The Calm Between Storms
Starting last Friday morning, I read many comments and stories from Penn State fans saying that the day marked the beginning of the rest of their lives. While I have not yet generated my own phrase to describe a post-Joe Paterno world, I do believe this time can serve as a period of quietness after 83 days of chaos.
One of the challenges when news of the scandal broke was attempting to compartmentalize the different issues that were under the microscope in order to have a clearer picture and avoid logical fallacies that were frequently introduced into discussions. As a quick refresher, the main topics were:
- Jerry Sandusky
- Tim Curley and Gary Schultz
- The Board of Trustees
- Graham Spanier
- Rodney Erickson
- Joe Paterno
- David Joyner
- The Coaching Search
Some of these topics are a bit more mutually exclusive than others; however, one can see a bit of a chain reaction going from top to bottom. First, Jerry Sandusky was arrested on allegations of sexual abuse and child molestation. Then the next day, Curley and Schultz were charged with perjury after their grand jury testimony is found to not be credible. These allegations threw an unprepared Board of Trustees into a frenzied panic which ultimately led to the firing of Joe Paterno, after they believed he did not fulfill his moral obligation back in 2002. President Graham Spanier was also forced to resign. Rodney Erickson assumed Spanier’s position as president of the university, and Paterno’s dismissal ultimately led to a coaching search, led by acting athletic director David Joyner–the first search in almost half a century in Happy Valley.
In the midst of all this, there were riots, social media meltdowns, football games, and candlelight vigils. Many lives were altered forever, and students became extremely distracted. Everyone reacted differently. Some were ready to move on right away, but for others, the pain lingered. A few students who have had an active role covering different parts of the scandal told me that at times they felt as if they were no longer going to school and that this was consuming their life.
Before last Thursday’s memorial, I was doing an interview with an independent filmmaker and inquired how long it would take to set up to see if I had time to eat. She looked at me, smiled, and said, “Is this what your life has been like during the past two months?” I nodded my head and cracked a half smile in return.
A few hours later, a surreal memorial service concluded, and when the immediate emotional aftermath wore off, things seemed peaceful for the first time in over 80 days. Joe Paterno was at peace, safe from some individuals who had treated him so poorly in the final months of his life. Penn State has a new football coach in Bill O’Brien, even if he is not actually present in State College yet. The Board of Trustees will have elections in a few months, but for now, they’re out of the spotlight. Sandusky has requested permission to interact with his grandchildren, but neither his trial nor the trial for Curley and Schultz is expected to begin until this summer.
Happy Valley may never be the same, but at the moment, it is as peaceful as it has been since the first few days of November. Unfortunately there is still no closure or justice for Sandusky’s victims — that will have to wait for now.
This respite from all the excitement and chaos and emotional outpouring is so sorely needed. Perhaps it’s almost poetic that it snowed Sunday night. In literature, a fresh coat of snow represents a new start, the pure whiteness meaning that we have a blank canvas to build upon. That is an opportunity we need to seize.