A strange Saturday afternoon

I am a Penn State fan. I grew up in western Pennsylvania. The decision to go for a two-point conversion twice in the 1969 Orange Bowl played a pivotal role in sealing my allegiance.

This week, learning of allegations of the abuse of children by a Penn State assistant coach and the systemic and individual failures that included failure to report, cover-up, and a willingness to accept doing the legal thing rather than the decent, moral, right thing, has been hard for me.

Thinking of the children, my mind recoils, my heart sags, my gut aches, my spirit weeps.

Watching the Nebraska and Penn State game today brought little relief.

This was probably the strangest experience I have ever had watching a football game. It was certainly the deepest anguish I have ever felt watching a football game. Hours later, I continue to process a maelstrom of feelings and thoughts.

I grieve at the reports of the abuse and violation of children. I pray the children will receive the support they need and that the children may experience healing as fully as is possible.

I hope that the investigation into the allegations will be thorough and transparent.

I agree with the announcer who cited the incongruity of observing a moment of silence to mark a situation in which silence played a key role. But I don’t know what I would have suggested in it stead.

I recognize that the accused perpetrator may be innocent – that seems unlikely, highly unlikely given the number and detailed nature of the allegations. And I view that as absolutely no defense for anyone – rather it is yet one more reason that the situation should have been reported and investigated long ago.

I ponder power, its corrosive effects, and its abuse.

I ponder the culture of college football in general and the culture of college football at Penn State in particular. How did that make possible, enable, contribute to any abuse and to the cover-up and failure to report? I ponder if the culture can be sufficiently reformed. It has been suggested that Penn State should abolish its football program at least for a few years. Would that help?

I am glad that Joe Paterno was fired. I wish he had resigned. I seek to sort out who else I believe ought to resign or be shown the door.

I am utterly appalled at riots by students in support of Paterno.

I understand that many have a deep attachment to Penn State football; but some of the signs and public displays at the stadium made me queasy.

I wonder about our tendency to place people and institutions on pedestals. I wonder about the willingness of people and institutions to allow themselves to be place on pedestals and to revel in that.

I have a general approach to life that none of us is defined by one event or incident whether that be good or bad or indifferent. I struggle to see how that applies in this situation.

I wonder what I would have done had I been in situation to know, to act, to respond. I hope I know, but I am reminded (on a regular basis) that all of us – all of us – all of us – do things we should not do and fail to do things we should do (sin and fall short of the glory of God in theological terms). I relive moments that I have fallen short of what I should have done or should have left undone. And I wonder.

I think of children who have been abused and whose stories have never been told. I think of children who are being abused and whose stories remain unknown. I wonder how these situations can be prevented.

I wonder if any of this makes any sense.

I wonder what I have missed.

I wonder.

See you along the Trail.



Filed under Current Events, Football

8 responses to “A strange Saturday afternoon

  1. You make complete sense. It’s a nauseating situation.

  2. Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Mark. I’m not a football (or sports) fan. But I grew up very near to “Happy Valley” and grew up seeing clips on TV of JoePa marching his players to the library to study, and being proud that the home team’s program was based on integrity. Everybody I know from central PA loves Penn State football, and Paterno was so admired.

    This is so disturbing and disgusting.

  3. Laura M Cheifetz

    The whole thing is messed up. Thank you for your thoughts. I’m not a sports fan, and I have very little respect for college sports, given the seeming widespread corruption – money, alcohol, rampant womanizing, ways in which young men of color are given athletic scholarships and sometimes leave those colleges without actually learning anything, just so those colleges can have a strong sports program. This only confirms my bad stereotypes of sports, and that is just depressing. Of course, the coach was white, right? And the children he brutalized were not? The whole thing sucks, most of all, for those children/young people.

    • The culture of college football certainly plays a role. The issues you raise are certainly there. (And as a pro football follower, I have to confess that many of those issues are present there as well.) I don’t follow other college sports closely enough to know if the elements you identify are present there as well. I assume they are. Yes. The whole thing sucks – most of all for the children/young people.

  4. Thanks Mark. So many innocent people have been and are affected by one person’s repeated sin (along with those who protected him.) And how we treat the most vulnerable is a symbol of who we are.This reminds me again that what we do each day – each moment – matters. And that we dare not let ourselves be blind to our own frailty. Praying for those kids/adults and their families – and for the offenders. As Sister Helen PreJean says about death row inmates, “no on is as bad as their worst day (s).” And now. Let’s hope that justice thrives here –

    • Thanks Shannon. There is much to ponder about power dynamics in this situation and in all situations. There is much to ponder about how those who we make vulnerable are treated. There is much to ponder. Amen to the hope for justice to thrive.

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