Thursday, November 10, 2011

More Reflections on Penn State

It keeps going around in my head. It's like a friend has died, or perhaps worse than that- a friend has committed suicide or a combination suicide-homicide. The old friend is Penn State. And Joe Paterno has been Penn State since I was a freshman in college.

As I said the other day I grew up just about 50 miles from Penn State. I applied there for college and was accepted but chose a small college in the southeastern part of the state. But the Nittany Lion has strong history and gets into your blood.

Over the years since I lived in Pennsylvania the "brand" Penn State has grown and increased in stature and quality. Sitting in the "wilds" of central Pennsylvania, far from big cities, it was its own world, but one that produced great academics and great football. When one said that it always came back to Paterno, JoePa. He pushed academics and integrity and honesty. Perhaps, though, in the final analysis Penn State's central PA isolation and the legendary stature of Joe Pa was what finally led to his and the U's undoing.

In the end Penn State and its "brand" image and the power and money of Football proved greater than JoePa. He was run over by the effects of the juggernaut he helped attain that stature. Hide things, hush them up, circle the wagons, protect!

Paterno's statement yesterday which I posted here was one of the most painfully sad and desperately painful statements a public person like Paterno has ever written. The cynics may say that it was a way of saving face or of short-circuiting the inevitable or that he had a good speech writer. But that statement was Joe Paterno. It was the kind of statement a man of his integrity and spirit would want people to read and say "Yes! That's Joe Pa."

But it was also Joe the Powerful. He was a man who could refuse the suggestion of his bosses that it was time to retire. It was also Joe the Powerful who wanted to go out his own way and take the power and control from the hands of the Trustees. Perhaps for the first time in a very, very long time, they stood up and took their place and not bow to Paterno.

But the cautionary tale in all this is far deeper than the pain of watching Paterno in pain, losing his dream to a sick, VERY SICK man who was more interested in satisfying his own sick drives. It is far deeper than seeing a grand and prestigious university be undermined by authorities who felt it better to hide the truth than care about the safety of children.

The message is far more than football or universities or even the law. It is far more important than even a legendary individual like Paterno.

But that's for Saturday's post.

For today I mourn and try to wrap my head around a world spinning off its axis. Not for me, but for the victims and their families. Not for the disgraced coach or athletic director but for the hope, now shattered for so many. I mourn because there was this unthinking riot that followed Paterno's firing but no one, NO ONE, stood up in anger for the victims.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Let us lift the children harmed by the mighty.

When a child's spirit's broken
And feels all hope is gone
God help them find the strength to carry on

But with hope and faith
Yeah, we can understand
All God's children need is love
And us to hold their little hands

Hallelujah, hallelujah, let us all love one another
Hallelujah, hallelujah, make all our hearts blind to color
Hallelujah, hallelujah, God bless the child who suffers
--Shania Twain

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