Friday, November 27, 2015

Saturday at PSU

Penn State's football game Saturday provides opportunities for the university to begin rebuilding its image. What will happen there?

Saturday at PSU


In the wake of a devastating week at Penn State, including the firing of its legendary football coach, Joe Paterno, and its president, Graham Spanier, I've been thinking about what Saturday's football game against Nebraska might be like.

It's ironic that the final home game of a better-than-expected (so far 8-1) season, one that still holds the potential of advancement to a top-tier national bowl game, is against Nebraska -- where Spanier served as chancellor before coming to PSU.

There are so many angles.

As late as yesterday afternoon, when it appeared Paterno would coach on Saturday, his last game on campus, tickets were selling for $500-plus on various websites, more than 10 times their face value.

Lifelong fans, I assume, planned a final tribute to the winningest coach in major-college football history.

Then came word that students planning a traditional "white-out," in which everyone wears white clothing, were switching to a "blue-out," in support of the fight against child abuse symbolized by blue ribbons.

Others suggested all attendees bring a photo of a child to hold throughout the contest.

What occured to me was this: what if no one came to the game? What if even the rabid football culture of Happy Valley succumbed to the fact that the roots of the child sex scandal grew in the storied football program and that, at least, the sins and, at worst, the crimes associated with the scandal should be recognized with a boycott?

I know this isn't possible. But what a message it would send to the nation, to victims of child abuse, their parents, families, friends and predators. It would be powerful.

It would say that even in this Mecca of big-time sports, we remain above all a people of humanity who place honor and integrity, caring and respect, above a game.

I feel sorry for Penn State players. As the father of two sons who played collegiate sports (one football, one basketball, though not at the big-school level) I fully understand the personal commitment and dedication required to compete.

I'm sure these athletes, having watched their university and their program so tarnished by events in which they were not involved, are suffering a range of emotions unrelated to their focus on football.

But the sadness over what all this means for a premier sports community -- players, fans, coaches -- pales inj comparison to the harm done to so many children, the actual number of which we may never know.

It would be cleansing if that harm was symbolically acknowledged in a dramatic, visible manner.





Daily News Political Columnist
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About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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