In a story plagued with unsettling thoughts, I had another one this morning as I watched Penn State get set to take on Nebraska.
This one - like many of the others - has nothing to do with Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky is the only black-and-white villain in this story. He's the criminal. He's the person who should never experience a day of freedom as long as he lives. Everyone else is in trouble for negligence, which, in this case, was a desire to believe that something too awful for words could have happened on their campus. With guys like Paterno, there's so many shades of gray. We don't know what exactly he was told. What exactly he did. What on Earth he was thinking. I highly suggest reading Joe Posnanski's piece here if you don't understand what I mean. Regardless, Paterno got fired - well, most everyone got fired (or will be) - and we can only hope there aren't even more disturbing details to come out of this. Sadly, there probably will be.
My thought this morning, however, was about the fans. Being a fan is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. You root for a team, the team wins, and you feel happy. But it's not just you. When you start to be engulfed by fandom, other people start to associate you with your team. Your parents say "hey, how about those Cougs" after a big win... or you get something fun to talk about with your pro-WSU comrades at work. Or, better yet, your Husky co-workers stay quiet. After a tough loss, people will actually apologize to you. Think about how silly that sounds. And yet, it gives you a little bit of relief to know that people are aware your team lost, aware you feel crummy about it and want you to feel better. Suddenly the meaningless game of people throwing a spheroid around on some grass actually means something to you not only on a personal level, but a social one as well.
Now, all of a sudden, think of what Penn State is associated with. Everywhere outside of State College, Pennsylvania will now associate your Penn State sweatshirt with something awful. People will probably think, "why would you wear that?" or "why are you still supporting them?" The problem is, of course, that you're not supporting Jerry Sandusky, the Penn State administration, or even Joe Paterno. You're a Penn State fan. You went there, or have family that did, or are just a fan for whatever reason. Now you're somehow associated with a monster, and people who either covered up or were just simply negligent to a monstrosity.
The problem is the fans (and the players) did nothing wrong. They're having to feel guilty by association with something they were in no way associated with. Sure, stupid fans rioted earlier this week, but even more participated in the candlelight vigil for the victims last night. That won't make the five o'clock news. Some people are just in denial that a legendary coach couldn't do more to stop a series of heinous crimes. Heck, I bet even the former players who are thinking about helping fund Sandusky's legal defense are just old and delusional and somehow think the man they knew couldn't have possibly sexually assaulted children... despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Those people are idiots and cowards, no doubt, but it's important to note that the real villain here is still Sandusky.
What gets me is that it could have just as easily happened here. Bad people come out of every institution. Ted Bundy was a Husky, after all. I'm sure you could find the name of some murderer, rapist or just plain awful person who came out of WSU. I'd rather not take the time to dig that deep. But what if it had happened to us? What would we do? I suppose everyone involved would be fired (which Penn State is doing), hope and pray the number of victims was a small as possible and then let justice be served. Then, hopefully, some day, you can move on. But Penn State - the Community - didn't deserve this. One of my high school friends went there. I'm sure you know someone associated with the Nittany Lions. The good guys there didn't deserve this.
It's easy to say Penn State should forfeit the football season or give themselves the death penalty or just tear down the whole University. We're angry, and we have right to be. There were so many failures on so many levels. Still, you shouldn't punish people who didn't commit the crime. The current players, the current fans, they're not the ones to focus anger at. Just be nice to the person wearing the Penn State sweatshirt. They're not Joe Paterno, they're not Graham Spanier. And just in case the person wearing the sweatshirt actually is Jerry Sandusky, you're still welcome to do whatever you like.
I think everyone else at Penn State would back you up.
Recommended Local Activity - Since it is Veterans Day weekend, pay a visit to the WSU Veterans Memorial. One of the hidden treasures on campus.
Recommended Food - Yep, it's feeling like a Cougar Country day.
Gametime Snack of the Week - Little Chocolate Donuts. The donuts of champions.
Gametime Cheap Beer of the Week - Milwaukee's Best Light. For those who LOVE the taste of Milwaukee's Best but do not want to deal with the calories!
Gametime Premium Beer of the Week - Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale
Prediction: Arizona State 24, Washington State 17. Sorry, I've lost some faith.
As always, Go Cougs.