Monday, January 23, 2012

The Rise and Fall of a Penn State King

Let me start by saying I don't like football. Trust me, I've tried. I come from a family that bleeds football -- high school, college, and NFL; so you can imagine my dismay when I finally came to terms with the fact that no matter how hard I tried, it just meant nothing. Maybe it's the fault of my various coaches throughout my lifespan that assured me, "It's just a game," because to me, that's all it is. I don't understand why people scream at the television screen, and why I am expected to sit through the Superbowl just because I'm supposed to. I bought season tickets for Penn State for two of my four years here, but found myself counting down the minutes until the end of the third quarter when I finally felt safe to leave. No matter how hard I try, I just don't care. Which is kind of upsetting since the whole world is in love with the game.

So imagine my confusion when I found myself crying over the (false) news I heard on Saturday night. Coming back from a ski trip with my boyfriend's small engineering school, I was the only one on the bus who really cared about the alleged death of Joe Paterno. I'm sure his friends knew why I was crying, but I'm not sure they felt the impact. Why was I crying? Wasn't I the one that hated football? That's when it hit me -- one thing they've been telling me is true; Joe Paterno was more than just a football coach.

Then, on Sunday, I cried throughout church. The news was official; Joe Paterno passed away. My boyfriend just sat holding my hand and waited out the second round of water works. It lead me to think of my grandmother telling me how she cried watching the funeral of JFK. Now, I know they are incomparable for various reasons, but it struck me because I always wondered just how my grandmother could waste so much grief on a person she didn't even know. Now, I understand.

It's an amazing feeling when a public figure is someone to look up to; and to me, Joe Pa was the king of public figures. He struck me as a grandfather figure, a glimmer of hope in a world where public figures are tainted. He had that staple of old-fashioned beliefs that the world could benefit from having. At Penn State, we benefited.

I still remember the first time I truly fell in love with Joe. We were watching the football game my senior year of high school, and one of the players ran into him on the sidelines. The whole world gasped as Joe went down, and suffered a leg injury. I found myself gasping, too.

I cannot comment on the recent events at Penn State, because I believe that we have no idea what happened back in 2002. We weren't there, and the media that is force feeding us information weren't there either. I still have faith in my hero. There is just no doubt in my mind that men are inherently good, and Joe Paterno rings good in my mind with resounding intensity. I may not like football; but I will never forget Joe Paterno. We are...