Have you ever reacted too quickly to something? Made a bad call, a poor judgment on limited info? Maybe you believed that girl when she said those bumps around her labia were just “razor burn.” Maybe you picked up a five-dollar bill that was covered in poop. Or maybe, just maybe, you believed an octogenarian college football coach was a victim of difficult and outrageous circumstances. Maybe you believed that the face of your beloved university couldn’t possibly make the unconscionable decision that many accused him of. Maybe you wrote an article defending him on a sports website. You did? So did I. God, we’re such idiots. Ha ha. That’s SO us! Let’s get brunch.
But first, let’s set a baseline of an argument here: We were wrong. Joe Paterno actively fell short of saving the emotional lives of several young boys and then lied about it (I won’t even mention the other administrators involved. No one cares about them and they’re effectively f*cked anyway). The key word here is “actively” because, as evidenced by drummed up old email, this wasn’t a crime of indecision. A decision WAS made and then he lied to a Grand Jury about it; claiming he never had knowledge of the situation. And the lie is what gives away the man - it indicates that he knew what he had done was wrong. Are we all in agreement here? If not, then do something no one in our generation has ever done in the history of the Internet: stop reading something you know will piss you off. We disagree; end of argument. Nobody reads your comments anyway (except me, and they hurt so much).
Still with me? Cool. Then let’s get to it. A couple days ago, Howard Bryant (when he’s not busy being HILARIOUS) wrote in a pretty good article on ESPN that Penn State had “lost its fictionalized version of itself.” Here’s the problem (and the focus of this article, which is criminally lacking in total bikini babes): we haven’t. At least not according to any alums on Facebook, or Twitter, or Ashley Madison, or any that I’ve talked to or emailed. From what I can tell, everyone is still pretty convinced that Penn State - MY beloved alma mater - is just THE BEST U GUYZ. As evidence, here’s a couple choice Facebook posts from the past couple days:
“PSU Athletic is more than just pandering to Jocks (followed by a link to a column, “Joe Paterno’s Payback? Penn State is #1 in New Academic Ranking”)
“WE ARE.... STILL BETTER THAN YOU!”
Penn State Still Rules Bonertown (I have a clause in my contract with BroBible that the word “Bonertown” be in each column a certain amount of times. This one is fake)
Penn St. received more than $208M in donations in last fiscal year despite scandal; 2nd most ever
Now, I’m a simple, old-fashioned, jam-on-my-toast kind of guy, but if Penn State is about having “no name on your jersey” then this internet-chest-puffing is like taking those jerseys and labeling them with Christmas lights. I think when the leadership of your school decides to cover up the rape of young boys by a sociopath, maybe we’ve lost the right to call our school “better”; at least keep it off a public forum because of, you know, some decency for sh*t’s sake. Perhaps your personal experience was exceptional (as was mine), but our school wasn’t “better.” In fact, our school (and more specifically the football team) - if measured on quality of leadership or principled action - was pretty terrible.
I’m not trying to attack Penn State or pile on; and I know the tendency in this Internet-Age of faceless (read: totally pussy) commenting tempts us to be on the defensive. But what I want is just for everyone to take a few minutes and think about how we got here. Calm, reflective thought and discourse; that’s actually never happened on the Internet. Let’s try it; and let’s do our alma mater the best service of all, and shut our friggin’ cake-holes (except for this miraculous essay), and take our licks with dignity and grace. So let’s all stop posting about the graduation rate of the football team under Paterno; it became a moot point when the guy turned his back to child-rape, don’t you think? And I KNOW you don’t agree with the NCAA sanctions; I KNOW it ends up targeting and punishing people who had nothing to do with this; But remember that the NCAA is only dealing with the reality that JoePa and his buddies created. When leaders of organizations fail, then organizations - and their members - suffer. Collateral damage is an unfortunate reality of necessary punishment. Wars kill civilians, failing companies fire employees, and you lose your football Saturdays. Bummer, guys. It’s a tough world. JoePa giveth; JoePa taketh away.
This weekend I’m heading to a wedding where a ton of Penn State grads will be in attendance - I can’t wait, they’re old friends, all of ‘em. But we’re not friends because of Penn State, we’re friends that happened to have the backdrop of Penn State. I like to think we’re not defined by our college, that it’s just a part of the vast equation. And so the chant goes, “We Are...Penn State!” but that’s a little simple isn’t it? Aren’t we more than that? Putting people or organizations on unrealistic pedestals is what got us here in the first place. Let’s ditch the fictionalized version of ourselves and the internet cheerleading and see that there are things bigger than schools, bigger than football. I think everyone around you will appreciate it. Or, post how much better you are than everyone else on facebook and see how quickly that improves Penn State’s reputation. Unless you got some killer Spring Break ‘09 pics, I’m unsubscribing.
Jared Freid is a New York City-based comedian and PSU Alum. You can follow him on Twitter @jtrain56 for videos, columns, and plenty of penis jokes.