Growing up in Philadelphia during the mid-1980s, my football options were limited. The Marion Campbell led Eagles were terrible, UPenn football was ok, but it was Ivy League and Temple football was a joke. So, if a young lad such as myself wanted a football team to root for that was semi-local, there was one obvious choice: Penn State.
Penn State football, you see, was a fixture in my grandfather's house growing up. He loved his GOP, his Philly teams and his Penn State Football team. Sports was really the only thing my grandfather and I shared, as I was very young, so I became a Penn State fan too. I remember vividly watching Penn State beat Miami in 1986 and being so happy. I can remember watching Penn State lose to Notre Dame in the late 80s and being crushed. Through it all, I never stopped being a fan.
As I continued to get older, I started to play football and started to think about college. I wanted so badly to play football for Joe Paterno, a man I had come to admire. I spent my time learning defense, working out and trying to maximize my abilities. However, God had different plans for me, as my football ability topped out at a level well below that of the Nittany Lions and my SAT scores topped out at a level well below Penn State. Nevertheless, I was still a loyal fan of both Paterno and Penn State.
Over the years, as life has proceeded, I have continued to follow the team to varying degrees. I still rooted for Penn State and my admiration for Joe Paterno grew. Even if I would never attend a class at UPark or line up on the kickoff team to blast a returner into next week, I could still try to follow the overriding Paterno ethic...that you could achieve the greatest of successes without sacrificing your honor. As I got older, as I have been faced with moral dilemnas, I have grown to appreciate how difficult it was for Coach Paterno to maintain an excellent football program, that produced intelligent, well-mannered young men, while competing against those who thought nothing of buying players and conferring degrees upon young men who could not read their diplomas. When you saw a Penn State football player, you knew you were dealing with a young man who had earned his degree academically.
The events of the past month and, by extension, I guess the past almost 20 years, have caused me to reevaluate certain beliefs. As someone who had not attended Penn State or played for Coach Paterno, it would have been easy for me to walk away. It would have been simple to join the cocphony of voices outside Happy Valley, who turned on the school, the team and this man. Yet, I could not and would not do that.
You see, to me, this situation is not unlike my reaction when I saw the pictures from Abu Ghraib. Having been a member of the military, I was horrified that people who serve this country could behave in such a manner, so as to disgrace the uniform, the military and the country. However, over time, after the initial hurt and anger, I realized that the actions of a few, dishonorable individuals, has no impact on how I feel toward our soldiers, the military as a whole or the country. I am still profoundly proud to have these brave men and women represent me throughout the world.
Which brings us back to Penn State. I still believe that Joe Paterno is a good, decent and honorable man. I still believe that Joe Paterno's moral compass points true north and will continue to believe so until conclusively proven otherwise. I still believe that, when this whole thing is over, a lot of people will end up owing Coach Paterno an apology as I still believe that the facts will show that he did way, way more to prevent Sandusky than what has been reported (otherwise, having him as a prosecution witness against Curley and Schultz makes no sense). These are my beliefs based upon my conscious observations of this man since the mid 1980s. Similarly, I still believe that Penn State is one of the greatest universities on the face of the Earth and that the students there (for the most part) are some of the brightest this nation has to offer.
So, for what its worth, this outsider still believes in Penn State and still believes in the honor of one of the greatest coaches in the history of American Sports (along with Wooden, Lombardi, etc.), Joe Paterno.
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