I’m a tiger. Missouri tiger that is, so when I first saw the Penn State Nittany lion, I teased my brother that it must be a girl, because this “lion” didn’t have a mane. He soon corrected me, saying “nice try, “ but that the Nittany lion was like a mountain lion, which also doesn’t have a mane.
Shows how much I really know about big cats.
But what I do know that Penn State has been getting a lot of press lately. (After all, I’m not living under a rock like the aforementioned big cats do).
My brother is going to be a freshman at Penn State in about a month.
And now, I know what you’re thinking. “What?” “How could he pick Penn State?” or “Why?” Believe me, I’ve been asked all of them. And he has had to face countless “Sandusky” jokes and many rude comments from his outraged friends, who pay far more attention to sports than my friends do.
But Penn State is a good school. A great school actually. With 96, 519 students enrolled on all campuses worldwide last year, Penn State has more than 560,000 living alumni worldwide. That’s a lot of lions.
And for my brother, a business major, it’s a great place to get an education. According to the 2012 U.S. News and World report, Penn State is the 13th top public university and the 20th best undergraduate business program.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that what happened at Penn State is shocking. It’s inexcusable and it’s horrifying. But after a tragedy occurs, the community that’s left behind must take steps to try to repair and rebuild. The coaches affiliated with the scandal have been fired. The locker rooms are being renovated to try to gut out the ghostly reminders that remain. And the board is accepting responsibility for what happened.
No one is denying that it was awful. Now, everyone is trying to make things better from here on out.
Yet there’s an outcry for the football program to be given “the death penalty.” Rick Reilly recently published a column calling for such a fate for the program. In it, he says what a “fool,” “tool,” “stooge,” “sap” and “chump” he was for believing that Joe Paterno was a legacy. His column discusses his intense disbelief that he defended someone who lied to a grand jury and let such despicable acts continue for years on end.
But really, Rick? The death penalty for Penn State football? Though you arguably know far more about sports than I do, I think that’s a little extreme. After all, it’s punishing all the lions who are left. The hundreds of thousands of alumni who carry on the Penn State legacy. The players who had no idea what was occurring, yet continue to proudly wear blue and white. And the students, who are at Penn State to get a reputable education and celebrate their school spirit.
You’d think Rick, someone who writes about turning to sports in times of heartbreak, would see that this is a new chance. A chance for the Penn State community to heal their hearts and rally around something they can be proud of.
I’m sure you can only imagine what the energy will be like on the first football game day. The cheers, the excitement, the sea of blue and white in the 106,572 seat Beaver Stadium. The tears, both happy and sad. Because the reminders of tragedy will be there, but also because the brink of a new beginning will be there too.
I admittedly don’t know much about sports. But I do know a lot about the anxiety that comes before you enter your freshman year of college. The nerves, the excitement and the thrill at belonging to a new community.
I know that when you get to college, things are scary and exciting. And even for someone who isn’t the biggest sports fanatic, I also know that the first football game is a game-changing moment. It’s when you, as a lion, or tiger (or bear) or whatever you are, feel a part of something bigger than yourself. A part of this community that is your college and a part of the next phase in your life. Why should these new Penn State freshmen be deprived of that feeling?
I couldn’t be more proud that my brother is going to Penn State. He’s going to experience the positive change that comes with restructure. He’s going to be a part of making Penn State stronger than it ever was before.
Penn State’s motto is “making life better.” As corny as it sounds, I have no doubt that my brother and the rest of his classmates will do just that (even if they do have a lame lion mascot without a mane).