Sometimes we would rather keep things the way they are, flawed and as imperfect as they may be.
Perhaps the previous year was by all accounts a great year; one that contains both personal and external significance. Perhaps the year was one in which we made poor choices and we would like to forget or attempt to fix.
In either case, the important thing to realize is that the past year has no bearing on what you do today.
For me, I’ve always associated the New Year not with January 1st but rather the first days of school and the beginning of football in America. To me this is when I look forward more than at any other point in time. Fresh memories of the warmth of summer combine with the calm cool air of autumn and elicit my imagination to think that anything is possible in the upcoming year.
Fans of the football team are asking what reasonable expectations are for the upcoming season. Usually the answer to this comes in the form of a win or loss total, or with certain players to put up a specific number. Fans like to think that they have a good grasp of the talent on the team, that because we have X number of whatever star recruits that will be the indicator of whether or not a team will be great.
Fans sometimes believe that players will never be replaced, that once someone is gone, no one else will be capable of filling the role.
I do not fall in that philosophy of thinking.
I believe that people can grow from their mistakes if they choose. That they can improve themselves both physically and mentally if they are willing to make the necessary choices.
I believe walk-on’s (or run-on's as they're being termed now) and lower star players can become better than those who were initially more highly regarded. That while talent evaluators can certainly evaluate the current status of a player, they cannot predict who will become the best players.
With this in mind, this is what I predict will happen for Penn State.
I believe that we will successfully put last year behind us; that we will not look so far into our future goals that we forget today; that we act and live in the moment and we do so unselfishly and with our best intentions.
They will get better each and every game. That their worst game will actually be the first game against Syracuse, and from that point on we will be able to see improvement from a week to week basis.
For this to be measured in any kind of statistical way (which is always important in setting goals), I would guess that things like total yards per game will trend up, while yards against will trend down as the season progresses. The offense will turn over the ball less later on in the season than in the beginning while the defense creates more.
There will of course be setbacks. Injuries and misfortune are parts of the game and can lead to unsatisfying results. Football games are competitions and therefore the team is not performing in a vacuum but against adversaries who also have a say in the outcome.
In those moments, will we look back and wish for the people who came before? Will we hope for a better future? Or will we take those moments and look at them as opportunities to make that particular instance in time our own; to live in the present and make this year what we want it to be?
I choose to believe in the latter.