ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts: We Are (2016)

Directed by Jay Bulger & Joshua Shelov

The past few years of Penn State football have not been the best in their illustrious history. Marred by the controversy over former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky’s sexual assault cases, the program forced out one of the most celebrated coaches in the history of the game, Joe Paterno, lost scholarships from the NCAA, and entered into the once unknown world of college football mediocrity. Ironic for a school who’s chant is “We are”, as in “We are Penn State”, as in we stand together, united as brothers and sisters. In a controversy spanning several decades, with administrators, coaches and players allowing Sandusky’s predatory actions continue by doing nothing, no one seemed to stand up to say, “We are”. But for Penn State, the origin of this beloved chant is much greater than the scar of the past decades of Penn State football.

In 1948, Wally Triplett was a star football player for Penn State at a time when many others didn’t see him as such. Triplett is a black man, and at the time, racism was rampant still, especially in the south. So when Penn State was set to face off against Southern Methodist, located in Dallas, Texas, the SMU team requested that Triplett not play because he is black. In response, the Penn State football team rallied behind Triplett and proclaimed, “We are Penn State”. You play all of us, or none of us. This brave move of unity bonded the team together with Triplett, and the community together with its football team. Having never known of the origin of this chant, it came as a great surprise that 60 years ago a group of young men bonded together to speak up and do what was right, while today, so many turned a blind eye to the wrongs going on at the university.

With this in mind, it would be entirely too easy to judge Penn State as a whole for its past transgressions, especially those surrounding Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno. However, we can all make a difference, and grouping an entire community and university under the same banner would be incorrect, especially as the spirit of “We are” is as prevalent today as it was when the football team coined the chant in 1948. Penn State is a university in healing. As fellow college football fans, and just fellow human beings, it should be on us to help support them through the process, and not to make things worse. The victims of Jerry Sandusky, and the wrong doing that went on at Penn State will not soon be forgotten. It shouldn’t be. But Penn State must carry on more diligently, and continue to hold dear it’s well known chant. We are.

*** – Very Good

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

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