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Prayer to Put Things In Perspective

The circumstances surrounding the moment does, in fact, detract from the moment itself. There’s no escape: football doesn’t matter in State College, not when held against all that has occurred over the last seven days. That’s doesn’t mean it wasn’t a magical moment, perhaps the most memorable moment of this or any college football season. It was, even if you had to stop and remind yourself that yes, there are bigger issues at stake. But that there were these overriding issues may have, in a way, made the moment all the more memorable.

First, the Penn State crowd cheered their seniors, those who were playing in their last home game at Beaver Stadium. Minutes later, after they had gone back to the locker room, the Nittany Lions didn’t burst back onto the field, as the team often does.

Instead, the team walked onto the turf arm in arm, slowly but surely, to roars from the crowd. This was a day for the Penn State fan base to gather together — never forgetting, not for a moment, what had happened over the last week, but at least coming together as one, with those who best understand the work that lies ahead.

This crowd, therefore, could appreciate the gesture; they understand what the Nittany Lions meant by walking onto the field arm-in-arm. The moment came next: Penn State and Nebraska met at midfield, exchanged hugs, handshakes and greetings, before taking a knee, as a group, and sharing a prayer.

The prayer was led by Nebraska assistant Ron Brown, a leading figure in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the largest Christian sports organization in the country. Brown, a Tom Osborne disciple who only returned to Lincoln when Bo Pelini was hired in 2008, is a fiery, enthusiastic and highly religious individual: he was the right man for the job.

It was a memorable moment. It won’t soon be forgotten. And no, it does little to assuage the pain and anguish caused by the unspeakable horrors that occurred behind Penn State’s closed doors over the last few decades. But for a moment, football brought a community together. It only lasted a moment, but hence the word: it’s only a moment.

“I thought it was the right thing to do,” said Bo Pelini, asked about the two teams meeting for the pregame prayer at his press conference following Nebraska’s win. “I thought a show of solidarity, you know, it was probably pretty sorely needed in the situation that everybody’s facing.”

“You know, the situation that’s going on is bigger than football, bigger than that game we just played, bigger than the young men in that game who would have missed it had they called it off,” said Pelini. This sort of perspective was refreshing: football as a game, not the be-all, end-all, but part of the learning process.

“And it’s about education, keep putting in perspective what the situation is all about. Hopefully, you know, at least the fact that both teams went up and sat down and prayed together, maybe that put that in perspective a little bit.”

Pelini can only speak for Nebraska. What he and his team took from the 17-14 win will be different than what Penn State took from yesterday’s game, of course. But he’s speaking of the values indicated in the pregame prayer: regardless of the outside factors — and this is not just in football — it’s vital to keep things in perspective.

“In the end, I look at my job as a football coach is to educate, and to prepare the kids that come into the program for the rest of their life. And that’s what we are. We’re a university system. I thought this game was an opportunity.”

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  1. Joel D says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Paul. I wish I could have seen this “moment” on TV, but I wasn’t able to watch the game yesterday. The situation that has unfolded requires healing, and I hope this moment of prayer helped a little bit toward bring the healing that is so desperately needed.

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