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If I was a student at Penn State, I would boycott this weekend’s home game and encourage 106,000 of my fellow fans to do likewise.
Visuals have power, and imagine the power that a wall of empty seats, projected to a national TV audience, would have during ESPN’s broadcast of Saturday’s game. Imagine the show of support this simple act of defiance would send to the victims of this unfolding, brutal scandal. An empty stadium would tell any official who has put football above everything that there’s more to Penn State than football. Because to those of us outside of Happy Valley, that’s how it looks.
I would boycott the game because Penn State lacks the decency to cancel it on its own. As a grounded, thinking 20-year-old student at a major university, I would seize this opportunity and demonstrate that, here, the kids are smarter than the adults. Penn State had a decade to correct the crimes of one of its employees is charged with; it chose to punt. Yet, in the wake of all the disgusting details in the Grand Jury report, Penn State will take the field this Saturday like any other day, confirming that the systemic arrogance that got them in this mess in the first place is alive and well. Penn State won’t cancel the game? Fine. The students should cancel it for them.
If all this turns out to be as bad as it sounds, you can’t clean up a mess like this by changing coaches. The whole thing must get ripped down. The rest of this season should be cancelled. Next season should be cancelled, too. Let the players transfer. Wipe away the entire football staff and a lot of the administration. It will take hard decisions and plenty of sacrifice, including financial sacrifice. Bring the entire mess into the full glare of the public spotlight and from Paterno on down, anyone who put their own interests ahead of the safety of vulnerable boys must pay the price.
I believe in youth, I always do. In youth, the biggest crime tends to be idealism. The chance to dream, a belief that you can change the world. What’s happening at Penn State has the potential to be one of the sickest chapters not just in sports history, but in American history. It will take a lot more than youthful idealism to begin to turn this ship around. It will take a lot more than thousands of empty seats to tell the world that at least the students get it. But it’s a start, and it could be a powerful start.
Mostly, however, 106,000 empty seats would show that someone, finally, is thinking of the victims.