You, the Media, Failed Penn State–We Are More than Football!

 Written by Jesse Lillo

Your claim to understand the “Penn State Culture” is a bit like taking a   picture of the Eiffel Tower and calling yourself a Frenchman. The truth is, few of you have ever visited Happy Valley, and those who have were only there for football. You have never braved a State College winter, smuggled a chicken cosmo out of a dining hall, pulled an all-nighter at the Diner, listened to reggae on the HUB lawn or felt a deep loss when it was announced that elms couldn’t be saved. You may know how the phrase “We Are” came to be, but you will never understand what it means.

WE ARE the millions who loved our coach, not because we were blinded by football fever, but because we looked beyond the football field. WE saw the millions of dollars the Paterno family gave to academic projects. WE saw the “Grand Experiment” become institution-wide, with academic honors and graduation rates for all Nittany Lion athletes exceding those of the general student population at nearly every major university. WE saw Ki-Jana Carter lose a Heisman and our team lose rankings because Joe refused to run up the score against our opponents and because he called you out on your inane questions and the many times you misquoted him or took his words out of context.

WE ARE appalled by your characterization of our football program and its staff as “win-at-all-costs.” WE supported them during the lean years at the beginning of the last decade when you were calling for JoePa‘s head. WE saw a program that continued to garner blue-chip recruits without promising them early starts and while making it clear to them that they would be held to a higher standard of academic performance and personal conduct than their counterparts at other top programs. WE saw that staff pass on some extremely talented players who were unwilling to do it The Penn State Way. WE saw our star receiver dismissed before a bowl game for skipping class. WE knew the bye weeks were important to our coach because he wanted to give his players time off to study for midterms, even with the Michigan game coming up.

WE ARE the ones who endured years of barbs about our coach’s age. WE heard you call him senile, say the game had passed him by, he has lost control, he is out of touch. And now WE hear you call him the mastermind of a criminal coverup that fooled everyone for years on end. WE know that Sandusky‘s hasn’t had an office right down the hall from Joe for thirteen years. We know that “liability” is more likely to refer to bodily injury than risk of molestation. WE have read the Freeh report in its entirety and have used the skills WE honed at Penn State to critically examine the “evidence.”

WE ARE, WE always will be, and WE will never allow you to define us.


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