What does Penn State mean to you? To me it has meant many different things over the years, and as I grew as a person, so too did my projections of what Penn State meant to me. Over time Penn State has meant dreams, purpose, and home.
I am what some around here have coined "Amish Buggy Alumni", I grew up less than 25 miles from Beaver Stadium. As a young boy some of my earliest memories are of trips to Beaver Stadium, and the celebrations that followed big Penn State wins during that time. Family gatherings were always accompanied by a keen discussion on the team and the previous game, or the coming season. My biggest dream was to one day play in Beaver Stadium so my family could watch me play. Penn State football at that time was my dream. However, I never attended Penn State, for several reasons I attended a different university. But the influence of Penn State never lost it's hold on my psyche. Nothing made this more apparent than when I realized that I wanted to become a school teacher and football coach instead of a lawyer, (how is that for following Joe's footsteps?)
One of my biggest influences when I made that decision was when I read "Paterno: By the Book". The part where his father tells him to "make a difference" became my purpose in life. When I was hired as a head coach this past spring, the first thing I put into my office was a signed painting of Joe. He was my reminder that I was there to "make a difference" in a real tangible way. Penn State football was my purpose.
When I moved away from Pennsylvania,Penn State came to mean something different to me. When I saw games on TV, or came home seeing the stadium meant home. Some of the worst days of homesickness would occur on Saturdays when I had to watch home on TV. I still feel that way today, although I am not sure how I will react to the next game. All of that has changed. Penn State meant my home.
I said all of that to say this, what disgust me the most about this weekend's bombshell is the realization that something that meant so much to me, that stirs such strong positive emotions with-in me represents something so terrible, and disturbing to the victims of Sandusky's alleged crimes. I have had trouble trying to understanding what they feel when they are surrounded by the signs of their abuser. The monstrous stadium on the hill, the memorabilia on sale at every gas station, the sports coverage in the media and on the web. What feelings does it stir in them?