Community Content: Christmas in State College

by Eric Porterfield

This post was submitted by a member of the community. You can have your content published on Onward State by submitting it here.

Last night at approximately five o’clock, my wife and I got our Christmas tree into its stand and opened the box of lights I had neurotically put away last year so they would not be tangled when I took them out this year. Two hours later, I poured myself a bourbon, threw the tangle of lights in the trash and an hour later found myself in Walmart. Thirty-nine dollars worth of new lights was all it cost to resolve the vexing frustration brought on by my supposedly well-organized Christmas lights.

And with that, a new Christmas tradition in the Porterfield home commenced: henceforth, Christmas tree lights will join the tree curbside for the recycle man on January 2. So much for my wallet and the environment. Sadly, this logic is not applicable in all situations that confound and frustrate. For instance, during the last three years, The Porterfield Group has spent thousands of hours working to untangle the web of facts and fiction known as The Sandusky Scandal. Needless-to-say, its been a frustrating three years.

Who else has suffered through this story as it slowly vindicated some and now suggests how others have “used” the situation for nefarious and/or selfish reasons?

Not Sarah Ganim. She abandoned her quest for the truth once she scored a regional Pulitzer and joined journalism’s House of Cards, a.k.a. CNN. Ms. Ganim’s reporting has long looked short-in-the-teeth relative and surprisingly self-satisfied in light of disturbing new facts. Perhaps it is just CNN keeping her from cannibalizing their reporting or making Piers Morgan look legit, but I doubt it.

Not Louis Freeh. Here we have a man so enthralled by his lack of investigative prowess that he maligned his own client as he ran up a $6M bill for work a Keebler elf could have done in a week. Perhaps Freeh, more than any other “player,” underscores the role of greed associated with the kind of quick political and social justice commonly formed in the back rooms of our conscience and board rooms.

Not the NCAA. Led by Mark Emmert, the NCAA believed that its broken moral compass could quickly reset to True North by smearing one of the most honorable men in sports history, proving yet again that the mastermind of such a theory, Mark Emmert, is the perfect person to run the NCAA — into the ground.

Not a single, so-called legitimate news outlet. From The Washington Post and ESPN, to the Editor-Living-in-My-Parents-Basement inspired bloggers and Howard Stern, the field once known as “journalism” (or “news reporting”) has been reduced to an industry of great hairdos residing atop empty shells capable of reading teleprompters. When intellectual luminaries such as Al Sharpton, Stephen A. Smith, and Rick Reilly start lecturing us on the morality and culture of Penn State and Joe Paterno, you know it is time to start watching reruns of “Love Boat” for relationship advice.

Not the Penn State Board of Trustees. Perhaps the most hapless group of “power brokers” since executives at Nickelodeon cancelled “Ren and Stimpy,” Penn State’s entire 2011 leadership group must be direct descendants of PT Barnum. Believing that there “is a sucker born every minute” is not a sentiment they should so publicly endorse and promote to 600,000 graduates of their university while coming up with such dandies as “Penn State Lives Here”.

Not investigators of The Second Mile (TSM). You know, for a prosecutor, there can be no better feeling than the one you get when you know you have done absolutely nothing to crack a case and you are carrying that “cold case” marked box into cold storage. That’s got to be an awesome feeling. Especially when abuse of children is the focus. What is it about TSM that causes the PA AG’s office to pretend there is no reasonable connection between various events surrounding the Sandusky scandal, Penn State and the BoT?

Not the governor nor his two Attorney Generals. Let’s face it. Corbett hated Spanier. He hated Penn State. He hated anyone who was smarter than he was (see “Election 2014”). In the minds of Corbett’s handlers, getting rid of Paterno and Spanier was one of many ways to keep the truth in a bottle and teach Penn State a lesson all at the same time. Which begs the question, what did his “handlers” really want out of this?

I have learned a great deal from the Sandusky story over the past three years. The highlights/lowlights include:

1. Media and journalistic “posers” have no interest in the truth when it stands in the way of a dollar. The business of the news is just that. It has become an industry corrupted by “first to report” and “worst to report” standards, and there is no legal or ethical disposition to change that way of thinking.

2. The advent of “reality TV” marked the end of any division between truth and fiction for mass media outlets. The fact that “reality TV” is staged is easily dismissed as Americans gorge themselves on pathetic cult cultures that quickly ruin the lives of their “stars,” and are even quicker to rebuild them in freakish tabloids announcing their personal implosion.

3. Dr. Jonathan Gruber of MIT recently shot to fame by being honest. (Which is why CNN, ABC, NBC and CBS elected not to cover his story.) As a self-declared architect of parts of Obamacare, Gruber explained in numerous video recordings how it took the stupidity of Americans and a non-transparent White House to convince Congress to pass The Affordable Care Act. This underscores another amazing fact: once fooled, we don’t like to hear about how or why we were fooled. Even if it means we really do look stupid. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on you.” Thanks to Mr. Gruber, we all can rest easy in knowing we still don’t know what is in the ACA bill. And we still don’t care.

4. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely,” is the most accurate quote of our time. And I am not talking about Wall Street here. I am talking about every person in America that exploits our free society through dishonest discourse, making bribery, threat, or legal persuasion and/or force an acceptable ingredient of “success”.

5. Being PC for being PC’s sake should be seen for what it is. “Indifference.” Because if the public outcry on behalf of those abused by Sandusky results largely in a false narrative regarding Penn State’s “cultural problem” and the reckless firing of Joe Paterno (which it has), then no one should be surprised when the focus moves off the victims of child abuse and onto the foolish rush to judgment perpetuated by the media. In short, it’s time this nation stop “fashion rallying” if they cannot ably answer what the rallying is really about.

Which brings me back to those tangled Christmas lights.

The untangling of the Jerry Sandusky story will probably never happen in a way that is satisfactory to all truth-seeking parties. Why? Because those that are intent in shifting the focus away from the truth, lying to our face and openly disinterested in the common good have spent their lives perfecting behaviors which serve only one person: themselves.

At some point, their lies simply morph between the brain and the tongue into some new version of the truth that they spew all over us – spitting out a tangle of logic and words poor us can hardly understand.

Like the many knots in an otherwise perfect string of Christmas lights, the lies in the Sandusky story are now relics of lazy indifference. It’s sad, indeed, that nearly everyone now agrees, the fate Paterno got was a fate he did not deserve. Frank Fina said inasmuch. Corbett has now said that. Bob Costas has admitted that.

But many of you have not admitted ever being wrong. With even more evidence on the table to release Paterno from the sad picture you helped paint, you haven’t the guts nor moral fabric to help the rest of us untangle this sad and confusing mess on behalf of this university or Joe Paterno. You know who you are. And your shame should be self-evident, but I am sure it is not.

Yes, throwing perfectly good Christmas lights out because they won’t bend to my will is childish, but I am too tired to untangle anything else at the moment. But what if I did? What if I untangled them all and got them on the tree, their brilliant illumination inspiring Christmas joy for a few weeks? Who would care?

I suppose I will try again tonight — to untangle those lights. Not to be politically or environmentally correct, but simply because I can. I can untangle a bundle of lights and tell my wife, kids and step kids, “You see those lights? Those lights were as tangled as Santa’s beard on the 26th of December, but I untangled them. And it only took me six hours. Now enjoy them, dammit.”

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Community Content

Content submitted by members of the community not affiliated with Onward State. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of our staff. To have your work published on Onward State, go to

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