Penn State's Holiday Season: The Good, the Bad, the Sick Feeling in the Throat

Chris PiazzaContributor IDecember 17, 2010

JoePaJamie Sabau/Getty Images

It’s the holiday season, so let’s be optimistic and full of cheer.

Penn State is bowling. Despite a 7-5 record they are heading to a big New Year’s Eve bowl showdown with Florida in the Outback Bowl. That should make Penn State fans smile.

It’s an early gift to Penn State Nation. Open that present and enjoy it.

Soon the season will end, and people will get in the post-holiday season slumps. Reality sets in. The bank account is depleted. All you have to show for it is some new sweaters and gadgets that you’ll forget about next year.

Sad thing for Penn State fans is this: That may be as good as it gets for a while.

It’s the holiday season, and what better way to tell a tale than to revisit a Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol? And A Christmas Carol is nothing without the three ghosts: the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

The Ghost of Christmas Past is simple. Defensive coach Jerry Sandusky is out. Has been out for a while. That pill was hard to swallow. It left a lump in the throat. Penn State Nation dreaded that scenario, but there it was. Clear as day. A great coach on the loyal Penn State team had disappeared. Retired knowing his time would not come with Joe Paterno staying put.

Yet that same lump seems to creep back in the throat like acid reflux. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, then I can only assume you are blocking it out or had too much eggnog.

The Ghost of Christmas Present: not one, but two possible ghosts. Feel the holiday season? It’s starting to look a lot like a Halloween nightmare instead of Christmas.

These two Ghosts of Christmas Present would be Ron Vanderlinden and Tom Bradley.

Vanderlinden is possibly heading to Ball State. Feel that burn in the throat? Very uneasy feeling, but Penn State Nation may be able to handle it. That is if you forget Vanderlinden is the linebackers coach. It’s not like Penn State is Linebacker U or anything. Wait! They are? Gulp.

Take a big breath, blue and white. There’s always the defensive coach Tom Bradley...right?

Bradley? BRADLEY? Okay, enough is enough! Penn State Nation, stand up and make some noise. Even if you don’t appreciate Bradley for what he has done, you must realize there is a slippery slope that is sliding coaches away from Happy Valley.

Is this the doing of JoePa? The athletic director? The alumni association?

JoePa is one of the greatest coaches of all time. Not an opinion. That’s a fact. One of my all-time favorite coaches. But what does Penn State Nation make of this? There must be an answer.

A lot of people want JoePa to leave on his own terms. But even more people want Penn State to remain in national relevance. Is JoePa’s stranglehold on Penn State hurting the team? If you believe JoePa’s latest statement that he is sticking around for at least another four to five years, let’s contemplate a possible scenario.

Bring on the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

JoePa is nearly 90. Sandusky is gone. Vanderlinden is gone. Bradley is gone. Coach Larry Johnson? Gone. Where have all the coaches gone? The recruiters? Gone. Western PA players are signing letters to go Pitt’s direction. Penn State is staying idle in the middle of PA wondering what happened to its athletes. The team is a shell of its former self. Linebacker U is a term referenced in stories of past. Remember those days?

Just like A Christmas Carol, Penn State has a chance to do something to improve its future. Does Penn State Nation figure out what’s wrong? Does it cherish its coaches and try to keep the unit intact? Is JoePa, a god in Happy Valley, part of the problem? I honestly don’t know. But it’s not my story. These aren’t my ghosts. These are the ghosts of Penn State football.

If you have seen A Christmas Carol, you know how it ends. After seeing the past, present and future, Ebenezer Scrooge makes his life better, and everyone around him is better off for it. Penn State Nation better hope that whatever is decided, the ending is similar.