Sunday, September 9, 2012

Yes, Virginia

There is a Santa Claus.

Every Who Down in Hoo-ville Liked Cavaliers a lot...
But the Blogger,Who lived north of Hoo-ville, Did NOT!
The Blogger hated Cavaliers! The whole Cavalier season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be the NCAA stabbed his team in the back.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too black.
But I think that the most likely reason of all,
Was Paterno being treated as if he never existed at all.

"Pooh Pooh to the Hoos!" he was grinchishly blogging.
"They're finding out now that no victory is coming!"
"They're just waking up! I know just what they'll do!"
"Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,
Then the Hoos down in Hoo-ville will all cry Boo Hoo!"
"That's a noise," grinned the Blogger, "That I simply MUST hear!"
So he paused. And the Blogger put his hand to his ear.

But the sound wasn't sad! Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn't be so! But it WAS merry! VERY!
He stared down at Hoo-ville! The Blogger popped his eyes!
Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise!
Every Hoo down in Hoo-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any loss at all!
He HADN'T stopped Victory from coming! IT CAME!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the Blogger, with his Blog-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?"
"It came with out field goals! It came without kicks!"
"It came without extra points, or moving the sticks!"
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Blogger thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Success," he thought, "doesn't come from a score."
"Maybe Success...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

I was spared the frustration of watching this game.  And after seeing the score, the stats and reading about it, I have no intention of ever watching a replay.  After all, there are just so many things you can throw at a TV until it breaks, and then you still have the game frustration added on to the expense of fixing or replacing your TV.

Fortunately for me, I was sitting in the rain, perhaps monsoon would be a better word, at Saint Francis University as they defeated Bryant University (don't ask--I have no idea from whence they come) 39-28.  My daughter is a freshman and marches with the Red Flash Band, the first marching band at the University since the 1940's!  This was their first official performance.

And as I listened to the crowd support their team--all one thousand or so fans in the stands--I realized that football could be fun without Jumbo TVs, TV timeouts, replay officials, the wave (although they actually tried to get one going but it was an epic fail,) an upper deck over my head to protect me from the torrential rain, $5 programs and $3 bottles of water, and Sweet Caroline sung by an exuberant and possibly mildly intoxicated crowd because they enjoy it and not because the lyrics have some hidden, diabolical meaning.

It was fun.  (Although Frankie the Friar was just a little too creepy if you know what I mean!)

And it got me to thinking about when the last time I had FUN at a Penn State game.

I was there for Joe Paterno's 409th (and final) game.  We won, but I can hardly call the experience fun.  We needed a miss by the Illinois kicker to sneak away with a win on a cold night.  We were Virginia that evening--we didn't deserve to win, but somehow managed to notch a record that would stand a few whole months before the swift pen of the NCAA decreed it not so.

Oh, there have been memorable--and fun--games.  Beating OSU in 2005.  Nebraska 2002.  Any game we beat THEM.

But somewhere along the line, I forgot what it takes to make the game fun.  Players, playing their hearts out.  Fans cheering on the players.  And in the case of college football, that unique combination revolving around the student athlete, not a paid professional.

We can look at this game and the countless mistakes--a missed PAT, 4 missed field goals, the inability of the D to hold a lead etc. and analyze it till we are blue and white in the face.  Virginia turned the ball over four times giving PSU great field position, and the Lions couldn't capitalize on it.  Even the old tried and true excuses of clock mismanagement reared their ugly heads as 5-6 seconds disappeared off the clock in the fourth quarter and O'Brien complained that the play clock kept running while officials explained penalties to him, forcing his team to take timeouts.

The easiest answer:  this isn't a very good football team.  But that denies the stats that PSU out gained the Cavaliers 121-32 yards on the ground, and overall production of 330 yards to 295.  This was a game for the taking.  Penn State let this one slip away.

We could blame it on bad luck.  This isn't a bad team, just an unlucky one.  And with the events of the past 10 months, that could certainly be argued easily.

Is it the coaching?  It's not like Paterno never had problems--fourth and goal in the '79 Sugar Bowl, 2 seconds in Michigan, a late rally by Iowa in 2008, and he was the last PSU coach to lose in Charlottesville, since I guess losses aren't vacated.

Is it the kicking game?  Would it have made a difference if Fera hadn't left?  Or Justin Brown?  Or Redd?  Who knows?

But I am starting to wax philosophically and perhaps spiritually on this issue.

Something is missing.  Something is not quite right.  And maybe it is physical (the players aren't good enough or the coaching isn't good enough.)  But I am beginning to think it is that we have strayed away from what made Penn State football great.

And if you are thinking the answer is -- Joe Paterno -- then you are partly right.  Rather, it was Paterno's vision for the Grand Experiment.  Student athletes that not only were able to compete on the field, but were able to graduate.

Now I am not accusing this team of not performing well in the classroom, or something so mundane as suggesting PSU has lowered their standards to win at any price.

To be honest, I am not sure what I am suggesting.  But Penn State went into a funk in 1999 (coincidentally, Sandusky's last season) that lasted until 2005.  But it was around that time that the decision to expand the stadium and construction began on the luxury boxes and south deck, which finally closed out the view of Mount Nittany from inside the stadium.  Older fans can remember her majesty in the distance.

Greed and expansion were chosen over tradition.  And perhaps some of that comes into play with the current situation, including the recent STEP program.  An entire generation of older fans have been disenfranchised by a system that places economics over loyalty.

Penn State has very few sell out crowds anymore.  Nebraska, on the other hand, has sold out every game since 1962.  And they used to play Pacific!

So what was different in 2005?  His name was Michael Robinson, and he BELIEVED in Joe.  I think Daryll Clark did as well.

I looked in the Beaver Stadium Pictorial from the Ohio game, and their are only two pictures of Joe Paterno, one amidst former coaches on page 28 and one with John Cappelletti on page 30.  And I would be willing to bet that someone questioned whether to include even those and that some discussion entertained the possibility of omitting those images.  His name is mentioned in passing on page 8 . . . "Like his predecessor, Hall of Fame Coach Joe Paterno, O'Brien graduated from Brown University."

Some fans were upset that no memorial video of Joe was shown and no moment of silence.

Joe's spirit is missing.  And maybe that has nothing to do with the fate of this team on the field, but I am beginning to believe that you can not move on, until you have accepted the past.  And Joe Paterno is, like it or not, a BIG part of Penn State's past.

Success is more than just winning.  It is doing it the right way.  And I am firmly in the camp that Paterno was wronged in this whole scandal.  And until the University accepts that fact, I fear more bad luck will follow.

You reap what you sow.

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