Except for the giant onfield gathering of Penn State players with Nebraska players before kickoff, to a TV watcher, today's game in Beaver Stadium doesn't look a heckuva lot different than any other college football matchup. There are downs and tackles, passes and rushes. But a protest happening outside on the streets of State College, Pennsylvania has ensured the little boys allegedly abused by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky are honored in the right way.
A Penn State graduate named Jon Matko, father of a 4-year-old little boy who has spent all week thinking about the children, stood outside the stadium before game time today. He had black tape over the logo of his beloved alma mater on his hat. His signs demanded people not forget Sandusky's alleged victims, and he put the blame right where it should go.
As one sign quoting Albert Einstein said:
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.
Matko isn't just doing something. He's doing the right thing with his protest. I commend him for standing where he did and doing what he's done.
Onfield isn't the place to have a discussion about something as serious as child sex abuse. It's a GAME. It's a place where guys chase an oddly shaped ball. It's supposed to be fun.
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Not to mention, the game that's going on even as I type this is being played by guys who had no involvement in Sandusky's alleged crimes. They weren't even at the school when now suspended coach Mike McQueary says he walked into the locker room and witnessed Sandusky raping a boy in the shower. They have no power over the decisions of fired Coach Joe Paterno. If they did, don't you think they'd all be starting quarterbacks, all be NFL-bound?
Horrified by the allegations against Sandusky, there's been a part of me that, as a mom, also felt for these teenage and young adult boys caught up in a scandal that wasn't of their making. They just want to play football. And now they've got wackos calling in bomb threats on their stadium and folks insisting their game should be cancelled. They don't deserve that.
But that doesn't mean the situation that has happened this past week at Penn State should be forgotten on game day either. It just has to be addressed in the right, most respectful way.
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By standing outside in a quiet protest that focused on the real criminals and the real victims, Matko reframed the conversation. He reminded us that the players of Penn State are just caught in the middle. He reminded us where our anger should be directed.
This dad reminded us that these little boys deserved better, someone to fight for them. That's a lot more effective than a bomb threat, isn't it?
Have you gotten behind the protests against the game and the university or do you think they take the focus off of the victims?
Image via Caitlinator/Flickr