Friday, November 11, 2011

Penn State - Everything Has Changed....

(CLICK HERE to read our response to the Freeh Report)

We are now less than 24 hours away from the Penn State vs. Nebraska game, less than 24 hours from my last time as a part of the greatest student section in the nation.  A mix of emotions is currently running through me right now: sorrow at my last game and no longer standing with the great group of friends at nearly every Saturday showdown at Beaver Stadium, excitement at the team being on the verge of greatness and a trip to the first Big Ten Championship game, and feelings of confusion/disappointment/embarrassment over what has transpired in the last week.

It is unbelievable how much has changed since I first stepped on campus, most of it due to the happenings in the past week alone.

  • Starting with the obvious, instead of a 61 year veteran on the sideline / in the press box, the legend will have to watch the game from his couch.
  • Instead of being one of over 24 million fans to witness a Joe Paterno-coached game in Beaver Stadium, I will be one of the first 100,000 to watch a Tom Bradley-coached game.
  • Instead of having that big Red-headed man going crazy on the sidelines calling the plays, because of threats against his life, Mike McQueary will not be in attendance. Who knows who will take his place.
  • Instead of participating in a White House, Beaver Stadium’s attendees will don blue in support of child abuse awareness.  It is going to look extremely different with 100,000+ in blue instead of the usual white.
  • Instead of excitement for a big game and a fun weekend, the attitude around campus has changed and the conversations have a completely different topic. Students and alumni alike are discussing the future of the University and of the terrible allegations instead of wondering how Tom Bradley’s defense will contain Taylor Martinez and the Husker offense
  • Instead of exciting pre-game tailgates, pep rallies, and celebrations, tonight students and alumni will be attending a candle-light vigil for the victims of Sandusky.
  • Instead of news crews preparing for the big day at Beaver Stadium, reporters and news vans are stationed all around campus, interviewing students and shoving the microphone into the face of any athlete they can find.
  • Instead of rallies/riots in celebration of a big victory, this week there were multiple protests and one big, destructive riot in response to the firing of a coach who has been in Happy Valley as a coach for 61 years.
  • Instead of the Daily Collegian reporting about pre-game preparations for the Lions, they paper’s front page image today is of students dropping off cards and flowers at JoePa’s house.
  • Instead of the typical Daily Collegian pigskin prediction team having at least one of the three/four members picking the Nittany Lions to lose, for maybe the second conference game in the last two years, ALL FOUR members have picked Penn State to come out victorious tomorrow.

But even for all of the unique qualities this week possesses, something still haven’t changed up here in Happy Valley.

  • Even amidst all of the child abuse, I have seen families walking around downtown State College all day today. Mothers, fathers, and children, all taking in the State College experience.
  • Even through all of the chaos, the students and faculty have stepped up to make it “For the Kids.”
  • Even after the darkest hours in the history of the University, there is still light ahead, both athletically and morally.
  • Even after topping the headlines all week, Penn State is nowhere near the top story for the football team.
  • Even with everything that has happened, Saturday in Happy Valley is still football day.
  • Even with everything going on with the coaches, the players still sit front and center tomorrow on Senior Day.
  • Even with all of the team’s distractions, the players are more than ready for the game, as focused as ever, refusing to lose their last home game.
  • Even with all of the calls of THON donors calling in and retracting their donations, and others saying they will boycott PSU athletics, you will still see 100,000+ tomorrow to witness “The Greatest Show in College Football.”
  • And  even after many “May no act of ours bring shame to one heart that loves thy name” has been violated for many students and alumni, there will never be a louder “WE ARE! PENN STATE!” than what you’ll hear tomorrow just prior to kickoff.

Not as much has changed as we might think. There's still a game that kicks off at noon tomorrow. But, even as such, tomorrow’s matchup is so much more than a game. It’s about the victims, about the players, even about the coaches. But most importantly, it’s about a University, about a family, coming together in a time of need to at the very least provide a distraction for each other. It’s about 100,000 family members together, along with a million others across the globe, standing together.  And as one voice, we will let the world know who WE ARE.

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