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Penn State Football: Why Nittany Lions Need Gameday to Arrive Now More Than Ever

Kevin McGuire@KevinOnCFBAnalyst IIJuly 19, 2012

Penn State players and fans need football season to start soon.
Penn State players and fans need football season to start soon.Patrick Smith/Getty Images

We all have the itch around this time of the summer to get college football season started up again, but Penn State has a severe rash to cure right now after a tumultuous offseason.

Since November, Penn State has been ripped to shreds from sports columnists and political aficionados, some of whom have never stepped foot on Penn State's campus before. It seems everybody has been an expert on just how bad things are at Penn State or how the school should be punished or what decisions should be made by the school.

This is what happens when an institution has high-ranking officials failing to protect the lives of innocent children from a sexual predator. There is no excusing what happened, nor is there an explanation that even seems to make sense. But through it all, Penn State's players have come through in showing the true character of the football program.

The moment the team walked out of the tunnel with arms locked in the final home game at Beaver Stadium, Penn State's players proved that there is an emotional side to the school and football program that does care about what happened.

Still, by playing in the Ticket City Bowl and the remainder of the regular season last fall, Penn State was once again a target for criticism for choosing to play, thus being perceived to put football ahead of important moral issues. These players did not deserve this kind of attention.

Many of these same players are now facing an uncertain future, with the NCAA and Big Ten evaluating all options on how to respond to Penn State's actions and inactions.

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The death penalty has been widely discussed and supported by many, even though it remains a serious long shot to becoming reality. The Big Ten has reviewed options that could ultimately kick the school out of the Big Ten.

Who has to answer questions about these topics? The players and the coaches, who are completely innocent in all of this.

Let us put aside the national narrative and come to grips with the likely future that will include Penn State playing football games as a member of the Big Ten in 2012 and beyond.

For the players on the roster right now, focusing on position battles, game plans and hitting the field against the Ohio Bobcats cannot come soon enough.

The fans need it, too.

In months of negative statements made about the university, even Penn State's fans could not escape being on the receiving end of columnists scorning their loyalty to the football program.

In fairness, there are some who remain so devoted to the image Joe Paterno practically painted of himself and the program that even the Freeh Report and other information would be useless to address to those painted head to toe in blue and white. But also in fairness, these crazed nuts exist within every fanbase in the country, not just at Penn State.

But fans need to get back into a familiar place just in the way the football team needs to start a new chapter. The tailgates will continue with sausages, burgers and hot dogs and more. The Blue Band will still perform the Floating Lion. The Nittany Lion mascot will continue to ruffle his ears. The students will continue to chant "We are!" with the rest of the crowd responding "Penn State!"

When Penn State takes the field against Ohio in the season opener, everyone will get a chance to start fresh. Nobody will forget about the past, now clouded in controversy, but football will provide a much-needed escape from reality.

After all, isn't that what sports are all about anyway? Too many in State College deserve that release.

It cannot come soon enough.

Kevin McGuire is the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast, managing editor of Nittany Lions Den and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and add him to your Google+ circle.

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