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Joe Battista: Supporting the Victims AND Our Football Team

by on December 07, 2011 8:01 AM

As our community moves forward through this recent tragedy, we all should continue to first and foremost think of the victims and their families. We need to do what we can to ease their pain and pledge to support them and victims of child abuse everywhere.

We owe it to them to keep things in perspective as no one has suffered more than they have. The magnitude of their suffering is incomprehensible to most of us.

The victims deserve our continued prayers, support and commitment to raise awareness of child abuse and to raise funds to provide services to those abused. We need to begin educating the masses about the scope of abuse in the world and to be vigilant in training people to spot the signs of abuse and to know what to do when those signs become evident.

I pass judgment on no one. Who am I, other than an imperfect individual, who like you, doesn’t have all the facts and must let the legal process and internal review play itself out?

I would challenge you to spend your time and energy helping with the healing process for the victims, raising awareness of the issue of abuse, and to help with developing the educational programs needed for all of us to be better prepared in the future.

I would also ask you to keep in your thoughts and prayers the additional victims who have been affected by the actions of others. The consequences of this tragedy have directly or indirectly impacted employees, businesses, individual and institutional reputations, friendships and people’s faith in our institution, our community and the media.

One group has especially felt the impact of these events and has handled it with dignity and class. The members of this year’s Penn State football team could never in their worst dreams have imagined having to face all that has been thrown at them this season. As coaches, we preach overcoming adversity -- but this takes it to unprecedented levels.

Despite having to take on the normal rigors of practice, school and the always-tough competition in the Big Ten, these young men have stood tall in the face of pressures very few student-athletes have had to face….ever!

A 9-3 record is a solid year under any circumstances and if -- and I know it’s a big if -- the timing were different, this team could very possibly be playing in the Rose Bowl. Alas, it was not meant to be. So while the focus has certainly shifted to a higher priority (concern for the victims) for most, these guys are wondering what just hit them and why. 

While this Greek tragedy plays out all around us, try to put yourself in the shoes of the student-athletes and empathize with them. I am not sure any of them signed up for what has transpired this year, and they are certainly caught in a set of circumstances that was not of their making.

They have lost their head coach, and not just any head coach, but a man who has done so much for so many for so long that it is hard for them to believe that he is not a part of their lives. They finished ranked above a number of teams that they defeated in head-to-head competition, yet were selected by bowls before their team.

Talk about a lesson in life not being fair.

Despite the many curveballs thrown their way or the number of times this gritty bunch has been knocked down and counted out, they keep getting back up and answering the call. So far they have handled everything with class and dignity. Perhaps we could all learn something from them.

There are so many examples of these Penn State student-athletes stepping up to help those less fortunate -- whether it is for THON, Uplifting Athletes, as volunteers for the Special Olympics, visiting to veterans hospitals and more. 

In the end they still have each other. They also have one more game against a really good opponent in a January Bowl game to be played in the Cotton Bowl, where PSU’s history is already a storied one.  I hope you will still go to support this team and this extraordinary group of players.

This is our chance to stand by them. Here is our chance to support this courageous group of student-athletes who have done nothing to deserve what has been heaped upon them by the circumstances of the past several weeks.  They have had to collectively deal with the most trying and adverse conditions perhaps in the history of College athletics.

I believe we must support the victims and their families and Penn Staters everywhere are answering that call. I also believe this team deserves our support as well and I hope all Penn Staters will be there for them as well.

Just like past Penn State teams that have made bold statements in the Cotton Bowl Stadium, I believe this team can do the same and not only with their performance on the field but with the way in which they conduct themselves and represent their school.  I believe this could be their finest hour in the face of adversity.

We are……STILL….Penn State!

From ice hockey to Intercollegiate Athletics and Smeal, Joe has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities since 1978. Battista was influential in the effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley and in the building of Pegula Ice Arena. After a 2-year stint as VP of Hockey and Business administration for the Buffalo Sabres, “JoeBa” returned home to start “PRAGMATIC Passion”, LLC Consulting. Joe lives in State College with his wife Heidi (PSU ’81 &’83), daughter Brianna (PSU ’15), and son’s Jon (PSU ’16), and Ryan (State High Class of 2019).
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