Joe had more wisdom in his little finger than all the “Joe Knew” t-shirt wearers combined, who if they bothered to pay attention for even five minutes would find out what we all already know.
Joe Paterno was the real deal. A once in a lifetime kind of person. He knew football, education, and family. A person who despite all his wisdom--no, BECAUSE of it--remained humble and self-aware of his own flawed humanness.
We are still so deep in mourning. It’s more than the loss of a beloved coach. In 2011, everything Penn State stood for in living memory was called into question. The season of supreme confidence in Penn State ideals ended so abruptly it feels as though it vanished. Things will never be the same.
When we suddenly find ourselves filled with rage over a classless, ignorant t-shirt, we realize it’s that way with grief: it bubbles up when we least expect it. It doesn’t help that we have the distinct pleasure of ignorant and often vindictive reminders. We’re wracked with grief, we’ve got a administration that’s gaslighting us, and countless yahoos using us for their fifteen seconds of fame. How do you possibly grieve while dealing with that?
If I’m completely honest, I want to walk away for a few years and come back later. That’s my way. My default mode is to go ostrich. Let me bury my head in the sand for a while and pop back up when the storm has passed. I don’t like to feel all the feels. It’s really, really hard walk through this and not get bitter and not be defeated and not quit. I’m so grateful to Lion’s Pride, for keeping me connected through writing, and for all of you who read along and say, yes that is how I feel, too. We are not alone.
One of the problems is that the only people who seem to care enough to seek the truth are inherently biased. We love Penn State and we love the Paternos and because of that we have done the research and we know as much of the truth as there is to know. It’s hard to speak with authority about it to this headline, bait-click culture because we can’t separate from our bias and because those without the bias don’t care to know the truth. It feels like there’s no way to win.
If you want to know what Joe knew, start with his 1973 commencement speech. It’s just a simple google search away. Try not to be too shocked by the timeless words, still loudly ringing true today. Read his 1983 address to the Board of Trustees and hear his humility and vision. Look up the real story of our stadium cheer and see his integrity. Talk to Sue or to the parents of any player he recruited and feel his love of family. Remember how he turned down NFL offers and know his loyalty. Listen to all the stories, and there are so many, of how he took his own time to be kind to Penn Staters he didn’t know and see the evidence of his character. Then maybe you will know what Joe knew.
I don’t think it’s our job to police all the inappropriate t-shirts. I don’t think we have to engage in narrative correcting in the comment sections. We don't need to click on the articles at all. Let's stop participating in it. Stop paying attention to those who, in attempt to feel ok about their own mediocrity, hurl insults at greatness. What we stand for is not up for debate and they can't argue with us if we won't argue back. Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high.” It’s not about them anyway; it’s about us.
Oh wait, I was maybe supposed to write about the game this weekend. Well, it started out exciting, quickly went badly, then got super exciting, then really, really stunk.
As the last minute of the game ran out, right after the bad thing happened, a distraught Trace McSorley put his arm around an equally upset Daesean Hamilton and kissed his head. That is our way forward. Tender care of our teammates in this giant Penn State family.
It’s never been about winning. Joe knew that, too: “win or lose, it is the competition which gives us pleasure. It is being involved in a common cause which brings us joy and memories which endure in teammates. It is making our very best effort, that we have stretched to the very limit of our ability, which makes us bigger men and more able to stretch again: to reach even higher as we undertake new challenges.”
I’m owning Joe Knew. Joe Knew belongs to us now. We, who are forever thankful to have brushed greatness, to have learned from someone who modeled the ideals we cherish, WE ARE the keepers of what Joe knew. WE ARE success with honor. WE ARE proof of the Grand Experiment’s success. WE ARE the ones who carry our world class university into it’s next season. The torch has been passed and it’s ours to bear, in better and in worse. WE ARE Penn State.