Sunday, November 13, 2011

Inspirations - Penn State Woes

Well, the big news this week has been the tragic events that were recently uncovered at Penn State University. I confess that I don’t know all of the details, but what I gathered was that a member of Penn State’s football coaching staff was discovered to have been sexually molesting young boys for a number of years. Other members of the coaching staff were aware of this and either did nothing at all, or didn’t do enough to stop what was going on. One of these was none other than head coach Joe Paterno.
I can only imagine the anger, confusion, and frustration that must have rocked the University, and probably the entire city of State College, as this story unfolded. Of course, the result was a major house cleaning at Penn State, which is still ongoing. It was announced just a few days ago that legendary head coach Joe Paterno, at the age of 84, had also been fired after 45 years as head coach.
Which brings us to Saturday’s football game: Nebraska versus Penn State. All week long there was a lot of speculation about what might happen at the game. Would angry fans be looking to cause trouble? Would angry players be looking to hurt someone? Should the game be called off? One night on the news, there were some Husker fans saying that they were going to the game, but would not wear red in case Penn State fans might want to single someone out. On another newscast, a reporter voiced his opinion that it was good that the game had an early (11am) kickoff so that maybe people would be less likely to drink alcohol before or during the game. The truth is, no one really knew what to expect, but a lot of people were preparing for the worst.
We didn’t have to wait long for those fears to be laid to rest. Several minutes before the scheduled kickoff time, both football teams walked onto the field in Pennsylvania and shook hands. This is traditionally done at the end of a game. After the hand shaking, the players and coaches huddled together and knelt for prayer, led by Nebraska assistant coach Ron Brown. As they all knelt, a large crowd of Penn State alumni, former football players I believe, gathered around in an incredible display of support and solidarity. I don’t have cable TV so I didn’t get to see this, but I listened on the radio and you could have heard a pin drop in that stadium. I never knew 108,000 people could be so quiet.
Even as the game began, the crowd was eerily quiet. Nebraska sideline announcer Lane Grendel commented later in the game that “It was almost as if people didn’t know how they should act.” That seems a very appropriate description to me. Is it okay to cheer and make noise at such a time? Eventually, the crowd decided that indeed it was okay as they began to cheer on their teams, and I think it was the right decision. Even in the face of such tragedy, life must go on.
I can’t think of a more perfect way that this game could have begun: the teams coming together, the prayer, the silence. Could it be any more obvious that the hand of God was at work this day? What an awesome reminder that His love and mercy can overcome any trial, and what a perfect way for Him to reach hundreds of thousands of people with that message. Can I get an Amen?
Well, I hate to see my team lose, but this is one time when I wouldn’t have been too sad to see Nebraska take a loss. I’m not ashamed to admit that a part of me was rooting for Penn State. It wasn’t to be however, Nebraska ended up winning by the narrow margin of 17-14. In the final few minutes of the game, it actually looked like the Nittany Lions just might pull it off. I’m glad they made a good game of it anyway. And I hope the solemnity of the game’s beginning can begin the healing process in Pennsylvania. My prayers will still be with the victims in all this, those poor little boys, and their families. I have to assume that it will take a bit more for their own healing to begin.

Isaiah 30:20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. ESV

John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ESV

Related Links
Read the full transcript of Ron Brown’s pre-game prayer.

TAGS inspirations, god, football, penn state, Isaiah, John


  1. Nice blog, Steve! God is ever present in this world, despite all the sad and bad things going on! I also love the new look of your site - very nice!