If you’ve turned on the television or radio, or opened a newspaper in the past five days, you’ve probably heard at least a little something about the sex abuse scandal going on at Penn State. Our media has been doing what they do best this week–taking a negative story and horrifying the general public with all sorts of speculations and worst case scenarios while reporting just enough of the truth to keep everyone tuning back in for more.
Yes, there were unspeakable crimes that took place at Penn State, and I truly believe that these initial allegations are only the tip of the iceberg. But I don’t believe that the 24/7 media coverage is doing anyone any good. Instead, it has only managed to create an atmosphere so unstable that students ended up rioting and some peoople were speculating whether Nebraska players and fans should even travel to Pennsylvania for today’s matchup between the Huskers and the Nittany Lions. Hell, some people even questioned whether the game should be played at all.
But personally, I am glad that the game was not canceled. Like the first Major League Baseball game played by the New York Mets following the 9-11 tragedy, the Penn State family needed something that could bring them together and start them on the road to healing. And today, I believe they found that something.
Husker fans arrived in Happy Valley, not quite knowing what to expect, and yet they did what Husker fans always do…they greeted their hosts with warmth and humility and looked forward to a day of football. Even from my seat here in my Lincoln living room, I could feel the emotion as the Penn State players started their slow march onto the field. And then, something extraordinary happened.
This first YouTube video was captured on the cell phone camera of a Penn State fan attending the game…
And here is a video a clip of what we saw on the televised broadcast, as the players and coaches and staff came together on the field before kickoff. And for those of you who don’t know the man leading the prayer, that’s Ron Brown, Nebraska’s Running Backs Coach. Not only did he share a very powerful message with both teams before the game, he also wore blue to support the Penn State “Blue Out” to raise money and awareness for child abuse.
And finally, a clip from one of the AP reporters who got close enough to record some of Ron Brown’s inspirational words as he shared them with the players, coaches, cheerleaders, staff, and press that gathered around him at midfield…
And if these links done work or for some reason you can’t view the videos, just go to YouTube and search “Nebraska Penn State pregame prayer” and you’ll find them.
Today, more than any other day, I watched my team with a renewed sense of pride. Ron Brown was right. All eyes were on this game today, and both the Huskers and the Nittany Lions played their hearts out on the field and showed everyone who was watching what being an adult and being a team is all about. Growing up is about learning to face what life throws at your with grace. It’s about doing what’s right, even when what’s right is not popular. It’s about doing what you can to help others in need and standing up for what you believe in. It’s about overcoming obstacles, facing adversity, and never, ever giving up.
It’s hard to hear everything Brown said in that short video, but a few of the reporters that spoke with him afterward asked him if he could relay some of his message, and he said:
“I said ‘Why us? Why us, lord? Of all the years. Joe Paterno left Brown University and came here in 1950. Nothing changed here forever. Then all of a sudden, it all changed this week. Why this week? Why Nebraska? Why this Penn State team?’ We can’t control those things. What we can control is our attitude, our spirit, that we bring to this game. There are a lot of little boys out there, watching this game, trying to make sense out of life. They are asking, ‘What is manhood?’ May we demonstrate to them what manhood is, to come out and play the game of football, with ferocity, with passion. I thanked God for choosing our teams to play this game. We were the little boys who grew up playing football. This was our moment to show the world. There are a lot of issues out there, a lot of questions, regarding child abuse. What we can do, on this field, is show them what respect is, respect for each other, respect for God. And then I asked God for his hand of safety. A lot of people didn’t know what was going to happen today. They saw people rioting the other night. They wondered what might happen today. They thought this place might explode. I felt like God held his hand of healing over the stadium today. I know some people may not understand that, but I think there was a reverence in the crowd today. A respect for one another, for the players, for the game. I think that’s what we saw today.”
Like Bo Pelini said in his postgame interview, what is going on at Penn State is much bigger than football, and a lot bigger than the game that was played on that field today, bigger even than the moment when the two teams came together and bowed in prayer and the more than 100,000 fans in the stadium fell silent. I may not be an overtly religious person who goes to church every Sunday and prays on a regular basis, but I know the hand of God when I see it. Something happened in Pennsylvania today. An important lesson was learned. A ray of light began to shine in the darkness. Today, like every other day, I am proud to be Nebraskan.