On Nov. 5, Penn State's former president declared his "unconditional support" for two employees charged with perjury in the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case. A week later, Penn State's football team and fans declared their unconditional support for victims of child abuse.
Much of what you watched and read from State College last week was "unconditional." Demons and cover-ups, riots and vigils, hurting and healing. "What's the mood like up there?" someone asked almost every day.
There was no "the mood." There was rage and sadness and fear and confusion directed toward every corner. And there was quiet and prayer and reflection and, yes, some booing of referees during a football game.
That wasn't a simple week for Penn State, which certainly faces an uncertain future. There will be more rage and sadness, perhaps requiring more quiet and prayer. They will play football. Maybe that will help, maybe it will make things worse.
But to accept a narrative that a university has burned, or will in the future, because of what its adult leaders did wrong is improper. It didn't.
I don't know the full measure of what happened with Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier and Tim Curley and Gary Schultz and Mike McQueary and the unnamed, untold others entangled in this tragedy. All I know is what I saw.
It was confusing. It wasn't "unconditional." Here is some of it.
Tuesday: Paterno's scheduled weekly press conference is canceled about an hour beforehand. Athletic department representatives left copies of the announcement on a trash can outside Beaver Stadium.
That continued a pattern of unfocused public relations decisions by the university. On Saturday, after charges were announced against Curley and Schultz, Spanier announced his "unconditional" support for both. Curley, the athletic director, was placed on leave. Schultz, the vice president for finance and business, resigned. Spanier, the president, was fired.
That night, groups began gathering outside the Old Main administration building. They wanted answers, demanded firings and played "Sweet Caroline."
Wednesday: Paterno retired in the morning and was fired at night, touching off what happened downtown. On College Avenue, kids flipped a television news truck and several light poles, toppling one onto a car. A few minutes later, hundreds shouted "Tear gas!" and sprinted toward a frightening trample, some scrambling over a wall onto campus property. One person carried a cardboard Joe Paterno with him. No one appeared hurt.
At the same time, outside Old Main again, a group of kids, maybe 15, sat in a circle around a single candle. The campus itself was quiet.
Earlier in the day, Penn State football players were interviewed about Paterno. They expressed anger; offensive tackle Chima Okoli called the situation "criminal." But they also were the first, as representatives of Penn State in any capacity, to say the word "victim" to a camera.
Thursday: Tom Bradley, Penn State's interim football coach, was the first person of authority to say the word. "I grieve for the victims and their families," he said at a news conference.
Ensuing statements and appearances by Penn State administrators and officials all began with expressions of sorrow, devastation and broken trust.
Meanwhile, the Paterno house became a tourist attraction. Former players, fans and the curious stopped by with gifts of flowers and bourbon. Some were invited inside. On Friday, Paterno's wife Sue gave offered flowers to take to Friday night's vigil.
Elsewhere, a grocery-store employee said he heard Sandusky, free on bail, was seen shopping at a nearby sporting goods store. Sandusky also was spotted working out at a State College gym.
Friday: The candlelight vigil is attended by an estimated 10 times more people than Wednesday's disturbance. Victims of abuse spoke to the crowd. Former football player LaVar Arrington did as well.
"The worst crime that we can commit here, right now, is to leave here and forget what happened," he said.
Saturday: Beaver Stadium was surrounded by tailgates of a different purpose. Donations were collected for various groups that work with victims of abuse. A friend accepted donations at his annual chili cook-off. Others generated awareness for an alumni-operated group raising money for RAINN (more than $320,000 through Sunday night).
Police on horseback and a notice of a reported bomb threat greeted spectators, most of whom wore blue. Members of a church controversial for protesting military funerals formed a small gathering on Park Avenue near the stadium. A group twice the size counter-protested from across the street.
Inside the stadium, following a moment of silence, Penn State's Blue Band played the alma mater. Voices raised at the line, "May no act of ours bring shame" even higher than usual.
Penn State's players entered through the tunnel, row by row and arm in arm, to meet Nebraska at midfield. Ron Brown, a Nebraska assistant coach, led both teams in prayer. Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr. knelt beside him. And then they played football.
The Lions played unevenly at first, punctuated by Matt McGloin's spike of the ball in frustration after not being able to get off a play before halftime. But they rallied from a 17-0 deficit to have two fourth-quarter chances to tie or take the lead.
Their last series ended with an incomplete pass on fourth down. Nebraska won 17-14, and both teams left the field to a standing ovation.
Of the many supposed "unconditional" statements made last week, the last was among the best.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun