Ever since the Penn State trial ended, I tried to wrap my head around how this could happen. I kept a keen ear out for the news and read every article pertaining to the scandal in hopes of understanding what Sandusky was thinking, what the coaches and administrators motives for not reporting, and why the cover up. While I believe I have enough info to answer those questions, (based solely on news that was reported. I am sure much more info has been kept under wraps) I still feel uneasy and can't seem to allow today's punishment handed down by the NCAA to provide me with closure for those feelings. What I have concluded about myself is that in some small way, I, along with millions of others, are slightly responsible for this scandal.
Let me explain.
I love sports. I have loved it since the very first time when I was five years old and picked up a baseball bat. From the first time I shot an airball. From the first time I played backyard football. I was over competitive, played as hard as I could and took it way to hard if I lost. Sports was a referendum of who I was as a person. It was much more than just a game in my mind.
It is easy to assume that any sports team I followed, I had the same insane and unhealthy vigor for. I love college athletics. I worshipped them since as early as I can remember. I can remember the best ever Duke-UNC basketball games in the 80's or just about any ACC game or player from the 80's for that matter. My two favorite football teams as a kid were Virginia Tech (still fav) and University of Florida. I can still remember the Steve Spurrier era of the "Fun and Gun" offense. My sole purpose in life as a kid was Saturday afternoon, especially when it came to these two teams. My whole week revolved around Saturday. Any game of significance commanded my full concentration. Naturally as a kid I would engage anyone in an argument as to who was the best team and all that other nonsense that as I look back on now, had no bearing on anything. All it did was make us look like a bunch of jackasses to our teachers who knew we had no clue as to how irrelevant we sounded.
I never owned jerseys or much apparel of my teams. Maybe a hat or a t shirt. But my loyalty to my teams was so deep, I would have run through hell with them if need be. When I see the PSU students guard the statue or defend Paterno, I don't judge them, because I know they know not what they are doing. I will bet in ten years those students who defended him will have a different take. I am sure when they are in their 30's with children they will regret what they did, hopefully understand why they did it, and swear to never hold anyone in such high regards again.
I look back now and feel ashamed that while I bear no responsibility for any of the actions of Penn State I share responsibility along with millions of others for feeding into the frenzy of college athletics over the past twenty years. I share responsibility by allowing wins and loses of teams for which I have no control over to define who I was. Because of this irrational assessment of self worth I can see why others would have done their best to deny themselves the reality that their schools, coaches, and administration can let them down. A winning program will stay that way to keep the money coming in. A fan of a winning program will stay that way to keep his self image in tact.
Shame on me. Thank goodness time has provided me with perspective but now I realize that not only does Penn State have to rebuild, so do I.