A Nittany Lions football game is going to happen tomorrow, whether we're ready for it or not. It was never going to not happen, no matter how hyperbolic the calls for death penalties both literal and figurative. It would be nice if there could be more clarity to a murky situation by game day, but courts and massive public universities just don't work that fast.
Penn State will play Nebraska, and it will be awkward for everyone. It will be an impossible situation for athletes on both teams who have to play Top 25 football with millions of people watching, not an simple prospect under normal conditions. But they'll play, even if some Pro Bowlers who should know better make dumb noises about sitting out. It will be an impossible situation for the ESPN broadcast team of Dave Pasch, Chris Spielman and Urban Meyer, who will be subject to insane levels of real-time and hindsight scrutiny. But the sharpest microscope will be on the fans, who a week ago were preparing for just another Big Ten matchup.
Put yourself in the shoes of a PSU student: this has to be the weirdest fucking thing to ever happen to you. I mean, what the hell are you supposed to do? You can't not support your school and your football team, but you're young and you do dumb things sometimes and everybody hates you. There's more than enough anger to go around and the country would love a reason to expend some of that anger on you. When you take your seat at Beaver Stadium, you don't want to offend. But you also can't pretend this is a normal football game. It's not.
So, the Blue Out.
What has emerged is an attempt to find compromise between conflicting emotions. It is a retreat to team pride, because there is safety in numbers. But it's also an attempt to make something good of something bad. Awareness of the very real problem of child abuse is at an all-time high, and that's what the Blue Out wants to be about.
If it sounds like the brainchild of a future art teacher, that's because it is. Laura March is a double-diploma grad student and one of the three organizers of the official-unofficial campaign. Since Tuesday, she and other volunteers have been handing out blue ribbons and this flyer with contact information for Prevent Child Abuse Pennsylvania.
A show of solidarity is an idea that has been in the works from the earliest days of the scandal. As the news unfolded over the weekend, March and Stuart Shapiro, an MBA candidate, found themselves at a loss.
"We were getting more and more emotional and distraught looking through all of the press," she says. "I finally said that there must be something constructive we could channel all our feelings into—which is something we talk a lot about in Art Education."
March took to social media to spread the idea of wearing blue, and later found Therese Jones, an '07 alumna who had created the Facebook page that now has more than 10,000 members. As the idea gained momentum, the university canceled the White Out and is now promoting Blue. A State College store is selling Blue Out shirts, with all proceeds going to Prevent Child Abuse Pennsylvania.
"In no way is this a stance supporting anyone or anything but the prevention of child abuse," March insists, and that'll be easier now that house has been cleaned. The assistant coach and the head coach and the AD and the VP and the President are all gone, and the students can root for their football team without being in the unenviable position of having to cheer for Joe Paterno. So wear blue, go nuts, and make sure that when the spotlight's on you, you do something good with it.
[Photo via Twitter]