I have been very reluctant to discuss the PSU scandal at any level. I have a large section of my family who are die-hard Nittany Lion fans and I know each and every one of them is hurting. Nothing I can write can make them feel better, yet one small slip could have me back at the kids table on Thanksgiving. Not a lot of upside.
But today I got to thinking. As much as it sucks for PSU right now, there is one thing they have to remember. I don’t know where I originally read this, but I do recall it was several years ago. But it was about a powerful football program who was currently in the dumps. The writer said something along the lines of, “Don’t worry about such and such (I forget the specific school), they will be fine, after all how can a school with a stadium that holds 80,000+ people stay down?”.
The point is, where the passion for football is deep, and the tradition is rich, bad years will never last, things will turn around, and a few bad years don’t mean things won’t ever get better.
But PSU is at a cross-roads. The penalties have been issued and there is nothing left but to accept them and move on. However, it doesn’t appear everyone in Happy Valley is ready to eat humble pie. I understand. For not being a part of the PSU family, I have as close as a front row seat to the passion as you can possibly have, yet not be in the PSU camp. Yet it is time to stop defending Paterno, stop defending the Program. I don’t care if you don’t truly feel that way, but at least make it look that way to the outside world.
It doesn’t matter what you think of the Freeh Report, because in 49 States this is what the Freeh Report says “PSU allowed Child Abuse to Continue for the sake of the Program”. Not my words, but the conclusion that 98% of America has come to. You can debate what really happened, but the rest of the country is no longer debating.
So now comes the hard part. You admit things happened and promise they won’t happen again. You say thank you to the NCAA for not giving out the Death Penalty, and be glad that come September Beaver Stadium is full, players are on the field and it truly does once again feel like Fall.
However, to circle the wagons, to create groups like Team Outlaw and print out “We are…Pissed Off” T-shirts, is a mistake of monumental proportions. Though not a fan, I was proud of PSU when the clean cut kids from Pennsylvania beat the camo clad thugs from the U. That was something out of Hollywood, with clear good guys, and clear bad guys.
So I ask you, what kind of PSU program do you want to build. The one where everyone in America is pulling for you, or the villains. The way things are heading now, I don’t see many friendly receptions on the road for PSU. I am sure there will be signs, and there will be taunts, and unfortunately that is going to happen. But to take your hat in hand and say things got crazy, innocence was lost, and we promise to once again carry the flag for how a program should behave, people will forgive. After all, there isn’t one person on the field for PSU this season who has done anything wrong.
And now the whole point of this post. You can almost draw a parallel between Maryland Basketball in the second half of the 80′s and PSU now. A coaching legend who leaves in disgrace (with a debate about how exactly at fault he ever was), a HUGE tragedy (Bias and Sandusky), and a brand new head coach paying for the sins of others, and a program slapped to the point of just shy of the Death Penalty.
Now here is the good news Penn State fans. Maryland came back from it all, but we didn’t circle the wagons, we didn’t claim innocence. Sure some Terps figured we were punished a little too harsh, but you couldn’t argue that we didn’t need to be punished.
But you know what happened after those darkest days? Well some pretty piss poor basketball, that’s what. But we had a player like Walt Williams, who when given a chance to flee to another program (and get seen on TV) he chose to stay. And Maryland fought. Then we found a gem from Virginia with the most common name ever, and we fought some more. Instead of getting kicked around, Maryland was flirting with top 25 rankings.
Then we found a kid from Baltimore named Keith Booth who carried the team. Then another kid from Baltimore who’s only collegiate offer other than Maryland was from Providence. His name was Juan Dixon. And after coming oh so close in 2001, in 2002 Maryland and Gary Williams won the National Championship.
But that fateful game in Atlanta was not the last game of the 2002 season. It was the last game from one long season that stretched from 1990-2002. And as the ball was tossed into that air at the 0:00 mark, you could almost feel the presence of everyone who put on a Maryland uniform during that time. It was called “Sweet Redemption” because, well because that is exactly what it was.
Now PSU, you have two choices, fight the system, go with the “Us against The World Mentality”, and see how well you are received outside of Happy Valley, or take the punishment and focus on once again restoring the glory back to State College.
The choice isn’t easy, but it is obvious. You put your head down and work. That is what Maryland did, and we know how that turned out. Kentucky can win all the National Championships they want over the next 10 years and I promise you no Wildcat fan will treasure any of them as much as us Maryland fans hold 2002 dear.
So yeah things are going to suck, but believe me, when you get back on track, it will feel all the better. But step one is showing some humility. Yes I am not a PSU fan, and yes, I should not have a say in any of their business, but a lot of people I care about care about the Nittany Lions. And for me to think about kids across the country tuning in to see token Big 10 School play PSU, the thought of them thinking about PSU the way we felt about Miami is just sickening.
So knock off the denial, and put your white hat back on. Things will get better I promise, but keep resisting and you might as well put on some camo.