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How Much Does a Name Really Matter?

Last night, at approximately 7:50 p.m., the then Paternoville Coordination Committee announced through a press release that the name of the tent village set up outside of Beaver Stadium in weeks leading up to home football games had been changed to Nittanyville. The release was 402 words long, but most people evidently stopped reading long before that.

The officially-recognized student group that manages the encampment of Penn State students outside Beaver Stadium for home football games has changed its name to “Nittanyville.”

Those are the first twenty five words. That one sentence is the reason why the press release existed in the first place, but it is by no means the most vital.

Fast forward to words 305-348.

Throughout the 2012 football season, to raise awareness of child sexual abuse, students at the encampment will donate a portion of the proceeds from their fundraising efforts to the newly established Center for the Protection of Children, based at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.

Followed by:

“It is important that we continue to do all we can to raise sexual abuse awareness,” said vice president Jeff Lowe, “not just because of our connections to this scandal as Penn Staters, but because of its importance in our efforts as people to help make the world we live in a better place.”

There you have it. Acknowledging the need to fight sexual abuse took up 24.4% of a statement, but some of you missed it because you only read the first 25 words, or worse, saw a headline and immediately took to the Internet to bash the decision made by the Nittanyville leaders.

What’s in a name and how much does it really matter? If you ask some people who commented on the Nittanyvile Facebook page, it matters a tad too much for our own good. Below is a sampling of some of the more asinine comments that have been posted since the decision was made:

“dislike, don’t even bother showing up for games” 

“Paternoville is officially dead. Dont be upset when 3 people show up at the first game and it goes downhill from there.”

“WOW. What an embarrassment the students have become. You should just forget all of it and stay home.”

“You should just disband and not disgrace the name of Joe Pa, you are an embarrassment to the community”

 “As a proud PSU alum and a mother of four current Penn Staters I am horrified by this decision. Very ashamed.”

“For those “students” who decided to change the name on what i am sure was pressure from the likes of ESPN, We have one word for you. COWARDS”

“Dislike. Bad move. Like everyone else, you turn tail and run. Just disband your organization immediately”

Someone even decided to create a “What The Hell is a Nittanyville” page upon hearing the news.

I’m not going to attach names to these comments to give you extra recognition. You should be embarrassed enough as is.

Since November, we have often been mad at national media for missing the bigger picture of the scandal and only focusing on Paterno. We fell victim to exactly that last night and gave hacks and haters exactly what they wanted with some of these outlandish reactions.

I am not what you would call a regular camper but like to think that I’ve been around it enough to understand what goes on. Throughout my first three years as a student, the only time I did Paternoville was leading up to the Alabama game last fall. I had visited several times before but made the decision to camp out that week with full knowledge that Penn State was heavy underdogs to a powerhouse Crimson Tide squad. It had nothing to do with Joe Paterno. It had everything to do with good friends, camaraderie, ordering pizza and playing trashcan football at 1 a.m,, and singing songs that made fun of Ohio State, Michigan, and Charlie Weis.

My favorite moment from that week remains talking to an Alabama fan in his mid- fifties wearing a Bear Bryant hat. The conversation began around 1 a.m. on Saturday morning and lasted over three hours. It’s not about one person, but the collective spirit of everyone involved.

That’s something the ten officers know all about. They camp out for every home game and also manage the huge logistical undertaking that is required to make sure things run smoothly. If I trust anyone to make this decision, it’s them. Two of those leaders even spoke with Jay Paterno, so the family was not blind-sided by this decision.

In a perfect world, the January statement would have remained true, and this would have never happened, but if the last eight and a half months have taught us anything, the world and people who inhabit it are not perfect.

Many individuals have attempted to poke major holes in Louis Freeh’s investigative report. Try as they might, there is evidence contained in that 267 page document that is at the very least contradictory to previous statements made by Paterno, and at the most, makes him a malicious monster in part of a coverup.

Stop and think for a second. Would the Paterno that many of us thought we knew have even liked the name “Paternoville” or would he have scoffed at people for giving him attention rather than focusing a university and its student athletes?

Camping out was not a novel concept a decade ago. The actual act preceded the name “Paternoville” for several years during the Paterno era. Then, on Sunday October 2, 2005, a group of students decided that they wanted front row seats to make life miserable for Troy Smith and sixth ranked Ohio State and were willing to camp out for a full week if that’s what it took. They were successful in a win that put the program back on the national map.  Midway through that week, the tent city was first recognized as “Paternoville.” From there, it slowly began to grow into what current students are accustomed to.

The more I think about it, last night reminded me a lot of January 5th when rumors started swirling that Bill O’Bren would be the next head football coach at Penn State. Knee jerk reactions spread like wildfire just as they did here. O’Brien has not coached a game yet, but I think many people — myself included — would probably like to retract some of our thoughts from that winter night. Hopefully some of you will want to take back parts of what you expressed last night.

Consider this a warning and perhaps a mulligan. No one knows what could follow. It could be an ice cream flavor, a statue, even the name of a library. It could be none of the above, but if it is something, the world will be watching. Shocking news sometimes leads to impulsive reactions making people do unimaginable things, but responding rationally to events will make Penn State look much better than last night when overreactions overshadowed a courageous and proactive decision by a group of students.

No one is making you erase the good that Paterno did from your memory, but one can express a different opinion without resorting to childish name-calling and finger pointing.

When hundreds of tents set up camp outside of Gate A, the inhabitants do so not to watch Paterno State University but rather the Penn State Nittany Lions. You showed up after Paterno was fired in November, and you’ll show up this fall to Nittanyville. Those who put that much stock into the name lost track of the bigger picture at some point or failed to grasp it in the first place.

There are many large scale problems to be concerned about right now. This decision is in the past and is not one of them. Get over yourselves and find something relevant to complain about.

A name does not really matter that much.

About the Author

Drew Balis

Drew is a senior marketing major. This fall, he will be covering Penn State Football for Onward State. He is a huge Philadelphia sports fan and loves THON and Domonic Brown.

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