The Ohio Bobcats defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday. An upset of this level comes as a bigger surprise than the sanctions handed down by the NCAA, and Penn State fans may wish the program would have just landed the Death Penalty.
No one in Happy Valley thought that the Nittany Lions would lose to the Ohio Bobcats. No one outside of Athens, Ohio thought this loss would happen, but it did.
The Penn State faithful welcomed the new team at a Friday pep rally with a reported 15,000 people taking the field to support their team. There were tailgaters adorned in white and blue t-shirts everywhere—some of which displaying the ill-will felt for the NCAA.
There were cheers for the Penn State team and the future that the Nittany Lions fans hoped would be brighter than anyone was predicting. It has been a taxing offseason for Penn State—one that brought anger, hurt, disappointment and confusion.
The opening game was going to be a saving grace for the Nittany Lions fans and for the program that is now led by Bill O’Brien. O’Brien has taken a lot on with this job, and he knowingly stepped into a mess that was teetering on absolute disaster.
Bill O’Brien is trying to make this program his, leaving behind a legacy that has left a once top-level program scratching and clawing for wins against the assumed leader in the Mid-American Conference.
This is not Penn State football. At best, it is a shell of what Joe Paterno had built.
To that point, what did Joe Paterno build at Penn State? His legacy will live forever, and the NCAA can’t erase his presence in the past despite the disappearance of wins in the official record books.
It is time for the Penn State fans to let go of JoePa. Paterno laid a foundation of successful football and built a program to be nationally recognized, but he is gone and so is his squeaky clean legacy.
Gone are the days that Penn State is thought of as a leader in the Big Ten—at least for now.
Penn State fans are quick to defend their former coach and cheer his name like a revered god of football. That is leading to an unhealthy environment in the stands and on the sideline.
This is Bill O’Brien’s team on paper, but the fans still think this is JoePa land. That perception has to go. If Penn State people really care about this team, let JoePa disappear into the sunset and leave his memory alone.
Signs seen prior to the game said “JoePa Made Penn State A Better Place.” Sure he did, things are really going great there now.
The same way that JoePa turned his eyes away from something he shouldn’t, the Penn State faithful are turning their eyes away from a team that needs to move forward, not look back to a legacy they simply can’t let go of.
Opening day in Happy Valley is typically at a capacity crowd of 106,572. Today the listed attendance was 97,186. By the end of the game, the attendance looked more like 50,000.
Would the Death Penalty have helped the healing?
The once proud fans that stuck by their team departed early to avoid what they will list as an embarrassment of a loss.
What about the players that stuck out the sanctions knowing how tough the road ahead was going to be? What about the coaches that stood on the sideline until the final seconds ticked off of the clock?
It’s simple; this isn’t JoePa’s team anymore, and the reality button got pushed Saturday.
Penn State fans that so passionately pushed for a football season departed early at the sign of a loss that no one expected. The fans were quick to defend JoePa, but they don’t appear too quick to support a team that is giving its all despite knowing that it is an uphill battle they are climbing with bare feet on ice.
This program is far from returning to the glory days, but at the very least, the fans of Penn State can show that no matter what the result of each game is, they will stay the course. It was easy to go to a pep rally on Friday and cheer on their team, but when things got bad, they jumped ship quickly on Saturday.
Those fans reading this will immediately jump to the “I didn’t give up on my team” line. Good on you, and you should be proud of your fandom. Do us all a favor though; pick up the pieces and move on.
The more that the legacy is brought up about Paterno, the more difficult the healing will be for this football team. The Nittany Lions will never be the same and neither will Penn State University.
What a Death Penalty ruling would have done for Penn State is return the focus to what it should be—students gaining life lessons and success. Students should take those lessons learned into the world and change the perception that is now hanging over a once lauded University.
Penn State is a great school that carries its weight in gold along the rails of education, but the focus is not on that, and it won’t be as long as the Nittany Lions take the football field.
Is this really what Penn State fans wanted this season?
Of course not, but they were quick to battle to keep their team. Now that they see the pending results of departed players and future scholarship sanctions, that sentiment has appeared to dwindle.
Granted, this is the first game of the season, but what happens when the Nittany Lions face off against the tough competition that will come inside the Big Ten? If the fans checked out on a game that was played out until the final three minutes, they will leave at halftime during some of the home games that are yet to come.
Penn State had a shot at this game all the way to the end, but the fans had given up by the middle of the fourth quarter.
One fan of the Nittany Lions told the AP that "he was the whole football program” when speaking of Joe Paterno. No, actually the players that took the field every Saturday in the fall was the football program. Joe Paterno was simply the leader of the squad.
That is the mentality that is destroying Penn State football. Given a death penalty, the fans would be forced to recognize the new team and new coach not look back constantly to what was.
This is a tough healing process and a tough road that will be forged as Bill O’Brien and his players march forward. It is made even more difficult by the cheers and signs that remain in memory of the once untouchable Joe Paterno.
At this point, there needs to be support and love that surrounds this team. Right now, all Penn State fans have to offer is anger and hate that they launch at the NCAA for sanctioning their team and rewriting the history books. Joe Paterno ruined his reputation on his own—don’t blame the NCAA.
The Penn State faithful wanted a death penalty. They proved that Saturday with their disappearance from the stands.