I was with friends this weekend at a lake. We were having fun as the kids played for hours in the water while I was learning how to get my butt handed to me at bocce ball.
At some point, one of the parents called me a Penn State hater.
I knew she was kidding, but I always feel the need to explain myself.
I was just asking.
I like hearing all sides.
It’s why I listen to Rush Limbaugh as well as Chris Matthews.
I learned a long time ago that there are always two sides to a story. Two perspectives on the same point.
Sometimes more perspectives than I can imagine.
That’s why I ask.
Ever since the Freeh report came out last week, which cast Penn State and specifically, Joe Paterno in a damning light, I’ve been holding out on casting judgement.
In the meanwhile, I’ve been asking. Watching. Reading.
I’ve asked reporters and Penn State football players. Read Twitter and posted a question on Facebook. Oh, there were interesting conversations among my Facebook friends.
That brings us back to this weekend. Two of the other families included Penn State alumni and I wanted to know their opinions about what was reported by former FBI director Louis Freeh. Their responses ranged from sadness to conspiracy theories.
That’s when I got called out as a hater.
My wife tells me that I like to needle people. Keep firing questions at people like a needle in the arm. Or more like the little brother who holds his finger inches from his older brother and constantly says, “I’m not touching you. I’m not touching you.”
More fallout came out in the last few days. I listened to reports about suspending the Penn State football season this weekend and yesterday, the Penn State student group that manages the area outside Beaver Stadium where students camp out for prime football tickets, has changed the name of the tent city that spouts up the week before home games from “Paternoville” to “Nittanyville”.
Then there is the statue.
I have photographed the Joe Paterno statue multiple times over the years. Outside of Beaver Stadium, people have lined up to have their photo taken with it either before games, after his firing or even during his memorial service.
I was there the day after the Freeh report came out and there was one obvious change. Security is now stationed around the clock to prevent any type of vandalism.
There is talk of removing the statue. There are those who feel that Coach Paterno’s involvement is so heinous, that any symbol that puts him on a pedestal should be removed. There are those who believe that his lifetime should not be judged on this one act and the good he has done for the university and people should far outweigh this latest news.
Me. Humbly, I believe it should stay.
Watching people react to this statue over the years, I’ve observed one common thing among multiple people.
It represents different things to different people.
And it should.
Whether you remember Paterno as the greatest football coach who ever lived.
As a man who was a husband and father.
As a man who gave back selflessly and tirelessly to the university and town of State College.
As a man who made a horrible, human decision.
As a man who put the needs of a football program before those of abused children.
As a man who allowed absolute power to corrupt him absolutely.
As just a man.
We need to remember. Not just Paterno, but the story. The victims. The lessons learned.
And remember there are more ways to look at this statue.
And as always, more questions.