Redemption Song

I asked the semi-rhetorical question earlier this fall, What’s a Penn State Football Fan to Do?

The answer is cheer their asses off for the young men who decided to stay and represent Penn State football in the Post Joe Paterno, Post Jerry Sandusky, Post NCAA Wrecking Ball era.

In week one of the college football season, one of the lead stories on every redundant ESPN show was “How will Penn State respond?” They responded by losing to Ohio University. Not THE (god that is annoying) Ohio State University, but Ohio University. Since that day, all the Nittany Lions have done is go out and win football games. The most recent being an absolute drubbing of Illinois on the road Saturday afternoon.

This win was particularly satisfying after what went down with the Illinois coaching staff following the NCAA Wrecking ball earlier this year. Following the NCAA’s decision to punish the players at Penn State (who did absolutely nothing wrong… actually, I don’t even want to talk about this because I am so upset about it.) The Illinois coaching staff (and they were not alone) camped out in the parking lot outside of the football complex in State College hoping to snag themselves some players who might be considering transferring following the Wrecking Ball.

This led to this statement from the Penn State Players:

The two players who do the majority of the talking in this video are Michael Zordich and Michael Mauti (the Michaels also happen to both be my favorite players, which I will come back to). Mauti in particular was upset by what happened and had this to say about coaches trying to pilfer players:

Penn State went out and made a statement Saturday and no one spoke louder than Mauti, who finished the game with six tackles and two interceptions, including one on the goal-line that he returned 99 yards before running out of gas. Mauti was the most vocal about the Illinois coaching staff this off-season. I would be lying if I said this year I had been fully invested in the Penn State games (really, until Saturday they were non-conference games anyway). But the one player who routinely jumped off the screen has been Mauti. So much so that Danielle has even taken notice, nicknaming him Dowdy-Mauti (I personally like Rowdy Mauti).

I read an article a few weeks ago about how, quietly two former Penn State linebackers has become two of the NFL’s best (49ers ILB Navarro Bowman and Dallas’ Sean Lee). Linebacker U continues to churn out legit NFL linebackers (where have you gone Poz?) and Mauti and Gerald Hodges will most likely be joining their ranks soon. Because I had detached myself from PSU this fall (no longer) I hadn’t truly bonded with any players in particular. Michael Mauti is now officially “My Guy”. Injuries have kept him from reaching his potential sooner, but now that he is healthy, the dude is killing it.

Bill O’Brien has done a really nice job with this team. I was afraid after the loss to Ohio that the wheels would fall of and things would spiral out of control. I mean, let’s be honest, when Matt McGloin is your QB, how much does it really take for things to fall apart? That simply has not been the case. I think the move to add the players names to the backs of their jerseys was the right one. O’Brien explained that he wanted the players who chose to stay to be recognized for that decision. I am not mad a the guys who left (except maybe the kicker, because he left us with Ficken). I understand why they did what they did. That being said, I have a world of respect for Mauti, Zordich and the rest of those who stayed.

Saturday, the Lions take on undefeated Northwestern in a game that will be a good barometer of what this team really is. It is a freaking shame that the NCAA did what they did. Penn State would be loaded with talent, and they seem to finally have the coaching staff to make good use of it. Joe is gone. Sandusky is behind bars, and now it is the fans and the players that are being punished, not the people who perpetrated those awful crimes, or the people who helped to cover them up. As a Penn State fan, and a football fan in general, I am saddened by this.

The SEC, and college football writ large are swamped by programs rife with recruiting violations, “student”-athletes who never go to class or have rap sheets longer than my arm, and coaches for whom there is no lower limit to what they will do in the name of a win. Yet it was this program, and these players for which the NCAA chose to make an example of. The NCAA has ZERO credibility in my eyes, and I say this not only as a Penn State fan, but a fan of college football in general. The entire system is screwed up.

There, I got that out. Penn State, and Michael Mauti specifically, you have won me back. Thank you. Sorry Danielle. Stop planning things for Saturdays.

The End

If you have read anything that I have written here concerning college football, you know that my sports-watching life has revolved around the Penn State Nittany Lions. The first sports team I ever followed, the first team I identified with, wore plain blue and white with black shoes.

I still have pencil drawings I did in elementary school of Curtis Enis, Joe Jurevicius, Courtney Brown, LaVarr Arrington and Brandon Short. I remember watching Larry Johnson go over 2000 yards against Michigan State. I was a kid then, I am a father now, and I have taught her the “We Are… Penn State” chant. I taught her that Joe Paterno was “Grandpa Joe”.

This week has been a hurricane of emotion. I sat at my computer last Saturday morning and read the grand jury testimony. I have my own personal reasons to feel a connection with those boys, and it was that connection that fueled my outrage, my disgust, my anger, my sadness, my heartbreak. The fact that this happened is hard to grasp, the fact that his happened at my school, under my coach, the coach who has built a 60-plus year career on doing the right thing, on doing it the right way, is beyond anything I have ever felt.

I have been cheering for this team so long that I remember when Mike McQuery was the redheaded quarterback, not the former GA who witnessed his coach raping a young boy.

I have tried to approach this with a level head, with a sense of perspective. There are those, like the kids “rioting” last night, who believe that Joe was unfairly treated, that he did what he was supposed to do by forwarding what McQuery told him up the chain of command, and that he has been little more than fodder for a witch hunt. To those young people who are so upset over the treatment of a man who they held up to a God-like status, I would remind them that Joe is not the victim here. The victims are those young boys who safety was not looked after by the people who had the power to do something for them.

It is my belief (read opinion) that Joe did what he thought was best for the program. I believe that Joe knew what was happening in ’98 when he informed Sandusky he wouldn’t be taking over as head coach. I believe that Joe knew that if he were to report it then, or in ’02, that it would look bad for the program, that Sandusky’s actions would topple the program, and he therefore sat on what he knew, did the bare minimum, and went on enabling the violation of those boys.

I understand people’s anger towards McQuery for not stepping in and stopping what he witnessed in that shower. I would only caution people to remember that McQuery grew up with Paterno and Sandusky’s kids, and at the time, he was a 22-year old GA, hoping to someday get a job coaching at the school. I can see how, seeing what he saw, and his relationships with Paterno and Sandusky, he must have thought he was doing right. Clearly, he wasn’t and as such, should be out of a job today as well.

My sports world is in complete turmoil right now, and it is causing me to feel very conflicted about all of this. The manner in which this all came about is just about the worst set of circumstances imaginable. The fac that it needed to happen, that Joe needed to be shown the door, was inevitable. Clearly, in his arrogance and stubbornness, witnessed through the statement he released yesterday, Joe was never going to leave of his own accord.

This program needs to begin to rebuild itself. The problem is, that unlike other schools, where fans identify with the uniform, or the stadium, or the team colors, or the helmets, or touchdown Jesus, fans identified with the 84 year-old man who was shown the door last night following the biggest scandal in the history of college sports. Never again will he stalk up and down the sidelines yelling at no one in particular, black shoes, white socks, khakis rolled up, coke bottle glasses…

Saturday’s game against Nebraska with a potential Rose Bowl bid on the line, was supposed to be the start of the fair well. A chance for fans to start to say goodbye to the man who was Penn State football since before anyone who is reading this was born. Now, there is no telling what  Saturday is going to be. As of right now, Mike McQuery is still on the staff (but for how long?). As of right now, Jay Paterno is still on the staff. There is no telling how long any of these guys will continue to be employed. My guess is that this offseason the Board of Trustees will clean house. Which is going to be a necessary step towards rebuilding and repairing what as of this moment seems so broken.

For my entire sports watching life, the players names changed but the uniforms never did. The number of teams in the Big 10 changed from 10, to 11, to 12, but the coach on the PSU sidelines never did. Until now.

I don’t feel sympathy for Joe Paterno, he had 15 years to do what was right for those kids. I feel sympathy for those unnamed young men, and those who have yet to come forward. I feel sympathy for Silas Redd, Justin Brown, even Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin, the guys who are sitting in that locker room right now, the locker room where Jerry Sandusky perpetrated the acts that led to all of this, trying to figure out where to go from here, and how to focus on Saturday, which in the big scheme of things is nothing more than a meaningless football game when compared to the gravity of what has happened. Those kids didn’t ask for any of this.

I will be there Saturday, in front of my TV, I will wear my PSU shirt, and hat, and cheer for Silas Redd, Nate Stupar, Gerald Hodges, DaVon Still, Joe Shuey, and every other kid wearing the blue and white.

Because We (still) Are… Penn State.

We Are, Penn State

 Although I am disappointed by the results from the season, It would have been crazy of me to expect much more. Penn State started the first true freshman quarterback in Joe Paterno’s tenure.

If you read this you already know how I feel about the B.C.S., I don’t want to hear about how the system worked. Once again I have been forced to enjoy a college football season through partially closed eyes, so as not to look too closely and realize that in reality, very little of what I was watching mattered at all.

What I have chosen to do instead, is just try to enjoy a game, whatever game, for what it is, a single entity to occupy my mind for three hours. Unlike the NFL, where I watched Sunday’s Buccaneers/Falcons game knowing that the Buc’s entire season was potentially on the line, I watch Penn State games simply to enjoy that one game.

This will again be the case on New Years Day, when Penn State takes on Florida in the Outback Bowl. Nothing will really be on the line (I do think Penn State can win this game, Joe has done surprisingly well against SEC teams in bowls in recent years) but I will still enjoy it. I will actually love watching it. I mentioned this on Facebook, but it bears repeating here, I believe this will be Joe’s last game on a Penn State sideline. The last time those Coke bottle glasses, high water Khakis and black shoes run out of the tunnel. Joe seems to have aged very quickly over the last year. He has lost much of the energy that just a year ago seemed to defy age and time. It is actually heartbreaking to listen to his press conferences and interviews.

A few years ago I promised myself that I would support Joe as long as he wanted to stay. For my money, Joe is college football, Joe is everything that I love about the team I cheer for. It is not hyperbole to say that there will never again be one like him. No coach will ever win the number of games at one school that Joe has. Period. That is saying nothing about the graduation rates, the donations to the school, the fact that Penn State has never had a violation of NCAA rules, the man who literally coached generations of the same family. I believe January 1st will be Joe’s last game. It would be fitting, I cannot see Joe wanting any part of a year-long celebration of his career. Which is exactly what next year will turn into.

So I will enjoy the game, I will watch, cheer, and probably cry. But, I know it will mean nothing.

Paris Hilton has paid more dues than Lane Kiffin.


Laughed out loud reading this…

If you, like me, thought Pete Carroll leaving in the fashion that he did, and what it will mean for the program he left behind was low class.

Wait until you hear what Lane effing Kiffin has done to Tennessee

Once again, man am I glad I cheer for This Guy…


Adding…

You know how I feel about ESPN. Surprisingly, they have come down pretty hard on this. You can read Pat Forde linked above as well as This, This and This

Good for you, ESPN for not pulling any punches on this one. I read that the scene in the UT locker room when Kiffin announced to his former players that he was leaving for greener pastures was borderline violent. So UT players have been arrested for armed robbery this year, they have acted like idiots under Kiffin, and when they have the chance to actually exhibit violent behavior in a way that I would condone, cooler heads prevailed. I would have loved it if Lane had to show up for his USC press conference with a black eye from one of his players.

Face it Lane, you had it coming.

Adding More…

If the above interestes you at all…check This out

Adding More, More…

My student teaching hand book tells me to review my personal website and edit the content to make it professional. Most of the content on here is nothing I wouldn’t say at work or to co-workers. And NONE of it is any worse than what is uttered by my students on a daily basis. That being said, I was mostly kidding when I said the students would have been justified in punching Lane Kiffin in the face.

I will try to be more conscious of this going forward. I would hate to stop writing here completely for the duration of my student teaching, and if I am hired to teach in the future. And I don’t want to go back and edit what I have said in the past.

This is going to require some deep thinking on my part.