It wasn’t too long ago that saying you went to Penn State was a trial. Bring up your alma mater and you had to brace for the inevitable sneers and digs. No matter how proud you were, no matter how you puffed your chest, it could sting.
I remember Ohio State relatives gleefully taking their social media punches. I remember friends, including one who attended Duke during the lacross team rape scandal, telling me that I should be ashamed to admit my affiliation.
What a difference a few years can make.
While there is still debate in the public arena, there is no longer blanket excoriation of those who have a Penn State diploma. Rutgers home football games notwithstanding, it isn’t considered good form to equate all Nittany Lions with the actions of one man, or to say that anyone cheering for the blue and white is de facto complicit in abusing children.
Since September, and the restoration of bowl eligibility, it has become more OK to say, “I’m Penn State and I’m proud.”
I think we all knew there were going to be some rocky days when the wins were restored. As much as it meant to the Nittany Nation, those who burned hot and then went away for three years were bound to be rekindled. Yes, Keith Olbermann, we know you have your feelings, and you are entitled to them, but there are other people who have valid viewpoints and emotional responses, too.
Earlier this week, one ESPN staffer started a petition to have Graham Spanier’s name removed from her diploma (an option she already has but she doesn’t want to pay $40 to get a pristine copy of her degree). But then you have other Penn State grads who have been out and proud with their Penn State roots.
Take Lara Spencer, of “Good Morning America.” She followed up a 2013 visit to campus where she relived her diving days with her gig as grand marshal of the 2014 homecoming parade.
And then Friday morning, she took it front and center. Standing between New England Patriots fans on one side and Seattle Seahawks enthusiasts on the other, Spencer unabashedly showed where her heart still lives in a Happy Valley T-shirt.
Thursday, President Eric Barron wrote a letter to the Penn State community, talking about moving forward in a post-Sandusky world, putting the past in the past and living up to the grand traditions. The university has world class educators, amazing students, incredible opportunities to do mind-blowing things. And yes, there is a rich history of athletics that goes hand in hand with academics, something head football coach James Franklin showed is still critically important when he took a player to task for a B this week.
It’s time to sing of love and loyalty. Raise the song.