. Your team is not special. Your coach is not the one good guy. Your program is not above the fray. Your team, your players, your coaching staff is a lot more similar to your rivals than any of you want to believe and it is time to nip the willful ignorance in the bud.
Outside of Navy, Army and Air Force; your players are just like the other teams' players. Root for your team, but root for them because they perform on the field. Don't buy into a false bill of goods that they are selling you.