Not surprisingly, the first Penn State game in Happy Valley after the Jerry Sandusky scandal forced the ouster of football coach Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier brought a bit of protest to State College, Pennsylvania. But what some Penn State fans did to one man who had the audacity to hold a sign reminding them that today's game should be about honoring the children abused by Sandusky and abandoned by a system that only very slowly reacted to serious allegations about him is ultimately very troubling.
Washington Times writer Nathan Fenno has that story, about a father named John Matko who drove three hours from Pittsburgh to hold up signs that quoted Albert Einstein's "The world is a dangerous place" remark and asked the community to "Honor the abused kids" by canceling the game and the rest of Penn State's season. For his trouble, Matko, who reportedly kept quiet as he was berated, was showered with expletives and a beer, called a "pussy," and rewarded with a solitary "I agree" over the course of an hour.
Understandably, Penn State fans around Beaver Stadium on Saturday are probably inclined to ignore a world beyond Penn State football, and may have been more football-focused on this Saturday than any other, given how painful this week has been. But Matko's apparent point — that fans shouldn't forget the crime, and the evil, that occurred, and that those who stood by and allowed it to occur should be punished for it — is one that it takes a lot of spite and ignorance to shun.
The most heart-breaking portion of the story is the last sentence:
"Not now, man," one student said, shaking his head. "This is about the football players."
The part of the Penn State fan base Matko encountered may have plenty of love for kids, but it would seem they just have to be Joe Paterno's, and good at football, and not the faceless youngsters whose lives were forever changed by horrific abuse in possibly the darkest chapter of the university's history. On Saturday, for those who angrily confronted Matko, it would seem that football comes first, and the rest can come after.
If there are lessons to be learned about the primacy of football from the Sandusky tragedy, they certainly haven't been learned by the whole of the Penn State fan base just yet.