I love Penn State. Thats where I went to college and thats where I learned many life lessons, some personal and some academic. I had the best years of my life there.
Now, I didnt always love the blue and white. I wanted to go to Notre Dame or Pitt. Heck, there were about forty-five kids that went to Penn State from the class above me in high school.
I only applied to Penn State as a back-up. Then, I didnt get into Notre Dame. And my cousin, who went to Pitt grad school, got mugged. With choices dwindling, and having only applied to three schools anyway, I went on a campus visit to State College, Pennsylvania.
I fell in love.
I grew up with going to college as the be all and end all. This was the culmination of all of the hard work and stuff I had to deal with in grade school and high school. To that end, I watched TV shows and movies about college and college life. Penn State looked like the campuses I had seen and fantasized about. Its quads, dorm rooms and academic buildings all conformed to my ideal of going to college.
While I was a student there, I really bought in. I learned the history, savored the atmosphere and began to really take notice of this young man that was doing exceptional things with the football program Joe Paterno.
Really, you couldnt escape the guy. He was on murals, books, t-shirts, cardboard cut outs, part of the library was even named after him. The man was a god around campus.
I soon learned why. My first year as a student coincided with his first losing season as a football coach. But guess what? There were very few people calling for JoePas head. I had never seen this type of adoration before.
When I asked a few people about it, they pointed me to a bunch of articles written about JoePa earlier in the decade. After reading the materials, I would have to go with the old clich that my heart swelled with pride after all, its not very often you are in the same milieu as a legend, not to mention one that wins and wins the right way.
It was always nice to say, when we were losing, that at least the kids dont get in trouble and they graduate. It was even nicer to say, when we were winning, that we did things the right way and the kids weren't getting into trouble.
Over the past few months, my love of Penn State has been shaken, and we all know why. Sandusky. McQuery. The trial. The Universitys involvement. JoePas actions.
I dont know if I will ever get back to the love I had for my alma mater. I dont know if I will ever feel comfortable putting on my Penn State gear and going out of my house.
Its funny; I subscribe to a listserv of an organization I belonged to when I walked the hallowed grounds of good old State. When the Sandusky story first broke, it was very interesting to see how the active, on-campus members of the organization reacted, and how us grizzled old alumni responded.
The kids had to understand why this happened, wanted to rally around the banner of good old State, wanted to give kudos to those who reported the tragedy and not concentrate on those that dropped the ball. Very optimistic, these kids.
While those of us who have been out of college for quite some time and know the evil that lurks in the hearts of others (or at least have been around the block a couple of times) responded that what we needed, at the moment, was a little less kumbaya, and a little more wondering what the administration was thinking. It was an interesting intellectual exercise juxtaposing their immediate response with ours.
But, my feelings notwithstanding, the most difficult part about the whole tragedy is that while my pride in my school was wounded, there are many, many kids that had their lives ruined by Penn State and its actions. A college is a place that should expand and enhance its students lives to make them educated, well-rounded people. Instead, Penn State destroyed lives.
I dont think educated, well-rounded people could ever support that.
Christopher Markham writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.