July 24, 2012

The cult of Joepa...

"Against a Brick Wall"

My name is Kathy, and if the media is to be believed, I am completely brainwashed by the cult of Joepa and Penn State Football.  Like the Scarecrow "If I only had a brain".  I flourish by praying to a false idol named Joepa (who somehow has become the lightening rod to all who hate Penn State, and who's statue has been torn down and unceremoniously dumped into a storage bin in the bowels of Beaver Stadium).  And I DO love imbibing my blue and white Kool-Aid...spiked with Vodka for tailgating of course.  These past few weeks have been very hard to keep my mouth shut.  Sometimes I've succeeded, others I have not. It's tough feeling you need to "apologize" all the time for being a Penn Stater, something I take great pride in.  Metaphorically my back is against a brick wall.  Not a good place to be, because my only recourse is to come out swinging.  Living under a seige mentality is stressful.

But that isn't what I want to do.  What I WANT to do is to say I'm so sorry to those victims.  I still can't believe all that has been reported about the sex abuse and subsequent cover-up at the highest levels of Penn State.  I can't wrap my brain around the fact that innocent kids were so blatantly abused in the first place, and that so many people turned their backs instead of stopping it.  I HATE that this happened.  I HATE that it happened anywhere, let alone my beloved Penn State.  But I also HATE that we are all being lumped together in the media as having no brain of our own.  And I HATE the fact that unless you are a Penn Stater...I don't think you can truly relate, so trying to explain comes off as condoning child abuse to many outsiders.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

"Sunset on the House that Joe Built"

"It's just football".  I have heard so many acquaintances say this.  And I use the word "acquaintance" because if you were truly my FRIEND...you would know better than to say this to moi. On the surface yes, football is JUST a game. But it is so much more in my life.  Is it more important than the welfare of children?  ABSOLUTELY NOT.  But quite honestly...Penn State football guided the course of my life.   My future was set in motion when I was in 8th grade and saw a Penn State Nittany Lion football game being broadcast (in black and white) on tv.  There was just something about that scene I saw unfolding in front of me...the excitement, the sense of community, the PRIDE.  I knew right then and there that when the time came...I would be a Penn State Nittany Lion.  I never even considered another college after that game. And I wore my 1970's "Sh*t on Pitt" shirt with pride....oh yeah, AND to irritate my dad.


Just football.  It's where it all started but it morphed into so much more.  From that initial seed I met the Better Half.  Made life-long friends.  Received a top-notch education.  Took my very first photography course.  And thanks to Joepa and his teams my life proceeded down a path where Penn State took hold and flourished, football AND beyond...

"Things #1 and #2"

I was blessed with three "Things" who also came to love Penn State.  Two are Penn State grads.  One a Penn State varsity athlete and further continued his education at the Penn State Law School.  One a part of the country's largest collegiate philanthropic fundraiser...THON, which benefits childhood cancer research.  BOTH received excellent educations and I am proud to say in this economy BOTH are gainfully employed.  Will Thing #3 follow to Penn State?  As with all my Things...it's totally her choice. But never underestimate the ties of a shared past and experiences.  And yes, Penn State football has bound us all together.  We are football season ticket holders, and I consider tail-gating and laughing a legitimate fall sport in our household.

Not only are we season ticket holders, but we are also part of the community as we now own a second home in what we once considered "Happy Valley".  It is anything BUT that right now.  No matter what your opinion is of Penn State, Penn State football, or Joe Paterno...personally I have so much to thank them for.  But I'm not so blind as I'm also saddened, dismayed and yes...downright disgusted as to what HAS transpired.

"He Walks Alone"

It's very difficult to be "Penn State Proud" at the moment.  It's also very difficult to turn my back completely on an institution, a sport, and a man who have given me so much joy in both my life and that of my family.  I am confident there is a special place in hell (and prison) for pedophiles like former coach Jerry Sandusky.  But here comes the unpopular part...I can't help but feel sorrow for Joe Paterno and his family.  To see his life's work as a coach, educator and philanthropist be decimated one piece at a time...when he is not here to defend himself breaks my heart.  I won't apologize for my feelings of empathy. Joepa was no saint, and he would be the first to tell you that himself.  But he most definetly isn't the Devil either.  There are just too many lives he's touched and bettered that vouch for that fact.

Some days it is easier being a Penn Stater than others.  That's life.  Dealing with the good and the bad.  To recognize what is in front of you and not be fooled by either blind loyalty OR what the media wants you to see.  To formulate your own opinions and to have empathy for those who might have different life experiences and view things from another perspective.   Yes, I can attribute my Penn State education for that perspective too.

I guess what it comes down to is Penn State will always be a part of me.  It is family.  And just like family, sometimes it disappoints you, hurts you, and does things that truly boggle your mind.  But just like family you will always love it despite the disappointment. What is important is that we learn from it and move forward...perhaps even a tighter familial unit than we were before because of our shared difficulties.

"Always In My  Heart"

Penn State will always hold a piece of my heart.  And if THAT is the criteria for membership into the "Cult of Joepa"... then please mail me my membership card.  I'd rather have that, then an AARP card anyway.

What started as "just football",  has become so much more.

WE ARE (and always WILL be)...PENN STATE,


linked to:

NADA (just needed to express an opinion)


  1. Kathy, this was a beautiful beautiful post! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on all that has been going on in Penn State

  2. These things are so, so, so complicated - just (as you so poignantly expressed) like any family is complicated. And "things today" just tend to get so overly simplified....so they can satisfy a 30 second news sound bite or a 240 character tweet. And there is NADA - naught - nothing about this that is short or sweet! I was surprised by reaction to the rulings that came down yesterday...I immediately felt like more kids were being punished/hurt as a result of the ruling. Not that I know what they could do to send a message to the school without hurting more kids...but geesh. We all know without having to restate it that the crime and coverup were tragic and without excuse. And institutions do need to learn that putting $$ above people will always have consequences. And this is what I believe - it was the $$ that was prioritized...not really the football. Except that it's the football that makes them the money. I'm so sure that so much more good has been done through this program than bad (even though I've never even been to Penn State and am not particularly a college football fan!)...but that's just how I tend to see things. Multiply what you and your family have experienced by thousands and thousands and there's your answer. And this 'sound bite' world we live in misses each and everyone of those back stories. Loved the piece and that you've put your heart out there!

  3. This is the most poignant and powerful expression of the Penn State situation I've read...Kathy, I completely understand your position here. I feel so badly for the Penn State students and alumni who must deal with all that this has brought them. Beautifully put!! Your honest emotions are real and from the heart.

  4. Kathy...I wondered if you'd write about the happenings at Penn State and you've certainly penned a thoughtful, from the heart post. Although I'm a Buckeye through and through, I have great respect for coaches and teams who strive for excellence on the field and off. Paterno was a man to be respected and although the shine has become tarnished,not everyone across state lines celebrates his downfall or the trials facing Penn State.

    I agree with Adrienne, this is such a complicated matter. Unfortunately, the fine levied against Penn State hurts not only the football team,but every sport at Penn State. Football is the cash cow that helps support lesser known and attended sports. So the fingers of fines reach out to hundreds of athletes.

    Paterno was treated in a most undignified manner and I too have sympathy for his family. Let's hope universities everywhere have learned a valuable lesson from the Penn State tragedy...people must always come first, especially children.

    Poignant and wonderfully written.

  5. ~~~Kathy,
    Excellent Points.

    It's about the pediphiles and the people who turned their backs, I agree...

    It should not be about PENN STATE.

    You deserve to be proud of this institution as a whole...but not of the behaviour.

    Great Post. Superb writing.

  6. I agree with you Kathy. The sanctions were too harsh to the players and fans. I understand that some need to be punished for their actions or lack thereof, But what did the current football players do? They can't play in a bowl game, they get their scholarships taken away? The past players games don't count? Joepa as a coach is erased. It is a terrible situation on so many levels.

  7. Bravo! This should be a public service announcement or something like that. Send it to the newspaper.

  8. I can totally relate to your point of view. Joepa's legacy should not be erased because this mess. I understand something had to be done to send a message that behavior of this sort will not be tolerated. However, I believe the NCCA went too far in the passing down of the consequences.

  9. Great post. Well explained from a college football (Penn state) lover & alumni point of view! I don't feel he same way b/c I am not a college football person - so to me it doesn't mean much other than the fact that many many victims and their familie's lives have been ruined b/c they were abused and covered up for many years. What makes me angry is the fact that many 'others' in the organization clearly knew about what was going on - I mean come on - of course they did but no one wanted to be the whistle blower. So turn a blind eye and football goes on. It is sad that Joe Paterno is getting the shame and finger pointing now that he is gone and can't defend himself. I do not feel he is all to blame - there are many many others that covered this up. I am also not so sure that stripping Penn state of its football championships is the way to go either. What lesson does that teach? I am sure we don't have all the facts... and never will.... but no matter what, the victims will always be what they are - victims. And sadly that sick disgusting man Jerry Sandusky will probably die in jail with zero remorse.

  10. So glad you wrote and that I read. Having lived in PA for 15 years-I've seen and worked with the avid Penn Staters who each weekend rolled to State College in RVs. A tradition. About 5 years ago I stopped watching/listening/reading all news. I can't stand the way the media takes a story and drills it, drills it, drills it into people's homes until everybody is a damn expert on what happened-only they're not. They're experts on what the media wants them to know-which surely isn't the whole story, but more so a spin on the story and the end results of trade-offs hatched in backroom deals.
    Child abuse, rape, domestic abuse-the ruining of lives. I'm tired of the old boy network that seems to cast eyes aside and let these ruthless acts go on as if they don't really leave permanant scars.
    Joepa-hard to see a man go down, as you said, without him being able to defend himself. No one will ever know what really happened there. He was certainly an icon, but seemed to be a humble one, from what I saw. I understand how you can stay devoted to what Penn State means. Let's just hope Joepa was a better soul than the one he's been portrayed to be. Easy for others to pass on to someone who is no longer around.
    I hope the Nittany Lions will persevere and rise above. Of course they will. Hugs Kathy.

  11. Oh Kathy, not sure where to start but to say that this was a brilliant read! Unfortunately some people like the negativity bandwagon and will ride it for as long as the wagon has wheels. You have every right to be proud of Penn State and should not have to apologize for the happenings there. Bad things happen to good people and good people make bad choices and we are all guilty parties to both. But what people fail to see in this life is that when something bad happens there is still so much good. We cannot as individuals, a nation, a world or as humanity be defined by few things but instead as a whole. Because judgement is not our job and always comes full circle to bite one's back side.

    I'm sorry you feel your back is against a brick wall and have the utmost empathy for what you must be going through. I am not a Penn-stater, but I do understand and appreciate what "just football" means to my family and my son. So much so, that it's being counted down in our household as I speak . . . 30 days, 4 hours, 18 minutes and 40 seconds!! Hugs to you my friend, Kim

  12. So very profound Kathy....I can tell your words are feelings that run to the very depth of your core...You have such a brilliant smile

  13. I'm so sorry Kathy for the hurt you are feeling. Being that I am from another country I am not as up to date on the developments as you so i can't report on fact. But what I can report on is my knowledge in life about the effect of tragedies - the rippling effect is devastating , beyond devastating. I'm sorry that you, as an innocent victim is going through so much internal churning.