Penn State Students Celebrate Having Sanctions Lifted, Though Some Start Chanting To Bring Back The Paterno Statue

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Vine

This is how Penn State students celebrated having sanctions for its football program lifted by the NCAA.

But then some students made it about Joe Paterno, instantly making things… weird.

The celebrations are great. But, as a Penn State alumnus living in the real world outside Happy Valley, bringing Paterno into this makes me cringe so hard. Earlier today the NCAA rescinded its historic sanctions against Penn State’s football team, meaning Penn State can play in the post-season. A grave overstep for the NCAA, the sanctions were unfair, punishing student athletes for things that had nothing to do with them. A lot has happened since then: Sweeping changes have been carried out throughout the entire university. Bill O’Brien worked his butt off during the school’s darkest times. James Franklin in charge. Penn State has, for the most part, moved on from that memorable images of Joe Paterno’s statue being dismantled outside Beaver Stadium after the Freeh Report came out.

Sadly, it doesn’t look like a lot has changed for some students at Main Campus. Not content with celebrating the fact their football team can compete for a post-season,  a bunch of students earlier tonight chanted “409” and “Where’s the Statue?” on the lawn of Old Main. I hear it’s mostly freshmen who live in the East Hall  and Pollock dorms, but that doesn’t exactly make it any better.

How is this about Joe Paterno now? What the hell are you kids thinking?

I grew up idolizing Joe Paterno. I know he followed his mandated reporting protocol. I know the administration royally fucked up and the man who’s hand I shook when I walked across the stage at graduation deserves the brunt of the blame for allowing a monster like Jerry Sandusky go unchecked. My world felt rocked and my stomach-churned that entire, awful week in November 2011 when the news of the Attorney General’s indictment broke. Having a beloved childhood hero let you down like that sucks.

But I also know that Paterno was a demi-god in Pennsylvania. He could have done more. He admitted it himself. He wasn’t perfect. Celebrating silly football accomplishments is small fries compared to the atrocities that happened there. That’s why the kids doing these stupid chants have no idea how embarrassing such an act — captured on Vine and assuredly on every sports blog in the world by tomorrow morning — is for those of us who have to learned to live with talking about the Sandusky scandal when someone asks us where we went to college. You’re making having sanctions lifted something it is not.

It’s time for Penn State kids to let it go and realize this is a deep stain on the school they’re attending that will never go away. In the real world, where not everyone you know gives a shit about Penn State, you’ll have to learn to deal with talking about how the whole “may no act of ours bring shame” part of Dear Old State’s alma mater was once grotesquely tossed to the wind in self-interest by certain administrators. That’s now a  dark part of Penn State’s history that will always haunt us.

Today was a nice step forward. I was happy when I heard the news. I’m proud of the awesome positive stuff Penn State does, like THON and teaching Ben and Jerry how to make ice cream. But this is a delicate moment with the eyes of the world upon Penn State. It shouldn’t be filled with bombastic hubris and acting like idiots while drunk on Blue and White. A little humility when everyone else in the world wishes your school got the death penalty goes a long way.

We are… above this. We are… not looking to the past. We are… onward.

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Note: I changed the headline on the piece. Explanation for that here.

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