Mid-Season Report: How the Sandusky Incident Will Affect the Team
Penn State and Jerry Sandusky. For the foreseeable future, those two names will go hand in hand. The Sandusky story will lead every Penn State football game, questions about Joe Paterno’s involvement will dominate every television broadcast, and this football season will forever be remembered for what happened off the field.
The biggest questions for the Penn State football team this week will be about distractions. Will the team be able to ignore the scandal? Should they ignore it? Will it be possible to focus wholly on the Nebraska game on Saturday when Paterno and Mike McQueary are directly involved with the situation?
I think that the answers to all of those questions is “yes.”
And what choice does the team have but to ignore the Sandusky situation? Too much is on the line right now for a team vying for a spot in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game. Penn State probably needs two more wins to earn that spot, and it won’t be easy to get them. After senior day on Saturday against Nebraska, the Nittany Lions will hit the road to face Ohio State and Wisconsin.
It will be hard enough for Penn State to win two more games this season. So, the Nittany Lions should not, and probably will not, allow a scandal of even this magnitude to affect their play on the field. It’s not as if any players on the team are directly involved with either the scandal or the investigation.
The media will not have its full attention on the game on Saturday. The Sandusky incident is just too big of a story–but that shouldn’t affect the team. The fans are arguing about Paterno’s moral versus legal obligations and whether or not to sing the alma mater on Saturday–but that shouldn’t affect the team either. Paterno will probably be distracted as well, but most people don’t think he has that big of an effect on the team anyway.
So, for a few hours on Saturday, let us celebrate the purpose of football, and sports in general, for what it is: escapist entertainment. For a few hours, follow the example of the football team and forget Sandusky and the black mark he has left on Penn State. Forget Tim Curley and Gary Schultz and their alleged cover-up of the incident. For a few hours on Saturday, just cheer on the 20 Penn State football players who will be playing their final game at Beaver Stadium. Revel in the American spectacle that is a bunch of grown men hitting each other as hard as possible while trying to get an oblong ball into an end zone.
Before the season began, I predicted that Penn State would finish 8-4. I said that after starting the season 8-1, the Nittany Lions would lose their final three games. The Sandusky incident has not changed my mind. The Penn State football team could very well lose its final three games, but it will not be due to off-the-field distractions.
So, how will the Sandusky incident affect the Penn State football team? Whether the Nittany Lions win or lose on Saturday, the answer will be “not at all.” And, for a few hours on Saturday, I hope that the Penn State-Nebraska game distracts us all from an incident that will distract us for quite a while.