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Jerry Sandusky Scandal: A Lifelong Fan's Perspective

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Jerry Sandusky Scandal: A Lifelong Fan's Perspective
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I am a lifelong Penn State Nittany Lions fan.

My father is a member of the Penn State Class of 1969.  I was born in Bellefonte, which is one town over from State College.  I remember Beaver Stadium when the field had the athletic track encircling it. 

I remember my first game like it was yesterday.  It was the 1982 season opener against Temple and I had actually missed the first touchdown of the season scored by Curt Warner because I had gone to the men’s room. 

Of all of the sports teams that I am a fan of, Penn State football has always been the one team that I have been the most involved with.

Like many Penn State fans, the last few weeks are unlike anything I have ever experienced.  With the revelation of the grand jury investigation and the charges brought against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and members of the Penn State administration, everything that I have known and believed about Penn State football was called into serious question.  The amount of media attention from television commentators and Internet columnists was enough to make my head spin. 

I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to believe about the parties involved and the university that has been such a big part of my life.

With so many different news stories and opinions on many different angles of this story, it was hard to decide how I feel on everything that has happened over the past few weeks.  But now, through some heavy thinking and soul-searching, I’m able to convey my emotions on what has transpired.  I know that there are people who will not agree with some or all of the following, but I hope you realize that this is just my opinion and feelings on the situation at Penn State.

So what am I feeling?

I am feeling empathy for the young victims.  Not only for the ones who were identified in the grand jury presentment, but for any more victims that come forward as this process moves along towards its conclusion, whenever that may be.  I cannot imagine what it would feel like to place your trust in someone that you looked to for guidance and compassion and then be taken advantage of when you are vulnerable. 

Unfortunately, I have never been one to donate to a charity, as I am just trying to make ends meet and do the best I can.  But this story has motivated me to donate money to RAINN (Rape, Incest, and Abuse National Network), and I would encourage you to do the same, even if it is just a small amount.

I am feeling disgust and anger for Jerry Sandusky.  How someone could have a stellar coaching career and be a beloved figure in a community and then allegedly use that position to feed a sick and twisted addiction that he must have known would eventually have caught up with him, but continued to do so anyway, shows how someone can move in the darkest circles of our society. 

Regardless of whether or not he is convicted of what he is accused of, his life is over and his remaining days on this planet will not be happy ones.

I am feeling disappointment on a number of levels.  First and foremost would be in Joe Paterno.  This is a man who I have grown up with.  Like many other Penn State fans my age and younger, Joe is the only coach we have ever known at Penn State.  I will freely admit that I have taken things that Joe has tried to teach to his players and applied them to my own life because I could see the influence he had on the kids that came through the program. 

While it is widely known that Joe had fulfilled his legal obligation according to the grand jury, the moral obligation to see the story to the end is what disappoints me.  Now, as we go through the process, it may be revealed that Joe did do more than what was in the presentment.  But, for now, the quote from his retirement announcement, “I should have done more," has me feeling like why did he not do enough to make sure the situation was resolved.

I am also feeling disappointed at the Penn State administration, specifically anyone alleged to have been involved in keeping this scandal out of public spotlight.  Whether there was a huge cover-up to keep this secret or they thought that they had done everything correctly, there seems to have been enough warning beforehand that I would think they would have wanted to get out in front of this rather than keeping quiet about it and operating as business as usual.

Also, if the investigations did find that these allegations do go back to the 1970s, then there has to be a question of how many people actually knew about this and why nothing was ever done about it.

I am feeling frustration over some of the media outlets that have are trying to make sure that they are getting every last drop out of a story that will not be resolved for quite a while.  When this story was developing a few days after the Pennsylvania attorney general presented the grand jury findings, a lot of the media went right past the two most important parts of the story, the victims and Jerry Sandusky, and went right for the biggest name they could find, Joe Paterno. 

While I believe that the board of trustees did what it had to do in firing Joe, it’s my opinion that the media were out to get the biggest scalp they could find and take them down.  They got it when Paterno was fired and the while the story has continued to make headlines, without Joe in the picture, you can see it sliding back deeper and deeper into each newscast.

I must also admit I was feeling quite a bit of stress, especially the weekend after the scandal broke.  I will admit that for that weekend, when I am usually dressed fully in Penn State clothing starting on Friday before the game and throughout the weekend, the weekend of the Nebraska game I did not wear any PSU gear in public. 

The reason why was not because I was ashamed or embarrassed to wear it.  I was actually a little fearful of how someone would react to me if they saw that I was wearing Penn State clothing.  We live in such a reactionary society now, where a news story breaks and most people have an opinion formed within the first five minutes of a story without getting all of the details, that I felt I should be cautious for that weekend since emotions and reactions were running very high to the scandal.

Now feeling all of those negative emotions about something that is been such a big influence on my life, I will admit that I was not sure if I could really enjoy watching Penn State play and even continue to cheer for them going forward.  But reading various message boards and columns gave me more emotions that I have been feeling as well.

I am feeling hope that even though this is the darkest and lowest point in the 156-year history of the university, there are positive signs being shown. 

The candlelight vigil that was held with almost a quarter of the student population the night before the final home game, Beaver Stadium full of blue-clad Penn State fans, with the always class-act Nebraska fans sprinkling in some red here and there, to show their support for victims of child abuse, and the more than $450,000 raised for child-abuse victims show that the school and the community are meeting the challenge head-on and want to show that they understand what continues to be a great tragedy in our society.

I have been impressed with a couple of members of the media whose reporting through all of the stories that have come out have remained balanced and try to tell every side of the story while keeping up with all of the news coming out of central Pennsylvania. 

Ben Jones of StateCollege.com and BlackShoeDiaries.com and Sara Ganim of The Harrisburg Patriot-News have provided excellent coverage of everything that has gone on throughout the length of this story.  They are both young reporters who are doing it the right way and should be commended for not falling into the sensationalism that other media members are trying to capitalize on during the scandal.

I have had my feeling of pride start to be restored over the last few days, albeit very slowly at this point.  I've realized that the alleged actions of one man and the alleged inaction of a group of people over a number of years do not represent the vast majority of the university as a whole.  From the students, student-athletes, faculty and alumni who have gone on and will go on to make positive changes in State College and all over the world, the principles of Penn State pride and "success with honor" will live on for many, many years to come.

I will admit I am feeling somewhat defiant about the current edition of the Nittany Lion football team.  For all that has happened to the university and how it is perceived, this group of young men have continued to put in the hard work and have given themselves a chance to make a real statement at the end of this season. 

For those that say the football program should be given the “death penalty” or not participate in a bowl game this season, it is absolutely unfair to take something away from players that had nothing to do with the current scandal.  There have been stories about how Penn State may fall out of the Big Ten bowl slots and may drop to being a bowl fill-in for a lesser bowl.  I will just say that any bowl that passes on Penn State is going to miss out on a good, hardworking football team, a game that will be attended by a lot of Penn State supporters and a chance to have very good TV ratings for that game.

I am feeling intrigued by the coaching situation that will develop over the coming weeks and months.  While part of me thinks that there will be a complete overhaul of the coaching staff and there will be a coach brought in with no ties to the school, the other part of me may be willing to give Tom Bradley a chance.  He’s really taken hold of the program in the couple weeks he has had the job and it may not be the worst thing in the world to let him run the team for a couple of years while all of the legal ramifications of the scandal are sorted out. 

If he can continue to move the program forward and guide the team through these murky waters, maybe he can make a case to stay in State College and make this his team.

Finally, I have a feeling of anticipation.  Despite everything that has happened so far and anything that is to come, the football program is not going away.  It won’t be as we remember it was when Coach Paterno was patrolling the sidelines.  There will be many new things to get used to surrounding Penn State football in the months and years to come and once late summer arrives, it will start to feel like football season. 

My wife and I try to make at least one game a year and next season will be no different.  Once everything is booked and tickets are acquired, I always look forward to the week we go to State College.  Even though I’ve been a fan for almost four decades now, I still have a hard time sleeping the week we’re going to State College and I still get a rush of excitement when I see Beaver Stadium for the first time from I-99.  It’s my favorite place in the world and it feels like home to me.

Like I said at the beginning…

I am a lifelong Penn State Nittany Lions fan…and I always will be. 

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