In my agony, I’m instantly transported twenty years back to that other collapse against Minnesota. Homecoming 1999. You remember it. If you were there in Beaver Stadium you can still hear the profoundly stunned silence of 100,000 people. I think that was worse. That had to be worse, right? Am I really sitting here comparing heart-wrenching, season-destroying defeats at the hands of the stinking Gophers? That’s another Golden Gopher trouncing? What a disaster.
And as if my misery is not complete on its own, now I get to hear the clamorous cacophony of criticism. Inconsistent offense. Overrated defense. Bad play calls. Poor coaching. Fire Franklin. Blahbity blah. “Ugggghhhh” is the only sound I can seem to muster.
In Franklin’s post-game conference I could hear the grinchy-grins behind the journalists’ statements disguised as questions. Good for Coach calling them out. I despise watching the media feast on our failure. Even worse is when our own fans lend their voices to the negativity.
I refuse to jump on the Fire Franklin bandwagon. I will not succumb to the endless dissection of our weaknesses. I will stay on the hopeful course, even as those conversations swirl around me in my closest circles.
I remain firmly in the “For Franklin” camp. In a culture where so many prize-winning above all else, we stand apart. Most of us are wise enough to know that winning isn’t everything, and losing a game is not the same as losing your self-worth. We were all raised on Paterno’s Success with Honor. I know I’m not the only one who worried we’d never find someone to continue that legacy. Despite the NCAA’s, the BigTen’s, and our own administration’s attempts to derail our identity, we somehow managed to hire the one man who would carry the Grand Experiment’s torch into the future. He’s the reason we stay an elite program, both on and off the field: we have been in the national conversation for most of Franklin’s tenure.
This weekend we say goodbye to the top four. Farewell to the playoffs. So long to a national championship. We wake up today and feel all the feels. Mourn the loss and the failed expectations and the drop in ranking and the lost hope of championships. Then we put this one game behind us and look forward to the rest of the season. We don’t say goodbye to this team. No farewell for Franklin. It’s not so long to what we truly hold dear.
So, steady on, friends. You win some, you lose some, right? We don’t need to win every game to prove something. We know who WE ARE.
In the words of our own defensive tackle PJ Mustipher: “We’re a family. We’re going to stick together. We’re going to use this, and we’re going to get back to work.”