Nothing left to do but cry
We spent almost two years thinking about ways to make the trip to see Alabama play Penn State this September.
We wanted to make the trip because we’re big fans of the program; because we knew the trip was a once-in-a-lifetime trip (one of the only places in the world that cares as much about college football as people in the South); and because we wanted to see Joe Paterno.“It’s the last time we’ll ever see JoePa again,” one of my friends said, explaining why we should fork over the money to make trip. “Definitely worth it, man. Definitely.”People in Alabama have always felt a kinship with Penn State, specifically because of Paterno. In 2001, when Paterno and Florida State’s Bobby Bowden were on the cusp of breaking Paul Bryant’s record for all-time wins, Alabama fans were virtually unanimous: “I hope Paterno gets there before Bowden does.”We felt that way because we had watched Paterno’s teams compete against Bryant’s in the 1970s; because of the class Paterno showed competing against Alabama throughout the 1980s; because the PSU program always carried an aura of class and integrity that Bowden’s at Florida State did not.That aura doesn’t exist anymore this week, not after the horrifying molestation charges that surfaced this week against former PSU assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Included in that charge: that Paterno and other PSU officials had knowledge of Sandusky’s (alleged) abuse of children — and not vague knowledge, but specific eyewitness testimony — as long ago as 1998 … and took no measures to stop it. Now Paterno is fired, two other university officials have been arrested, State College is up in arms and the entire community is in disarray.There are no winners here.In the succeeding days and weeks since coach Paterno was officially fired last Wednesday, the story has gone through the typical rinse-and-spin cycle that a news story goes through these days. Specifically, a round of columns and blogs telling saying he should’ve been fired; another round wondering how it affects his legacy; and a third round saying we should not be talking about any of this, not when abused children are part of the discussion.The fact is, there is nothing poignant or witty for anyone — columnists, bloggers or television personalities — can say about any of this. It’s sad. It’s awful. It’s sad and it’s awful and I hate every bit of it.That ticket for that Alabama-Penn State game, it turns out, represents the last time a Paterno-coached team ever lost a game. It’s a memento I’ll probably keep forever.I hate it.