Did you feel the shift?

The Freeh Report depicted our leaders as untrustworthy and shook our faith in Penn State. For us, one side effect of reading the report was the feeling that we as a community had little to be proud of and we deserved to be punished. The report suggested there was something profoundly wrong with the ‘Penn State Culture.’ It felt like we were all somehow culpable. The bonds of trust and goodness that held us together were unraveling. The shiny red apple of Penn State was suddenly rotten at the core.

Of course we felt sorrow for the victims. And we felt horrified that the leaders we knew and trusted might have enabled Sandusky’s crimes. But most of all we felt confused. For as long as we could remember we had been proclaiming to the world that, “We are Penn State.” But now that Penn State was tarnished beyond repair, what were we?

For those of us who have never had the experience of being judged on the basis of our group membership this is a very difficult question to answer.

Then just when we thought things couldn’t get worse the statue came down. A symbol representing all that was good in us was gone, and we wondered how we would ever move forward. 

Then the NCAA sanctions were announced and in a matter of days things felt different. The Penn State community seemed to go from feeling fractured and deflated to feeling wronged and mistreated. The emotional tide had turned. Many felt the sanctions went too far. They harmed the innocent. They punished those who had nothing to do with Sandusky’s crimes. And it just wasn’t right.

Walking down College Ave we could see the change in spirit reflected in the new t-shirt designs; ‘PSU Forever’, ‘We Are…One School’, ‘We Are…Pissed Off’, ‘We Are…Committed’.  We could also see this new spirit in the signs in store windows with messages like ‘One Team’ and ‘Proud Supporter of Penn State Football’ and many others.

In a matter days “We” began to be reborn. Saved by that most unlikely but inspiring of heroes: Underdog.

When Eric was a kid growing up in Brooklyn in the 1970s people had to make a choice. You were either a Yankees fan or a Mets fan. It didn't matter your race, your gender, your age, or what you did for a living. You choose a team and that was that.

The Yankees were the well paid, winning super-team. The Mets were the underpaid team that struggled and often lost. To root for the Yankees was to root for the sure thing; the powerhouse. You expected them to win and they did.

Rooting for the Mets was like rooting for, well…the Mets. They were underdogs. You and everyone else expected them to lose so when they won it was an absolutely incredible experience.  Sticking with them while they were down was even more incredible. The Mets didn’t deliver that winning experience often, but as a fan you got a lot of opportunity to show loyalty and heart, and to support a team that was working hard to beat the odds; a team that was determined to go out there and do their best every time – to show the world what they were made of.

Fans of both the powerhouse Yankees AND the underdog Mets were completely rabid, devoted, and fanatic about their teams, which was very cool…and very good news for Penn State!    

As we see it, Penn State is now a kind of underdog, not just because of the NCAA sanctions, but also because of the stigma that is now attached to our university and its leadership. Losing some players; eliminated from bowl games; and having our reputation tarnished by the Sandusky scandal, we now have some things to prove and some critics to silence. 

At Penn State, students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, and fans are used to being on top. For years we’ve been a powerhouse and it’s felt great. Now we are about to embark on The Underdog Experience, which we think can be equally great, though in a different way.

Whether we win or lose, and regardless of how long it takes us to rebuild the good name of our university, we will all now have the chance to experience a sense of the battle, of having something to prove. It’s a vibe that can bring a lump to your throat on game day or while cruising the t-shirt shops on College Ave. It’s a feeling that can cause incredible things to happen. And we say bring it on!

Or, in the words of Underdog himself (spoken in the 1964 animated TV series):

When help is needed I’m not slow

It’s hip hip hop and away I go!

Welcome back Penn State. And get ready. It’s time for us to show the world who WE really ARE.

Eric and Stacy Silver
Doctors of Society

12/26/2012 09:02:05 pm

After reading the above post even I am feeling sorrow for the victims. And you are absolutely right innocent people should not be punishment for the Sandusky’s crimes.

1/14/2013 11:52:34 am

Yes you are right innocent should not be punished. I thing I liked the most is that people were given liberty to select their own team.


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