Until the whole Penn State scandal happened, I didn’t even realize that there was 900-pound statue of Joe Paterno. This might not be surprising if it were not for the fact that I am a 1997 graduate of PSU. That’s right, I have Spanier’s signature on my diploma. Well, not his real signature. It’s some kind of stamp or something. I just paid off my student loans last year and all I got was a freaking stamp, but I digress.
I suppose I wasn’t paying attention to the whole statue thing. I guess it was just that football wasn’t a big deal to me. I went to a few games, not to watch, but only to work at the concession stand for my karate club.
It wasn’t that I had hard feelings against football, it was just that I had grown up with two brothers and a father who watched football quite a lot, getting excited and jumping off the couch when there was a touchdown, and I never got into the game until recently. I didn’t know the rules, the game seemed slow to me, and it was just another reason for the males in my family to hog the TV.
I was aware of the legend of Paterno and even proudly gave my brother a football autographed by Paterno. Personally, I didn’t see the big deal around the football team or Paterno. To me, Paterno was just a coach. Football was just a game. Until last November, I didn’t realize that the issue was that I had never been inducted into the Cult.
I want the administration and the Board of Trustees to know that some of us alumni are scarred by this. Of course, our injuries do not compare to those of the victims, but as a University, you have failed us, and by taking down the Paterno statue, maybe you can begin to make amends.
I was glad when Paterno got fired. It made me physically nauseous to imagine JoePa showing up on the field after the whole scandal broke and getting a standing ovation from the Cult. And that’s what would have happened.
Recently I spoke to an old friend of mine who is also a PSU alumni. I asked him if he had been following the news; he said no, that it was too difficult to read it all. He admitted that he had gone through his house and gotten rid of all of his Penn State paraphernalia. Months ago he admitted to throwing out his life-size Paterno cardboard cutout.
Turns out that people can be pretty tolerant of different religious views, sexual orientations, socio-economic status, et cetera, but for some Penn Staters one thing is more important than all that–the idolization of JoePa.
Case in point–shortly after the scandal broke, two of my cousins, one of whom is technically my Godmother, defriended me on Facebook after I had posted negative things about Paterno and the scandal. Sadly, they even defriended my mother. I guess it was that she had posted a video of John Stewart talking about the scandal.
It saddened me that they did that. It was petty and childish. But it also taught me a lot about not just them but the people who continued to defend Paterno even as more and more damning information came to light. I realized this–they were idolaters. When I realized that there was a Paterno statue, it finally all made sense.
An idolater worships idols. That’s logical. The Paterno sculpture, essentially, is a cult image.The Penn State Football Cult. When someone is worshiping an idol (like a statue) or an idol (of a persona) in place of God, he or she is an idolater. An idol doesn’t have to be a person, it can be a non-tangible thing like power or wealth or status. So in that sense, not only was Paterno an idol, he was also an idolater since he worshiped the idols of power and wealth and status, and as a result, the Penn State Football Cult sacrificed children.
Paterno would be familiar with the story of the Golden Calf. This was an image made by Aaron when Moses went to Mount Sinai where he got the Ten Commandments. See, the Israelites had been nagging Aaron to make a representation of God for them to have while Moses was gone, and he took all their fancy jewelry and made a Golden Calf out of it. It was supposed to be an image of the God of Israel.
But there is a problem with making images of God. Just like people can’t really seem to conceptualize God accurately, it seems that they also can’t make a reliable image of him/it, and sometimes the people start worshiping this projection, this idealized image, instead of God. God has no image, he has no name that can be spoken (so I’ve read). So when Moses came down from the mountain and saw what his people had done, he was so pissed off that he broke the sacred tablets, burned up the calf in a fire, pulverized it, mixed it with some water and made the people drink it.
The Paterno Statue, the God of Happy Valley. JoePa–the people worshiped him. They attributed God-like qualities to him. Somehow a few of them forgot was was really important–protecting innocent children. Maybe he just didn’t realize the gravity of the crimes that he had heard about. Or maybe he was too busy worshiping his own idols that he just lost sight.
Either way, Penn State, it is time to tear down your idol. I know that if you do remove it that you will probably donate it to the family and not destroy it, although that’s what I’d like to see. I’d like to see it melted and pulverized and served to every single PSU alumni who doesn’t want to let go of their idol. It will be a bitter drink, but it will have curative properties.