A couple people asked me if I would be blogging about the terrible situation going on with Penn State football. Originally, I said no. But y'all know I have a big mouth and lots of opinions. And I decided that because several of these issues are important to me, I would write this blog. I realize that this is a controversial topic and if you don't agree with me, that's fine. This is just my perspective on a terrible situation. But I think that you'll see it is a little bit of an interesting one, that includes understanding both sides of the issue.
First, innocent children who are victims of abuse break my heart. I watched a very dear friend go through this situation and because of that, I sympathize with any kids who are abused in any manner. Such a horrific situation for them to go through. My heart and my prayers go out to each of them and to their families.
Second, (here's where I fear I may get unpopular) I think it's very important for us to remember the principle upon which our justice system is based: Innocent until proven guilty. Sadly, I've had a close friend go trough being wrongly accused of a crime, and that situation was terrifying and eye opening and has made this a major soapbox of mine (as you've read about before.)
Inocent until proven guilty. In the chaos that occurred last week in State College and the swarm of media coverage surrounding it, I never heard this idea mentioned one time. And I have to tell you, this is one of my biggest fears about our justice system...the idea that a person can be convicted in public opinion before he ever sets foot in a courtroom. Don't misunderstand me--if he did these dispicable acts, and the prosecution proves that beyond a reasonable doubt, I firmly believe that he should pay for his crimes and serve his time. But I only get to that point after he has been proven guilty. I think this is a critically important, yet almost completely overlooked part of this story.
Third, I love Joe Paterno. I have had the following football guidelines for years: Unless they are playing each other, I never cheer against my OSU Cowboys, Notre Dame, any service academy (i.e. Army, Navy), and I never cheer against Joe Pa. Put another way, you are always for OSU, God, Country and Joe Pa.
I think that if you want to look at a man who gave himself to his players, a football program, and a university, he is Exhibit A. Should he have done more than report to his higher ups when the alleged abuse was reported to him? Yes. He admitted as much himself. And I think that the odds are that this situation will probably increase reporting of abuse, which is probably a silver lining in a cloud of darkness.
But I think that one mistake (as serious as it was) should not be allowed to ruin a legacy of such magnitude. It should not overshadow the countless lives changed, people inspired, and lessons taught. I think that we would do well to ask ourselves a question: "How would you like to be remembered by your worst moment?" I know I wouldn't. And I don't believe that Joe Pa deserves to. And I for one refuse to remember him that way and overlook the amazing legacy that he created at Penn State.
Finally, even in the midst of scandal, I still love college football. On Saturday, it brought people together. Students and fans wore blue ribbons to support child abuse victims. Signs professiong love and appreciation for Joe Pa were everywhere. Football served as a distraction for a community that was hurting. And before the game started, all of the players gathered at the 50 yard line for a moment of prayer. And when I say all of the players, I mean all of the players and coaches and staffs from both teams. Red and blue jerseys jumbled together, holding hands, asking for peace and comfort and healing. If you ask me, that's bigger than football, and that's the kind of thing that college football is really about.
Photos courtesy AP.