Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dear World...

First, let me apologize in advance. There have been enough talking heads in all of this that reading one more may cause a nosebleed, I understand that. But I’m not here to try to talk over the outraged radio hosts or write bolder than the scribes who are churning out an article a minute. I’m here to try and explain, like many have, why PSU students and alumni are suddenly showing so much pride about their university during a time when it may be at its lowest point… well, maybe ever.
The truth is, you can’t understand. And you probably won’t ever. There are no analogies or clich├ęs to put these feelings into words. I can only hope this comes across as a coherent thought so bear with me, please.
Let’s start with the most important part of this – the victims. Anyone and everyone in their right mind knows what allegedly took place by Jerry Sandusky and the truly inept follow-through by the administration in this whole ordeal was (and still is) awful. Use whatever adjective you like: appalling, horrific, distressing – there is no shortage. Media types everywhere are trying to one-up each other on how truly outraged one can sound over it. And they’re right – it’s all of those words and more – and each one of those victims and their families deserve nothing but our utmost support, our prayers and, yes, justice – however it may come.
We feel the same way as you all do – we feel sick when we think of the actions. We cringe when we read the Grand Jury Report. Our anger probably goes a lot deeper than yours, to be honest, and I’ll explain why in a minute.
But can we finally settle one thing? If I have a Penn State t-shirt on today, or wear a PSU jacket tomorrow – in no way, shape or form am I condoning anything that happened among the five or six or however many number of people who were involved in these actions.
Over the past several days I have heard coworkers, even friends, talk about how the groundswell of PSU pride on Facebook, Twitter and the like are an insult to the victims or are supporting Joe Paterno and his actions (or lack thereof) in all of this. They’ve mocked it and questioned how anyone can say “WE ARE” and feel any sense of pride or have a reason to.
To that, I can only say this – what else do we have right now?
Our university’s name is in the mud. The icon – hell, the man who is synonymous with the institution – has been toppled. The thing we used to point to, our identity, is suddenly missing.
Let’s not get this wrong, either – we are not victims, not by a long shot, especially when compared to the real tragedy here. But we are trying to find our way. Suddenly, being associated with PSU almost has a ‘scarlet letter’ feel to it if you listen to the media; whether it’s the small amount of students “rioting” who they perceive as representing the whole university or everyone who has only bothered to read the first paragraph of the latest story.
 Let’s also not forget this – this is not about football. We are not just trying to “protect a football coach”. When people criticize us for calling it a sad day because Paterno was fired, we don’t mean because we’re going to miss his fantastic football strategies. We’re going to miss the man who did so much good for the university and, ultimately, for us - because Penn State doesn’t become Penn State without him. It’s also a sad day because his firing serves as just another reminder of how awful this situation is and how much of a widespread impact Sandusky’s alleged actions have (and, for the record, even having to type “alleged” is annoying regarding Sandusky).
Paterno’s legacy is, and will forever be, tarnished. But we, as a Penn State family, can’t simply toss aside all of the amazing things he did. He donated millions, was a fierce advocate for putting academics on the same level as, if not higher than, athletics (in times when few other programs ever did) and was a man many saw as a role model – and sought to be a better person because of him.
Yes, his departure was inevitable, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be sad that the man’s most disappointing inaction will now take him and all of his amazing efforts. No, we won’t rename the library he almost single-handedly funded. No, we won’t act like he didn’t stand for something amazing all those years to us, because it did lead us to be better people, regardless of how the story ended.
And no, we won’t stand by like he should be free of a guilty conscience. But this is where the media and everyone has lost sight of the big picture – and why our anger and disappointment may even be more than yours. This goes even bigger than Paterno. While the crosshairs seem to have been affixed to him, others have gone ignored. Graham Spanier, former president, was allowed to resign. Gary Schultz was allowed to step down back into retirement. Athletic director Time Curley has been allowed a leave and is still on the payroll (while the university pays his legal fees!). And, by all accounts, wide receivers coach Mike McQueary – the grad assistant who witnessed the most notorious of the incidents in the Grand Jury report – will be coaching on Saturday. None of these men deserve more than to have the same “fired” title next to each of their names. Semantics? Maybe, but how can you allow anything else to happen?
Our anger goes to the point of wondering how these men (and, for all we know until the facts come out, maybe others) have been able to slink off to the side while Paterno’s name is the only one truly being stamped on. They have all sullied the PSU name in their own way and yet, often, when listening to a broadcast, you won’t hear any of these names until 20, 30 minutes in. And don’t hold your breath waiting for Sandusky’s name, either.
You see, we want things cleaned up, too, and we have our figurative bulls eye set a little higher on the food chain and not just on the easiest/most visible person available.
These men have all helped tarnish what we once held dear – the Penn State name. But if there’s one thing we’re trying to make people understand, it’s that the name – the institution – are far greater than any group of men, or even one man; yes, even JoePa. The institution is the alumni and the networks that it has created. And that’s why you’ll find us being full of pride online, at work and at home.
It’s not a snub at the victims. It’s not our way of being indifferent. We feel the same way. But our degrees are not suddenly worthless pieces of paper. And we’re not all represented by 2,000 students aimlessly destroying a TV van on campus (to be fair, students at Paternoville (@Paternoville) handled things with much less fanfare but infinitely higher levels of class).
We’ve lost our identity, ever so briefly, and we’re creating a new one at the same time. That’s what it’s all about and why you’ll see us still wearing our t-shirts, our jackets and still saying “WE ARE”.
A couple of days ago, Jerry Sandusky’s image was painted over in a mural on campus and replaced with a blue ribbon (for child abuse awareness). Some people commented that we were trying to pretend like it never happened, like it would go away. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In truth, we’re trying to be better than that. We’re trying to take everything Penn State has ever molded in us, and show we can overcome and still be something that can make someone want to be a better person. People like Joe Paterno helped instill some of that in us, and we won’t simply turn our backs on it, but we can try to do more, be better for it and show anyone who will listen that what’s left after all of this is still a great thing.
Even now, grassroots efforts like and the “Blue Out” have begun (
If you’re still reading, I can only thank you. It’s harder to read something like this than read another easy article on Deadspin calling Penn state students fools or another ESPN article talking about who failed.
Just know we’re not naive. We’re not immune. We hurt for the victims. We are angry at the those who have failed them and, by default, us. But we won’t let them dictate where we go from here. We Are…

(Writer's Note: For those of you who have indicated you'd like to respond, you can find me on Twitter: @PSUPhilly22. Thanks. - Chris DeLaurentis, Class of 2006)