Penn State and JoePa

As a Penn State alumn and someone who currently lives in State College, I may have a different perspective on the events of the past few weeks than some.  I personally witnessed the riots that took place after JoePa was fired.  Here’s a photo I snapped of the overturned news van sitting on College Ave just across from Urban Outfitters.

There are a few things that should be cleared up though.  A lot of people in the media have vilified Penn State students for their handling of this.  They ask “where was the riot for the victims?”  Anyone who would ask that has no idea what Joe Paterno has meant for this community for the past several decades.  It’s not like the students forgot about those victims.  Look at the turnout at the candle-light vigil about 2 nights later for proof of that.  But this riot was about what they saw as an injustice that was being made against a man who was a fatherly figure, a man who has gone out of his way throughout his life to do the right thing in so many instances.  It is why TV specials were made about him, why books were written about him, and why he was looked up to as the model of what coaches should be about.

His handling of the Sandusky situation, however, has put a cloud over all of that.  I am personally holding my judgement until we know more.  That is more than can be said about the media and much of the public though, who have already made their judgement that he is to blame here.  While the actual crimes against children were made by Sandusky, the media coverage would go for tens of minutes before they even mention his name, instead choosing to latch onto the public face of the University, who is only indirectly involved.

The riots were directly caused by this, and the resulting firing of Joe because of the external pressure to do so.  They were directed towards the media for their handling of the situation, their targeting Joe when Sandusky was the real villain, and when Joe was fired it all came to a head.  I was there, snapping up photos and reporting back through social media what I saw.  There were a few knuckleheads who were climbing up on light poles, breaking a few down, and tipping over that news van, but the vast majority of people were just there peacefully chanting three main themes:

1. Unwavering hatred towards Sandusky, over and over again.

2. Support of Joe Paterno, who was fired based on his proximity to these allegations.

3. Vitriol against the media, for putting their hero in that position, as they saw it, unfairly.

The series of events that occurred in 2003 will eventually come to light in great detail, and only then will we have enough understanding of what each party knew to make a rational judgement.

Regardless of the outcome of the current investigation, the damage has been done.  If those kids were in fact victimized it’s a tragedy.  The most rock-solid reputation in sports has been cracked, and a proud University has had its name tarnished.

Penn State’s Osama bin Laden “Riot”

Last night my girlfriend and I were watching some foreign horror and afterwards I quickly hopped on while she went to get a drink or something.  Of course, the news that Osama bin Laden had recently been killed was all over.  A quick look at facebook had a number of mentions that Penn State was “rioting” over it.

I’ve been to a couple Penn State riots.  Usually they involve a lot of drunk people being destructive until cops on horseback come and force people to leave, sometimes macing everybody until they disperse.

We decided to go check this out though.  I drove down to College Ave which was relatively peaceful and found a parking spot.  But once we started walking towards Beaver Ave you could hear the roar and buzz of a huge crowd.

Thousands and thousands of Penn State students and State College residents were crowding the street.  The police had given up on trying to stop it and had road blocks to reroute traffic around the street.  In general the people were in a happy, celebratory mood.  There was no fighting or anything, although there were people climbing on things.  The street lights and the occasional tree were filled with kids.  And people were being crowd surfed down the length of the enormous crowd.  This included a guy dressed as Captain America and a guy wearing an all blue vinyl suit (ala Green Man).

The best parts were when the entire crowd would spontaneously start singing the Star Spangled Banner. This happened more than once, including one time when a guy on one of the balconies pulled out an alto sax and began blasting out the song while everybody joined in and sang. Pretty cool.

Overall, the mood was happy. I didn’t see anybody that was obviously drunk (finals DO start this week after all) and people weren’t being rowdy or destructive. I mean apart from the rolls of toilet paper that were constantly being flung around the crowd.

There were some fireworks being shot off, and I saw a kid walking around with a lit Lady Liberty torch. And a cheerleader did a backflip over a fire in the street…

I’m glad I checked it out for myself.