Emotional downpour………….

W0708Dear photographers and friends ,
I just completed shooting what may be some of the best work of my life and none of you may see it. In fact, I have not looked at it. The story I am about to tell you will, hopefully, enlighten and teach you, as it did me. So, if you have time to read something that made me do things I have never done in 35 years of being a professional photographer and forced me to see and feel things so personal and so deep that I felt it in my soul, read on.
It all began on New Year’s Day as I read the Facebook news feed, as I normally do. Then I read the following post from Christian Brady, a friend who is the dean of the Schreyer Honors College: “Words cannot begin to express the deep, wrenching sorrow that our family feels at the sudden and unexpected death of our boy.” WHAT? HOW? WHY? His 8-year-old son passed away? WHAT? I knew nothing about this, and the frantic search began. I re-read his previous posts, trying to figure out what had happened to hurtle him into the midst of every parent and grandparent’s worst nightmare. We all refuse to think about even the possibility of such an horrible event in our lives. We are not wired to handle those emotions. Only when it is thrust upon you can you deal with that kind of grief. My heart ached for my friend and his family. What can you do when you hear that kind of news? You can give your condolences and prayers, but it isn’t enough. What could I do to help them in this time of unimaginable personal tragedy? I felt helpless.
As a professional photographer I decided that the only thing I could offer was to make large prints for them to display at the viewing. I was wrong. What happened next is truly remarkable.
I made the offer and hoped he would allow me to do this for them. A small thing for me, but something I thought would help. He replied and said he was thinking about doing just that, and it would be a huge help to them. You see he is a avid photographer and is always talking shop with me as I do jobs for the school. He is also a bigger Apple geek than I am so you can see where this is heading. We became friends very quickly. After he sent me the images to blow up, I received a text message from him that I didn’t think twice about. It simply read “Call me.” I thought he had some instructions for me on sizes or something like that. He was in grief like I never heard before. The next thing he said to me stopped me in my tracks. “Pat, I have a favor to ask of you.” “Sure”, I said. “Anything I can do to help.” “I talked it over with my wife, and we would like you to photograph the viewing and funeral for us.” I swear my heart stopped. I doubt what I said next was coherent or barely even audible. I think I said yes and mumbled something else.I have photographed some very sad stories in my life, and I have shot through more than my share of tears. This, however, was different. I have never been asked to be on the inside of such a deeply personal story. He gave me every out possible to back out of doing this for him. He didn’t want me to feel obligated or uncomfortable. I sent him a message telling him I needed to give it some serious thought, that as I have gotten older I have become more and more emotional, and I wasn’t sure I could handle it. I needed to sleep on it. However, I didn’t. The next hour or so my mind was on fire. I couldn’t stop thinking about all of it. How could I do this? How could I not do this? I have grandchildren the age of his son. I didn’t know what to do. I spoke with a few personal friends I could share this with and straightened out my thoughts. When I had spoken with him, he guided me to a blog about a woman who had shot a funeral for a friend and said I should look at it. I did. What I learned was she had the exact same thoughts as I did, except hers was from the perspective of actually having done it. It calmed me a great deal and made me realize what was important here. Here is a man and a family that trusted my skills as a photographer, my friendship and sensitivity to enter their lives at the most intimate and deeply personal time. I said yes. I am honored and humbled that they asked me. Over those next two days, I shot images I probably shouldn’t have, and I didn’t shoot things I probably should have. I think that is one of the reasons why they asked me to do this. I tried to be as hidden and respectful as possible. This is time I needed to be invisible.
I arrived at the funeral home before the viewing just prior to them. The family, usually, has a private viewing before the public arrives. As I watched them enter the room, I decided not to enter with them. I couldn’t. This was something they didn’t need to see again. I shared a few moments with my friend after they came out of the room that were deeply personal and meaningful to me and that I will never forget.The entire family was so gracious to me. It was unbelievable. Here was this awful situation but it felt very natural for me to be there for them. I have shot highly emotional events in the past, and it is quite different when they don’t want you to be there.
The entire time I danced on the tightrope of my training and my humanity. I stayed back and didn’t shoot some of the highly emotional moments I saw. I did this at the request of the family. But there are some very emotional photos that I shot because I am still a journalist, and I shoot what I see. Some of those photos triggered the breakdown I had later that day.

Christian’s son “Mack” was a goalie for a youth soccer team, and I was aware the team was coming to the viewing. I saw them before anyone else did, and all I could say, out loud, and to myself was, “Dear God.” The team walked into the room, the boys wearing their team jerseys. It was so emotional for all of the adults. It tore you up inside. But the kids, his buddies, his teammates — what could be more gut wrenching? Some of the boys were just fine, but a few were just gone with emotion. This is when the tears streamed down my face. They hugged the family, they saw their friend, they were crushed and so was I. I was surprised at my reaction from the back of the room. I pulled up the camera and just shot. I think the journalist in me took over. Autopilot. I wasn’t sure I could shoot through this much emotion, but I did. I have always felt that the camera was a shield that I saw the world through. It has helped me see things and has protected me from seeing things, if that makes sense. This isn’t the way life is meant to be played out. Kids dealing with grown-up things. The death of a child is so hard to fathom. And, here I was in the middle of it all. Invited.

The rest of the night was a blur. The church service the next day was better, for me, than the viewing. I had a lot of stares from people who thought I was there for the press and didn’t know why I was there. I was way out of place, but I kept my distance. But that didn’t matter to me. If I did ANYTHING to ease any bit of pain for this family, then I did what I set out to do. My audience is a handful of people that may never look at the work I did, and I am good with that.

As an educator, I teach my students to learn from everyone they meet and from everything they do. What I learned about myself, my profession, my friends and my life was greatly enriched by this experience. I hope I have the wisdom and the words to pass along what I have learned. Teaching is so much more than facts. I believe our lives are judged by the relationships we have with people. I am so grateful to have picked a vocation that has enriched my life so much and to people that have trusted me through the years to tell their stories. People are amazing when they have little reason to trust you with some of the most intimate and emotional moments of their lives. I have been lucky to have gained that trust and have experienced some of the most heartfelt moments of my life. I hope there is peace in this family’s future.

You may never see this work, but that wasn’t why I was there. My work over these two days transcended mere photography, and it affected me more than I can put down in words. Now, one week after shooting this, I am still thinking about it. They say God works in mysterious ways. Maybe, I was asked to shoot this because I had something to learn. I did.

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Ode to the old house….

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Our house belongs to someone else today. We sold her and are moving on to a smaller one  up the road. Downsizing. Yep, we finally reached the age where a four bedroom house is just too big for two people. Purging reluctantly. Some of the stuff is easy to get rid of, others are just treasures you can’t bear to let go. The yard sale was over a few weeks ago, we sold what we thought had some kind of value. The trash man has seen piles of trash in front of our house for weeks. Goodwill made out well too. How do we accumulate so many clothes that just don’t fit anymore? I swear the closet is a shrinking machine.

I moved here when I got married in 1998. I left my townhouse, in State College, and moved into this large house in Philipsburg. A massive house, bigger than any I have lived in before. My Mother was born and raised no more than a mile from here. My parents met here and my grandparents also lived here. I got married in a church where my great grandfather once preached. So, as you see, this was very much a coming home experience for me. I grew up in State College and I am forever grateful for that. I call State College home, but moving here was something I felt deep in my bones. I felt the same way when I traveled to Scotland. I had never been there before, but I felt something unworldly familiar. You feel it. I felt it here also.

This house became a project from day one. I had many long tussels with her. It began with the longest one of all, right out of the gate. I gave her a facelift. A paint job that took a year to complete. I changed how she looked and while I was at it I decided to fix every little problem I found and ,for a 100 year old lady, she had many. In the end she was beautiful and proud once again. I wasn’t sure that project would ever end, but it did. I had other struggles with her too. She cut me and bruised me, but never let me down. Like the two garage doors that mysteriously came down as I was pulling out and consequently removed from their moorings. I swear the house did it, but in reality it was probably the distracted driver. I surgically removed her guts more than once, but the major one was the new kitchen. Man, did she need that. A modern kitchen in a 100 year old house is nothing but a thing of beauty. So, she was “refreshed”. It was good for her and good for us. We helped her and she protected us.

Emotionally this house has seen our lives. We have celebrated weddings, morned deaths, and watched history relentlessly roll by. I watched my Grand children take their first steps in this room. I held most of them here when they were  newborns. I watched my daughter grow from a child to a beautiful woman here. I watched the second plane crash into the towers, live, from right there in front of that TV. I was standing near the back door when my brother called me to tell me my Mother passed away. The celebrations, the dinners, the Holidays, the memories of our lives and family went through these doors. My wife has been such a gracious host in all the events we have ever had here. She is the one I think should be writing this. She is the one that purchased this house before she even knew my name.  We are leaving together and this was her house. I was the new comer and have lived here for the last 14+ years. I was the one that kept the house functioning, fixing the aches and pains, keeping her together. My wife decorated her and designed the inside and made it a welcoming place. We worked as a team and did well by her. We worked on her right up to today, making sure she was ready for the new owner. We know what she’s made of and we know she will be good to the next family that resides here.

This is the place where I fell in love with my wife. This is where I discovered I had a artistic side to me. This is where I discovered my voice and discovered I had something to say.  This is where I wrote my book. This place was magical in so many ways. This is the last blog I write from this house and the last thing I send from these walls. It seems so final, but it’s just a passing. I know there is more to come, but I am aware of the gravity of this move. I will drive past this house every day and know she is something special.

So, as I walk out the door with my head bowed in humble gratitude, I will smile. For we have danced the dance and we have both won. The house is in better condition because of me, and I am in better condition because of her. You see, this was not just a house, it was HOME.

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One year later….

One year ago today our town and University changed. It wasn’t a small change it was a nuclear bomb of a change. On this night Joe Paterno was fired and thus started a chain of events than even our best writers could not have imagined. I have gone through the gamut of emotions as I am sure many of us who live here have done. What I want to do here is recap some of the things I feel now. One year ago I ran down College Ave., camera in hand, looking for the overturned Van in the street. As I approached, about 2 blocks away, I smelled the gas. When I saw the truck I knew things had changed in our town. This was different. I have witnessed the War protests of the 60’s and 70’s on Old Main Lawn, I saw the other riots in State College and this one was on a different level. State College was hung out there for the world to see and they were watching. It hurt to see this in my town. The town I grew up in, the town where I learned to drive, the streets I grew up on, the town where I graduated High School and the University I graduated from. My friends, this was a gut wrenching change and I was in the middle of it. I saw everything from the front row and continue to do so. Believe me, there is much more to come.

I read all the reports, the investigations, the indictments, the court transcripts and everything I can get my hands on. I want to know what happened here. Why did it happen? I just need to know. What caused all this misery and pain? How could one man be so insane? How could the University do so many stupid things? Why, why, why are we all being punished? Knowledge is all I seek. I think we all just want the truth and let us figure it out.

The Trial. I was at Sandusky’s trial every day. I watched him change right before my eyes. He started out smiling and smirking as the jury selection began and he kept at it right up until about 2 days before the verdict. Then he got serious all of a sudden. No smiling, he knew it was over. When he came in the Courthouse for the last time a free man, holding Dottie’s hand, you could see the fear in his face and doom in his heart. Then when he came out in cuffs, it was like the lights went out. I describe it as empty. He was empty. He looked hollow, everything was drained from him. It finally hit him as he walked to that car as a prisoner. Thousands of images were shot in that short walk he took and they were distributed, world wide, within minutes. The world now knew the man was guilty. I was surprised by the emotion when he came out the back door on the way to the car. People showed up to yell at him. The emotion cracked in their voices as he walked past. It was something I will never forget.

The Sentencing: I wanted to see him in that jumpsuit, in those cuffs. I wondered if he knew the depth of the pain he had caused. Not just the victims, but everything else. Does he have any comprehension of what his acts have done? Any? He looked different. He looked smaller, older and beaten down. He lost weight, he looked grayer and I noticed his hands. I guess he had lotion on them and his fingers looked very thin and shiny. It was really odd. I was surprised and disappointed by the sentence he received. The Judge said it didn’t make sense to sentence him to a ridiculous amount of years, because any sentence would be a life sentence. I disagree. I think a sentence of 350 years is pretty meaningful to the victims. “You are sentenced to 350 years, your body can be claimed in the year 2362 and your casket will be encased in steel bars and buried in a unmarked grave, on prison ground until that time.” I think that is a pretty graphic and just  sentence. That sends a message. So, he is off to a Maximum security prison where he will send 23 hours a day, in his cell, alone. He eats in his cell, he gets 3 showers a week. I guess that is as a close to Hell as you can get on Earth. He can have visitors, but can touch no one. He says he’s innocent, he is going to appeal. Everyone lied just to get him. Big conspiracy. If the University was out to get him, it would be like cutting off your head to lose weight. It doesn’t make sense. I can’t wait to hear what his adopted son has to say, at the trail, if the appear goes on. Yes, Jerry we all want to hear that. He has the right, but maybe he just wants to see some trees after looking at those walls all day.

Spanier. Oh God this is going to be good. Spanier and Corbett have hated each other for years. This is going to be a war with no winners. This is going to get very interesting. Why is it that we thought the University was a well oiled machine when ,in reality, it was run worse than Enron? God the mistakes and miscues are mind boggling. Spanier, Curley and Schultz may all get off because the University attorney (Baldwin) was in the room during their testimony. They all thought she was representing them and she says she was representing the University. She was not allowed to be in the room unless she was representing  them. Nobody knew that? What? These guys thought she was there for them and she wasn’t? The University is paying their legal fees, why doesn’t any of this make sense? All of the charges could be dropped because of this. Really. Then the other lawyer they called (Courtney) in Feb. 2001  makes a note on his billing sheet, (2.9 hrs. report of suspected child abuse). Jesus, they weren’t talking about preventing child abuse, they were talking about the second incident.

Joe. Unfortunately, I think he is going to get dumped on. Look for them all to throw Joe under the Bus. This is the saddest part of the story. The statue removal was just wrong and done in the worst way possible. The truth will be become clear and who knows where it will lead. I just want to know what happened and when. It’s sad when you go by the old statue site. It’s even worse when you go to the grave site. I feel bad for Joe, but he feels no pain now and I think this would probably bring him great heartache. I do wish he could have really told his side of the story in full. We may never know what he really thought and did and that is the sad part. The whole thing, with Joe, was just plain sad.

The Freeh report: What a rip off. They charged the University over $6 million dollars for that? Really? How easy is it to spend $6 Million dollars? The Board of Trustees accepts it, before they even read it. The NCAA applies sanctions based on it. The University President accepts the sanctions. Let’s move on is the motto now. WHAT? Stop this madness. All of this is based on one view that has been picked apart. Nothing under oath, no key players talked to and we should move on? Everyone is insane. Rush, rush, rush…..WHY? We are learning more everyday and there is a ton more to come. We have heard very little about the Second Mile, virtually nothing. Why? The Feds are investigating them. Subpoenas, due process, the whole mess is coming down on them and it’s going to be very ugly. The Judge told us this. So, now that we are all “moving on” and the football team is doing well, we are all getting over this mess. Not so fast, more shoes will be dropping soon. It will be years before we can really move on.

So, one year ago this came down on us. It showed that we are strong and are a united group. We are still proud of who we are and where we come from. Our people have good hearts and clear minds. This plague that was dropped on us did not destroy us. It took us to the edge, but we are fighting back and we will continue. Yes, there is more to come. The victims will, hopefully, find peace. The town will recover, the University will not disappear, and we will grow from this. It’s just damn hard to watch it sometimes. My awakening was one year ago when the Van was overturned in the middle of College Ave. My saddest day was when Joe died. Everything is fragile, our lives, our hopes , our safety and our way of life. I just hope I am not writing about this 1 year from now. I have a feeling that’s not going to happen.

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Victory number one…..

This is college football. It does’t matter if it was Penn State or not. This game had everything that is good about college football. It made you feel good. A beautiful early Fall Saturday in central PA is like nothing else. This is why we put up with those ugly Winters. Crisp, clean, bright sunny skies. Magnificent.

Then we had a great atmosphere. It was a patriotic day in the Stadium. We honored our troops. The fly over was very cool and P.J. Byers, a Navy vet and current Penn State player, carrying the flag was priceless. If your patriotic heart wasn’t pumping, you may not have one.

Something has changed here. Maybe this team wasn’t ready for the first two games, it wasn’t time. They wanted it, to be sure, but this time felt different. This time the tip ball fell into Penn State’s hands. This time the defense showed its teeth. This time the offense was moving the ball. This was the time. And, boy did they need it. The amount of stuff that has been thrown at this team is historic. It felt good. The smiles were so nice to see, the relief could be felt. This was due and this team deserved it.

Bill O’Brien got a shower he will never forget. That was so good, because it showed that this is a team. When he was interviewed shortly afterward he talked about how happy he was for the team to win this game. The reporter informed him the team told her they wanted to win the game for him. You could see how much that meant to him. It shot across his face. He was deeply touched. That’s the kind of coach you want to play for. This team needed this win, Bill O’Brien needed this win. They both won.

It was agreed upon, before the game, that the teams would get together and sing the Navy alma mater with the Navy Band. Win or lose, that was going to happen. What other teams do that? Nobody. It’s class, it’s college football the way it should be. It’s a game. Play hard, fight hard, but in the end there are much more important things. Like military service. Class….class….class. Then the new tradition of the Penn State players and their own alma mater. It’s great college football.

Is there work to be done? Sure there is. But on this day, in this place, Bill O’Brien got his first win. This team that has endured more pain, obstacles, sanctions and heartache than we can grasp, won its first game. They won against an opponent that has a greater calling and they stood with them in the end and sang their alma mater. Does it get any better than that? No, my friends, you witnessed what is best about College football. Compassion, courage, admiration, respect and class. That’s why I love college football.

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Trustees fall flat on their faces…..again

Why is it so difficult for the Penn State board of Trustees to get it? The way they talk to us is baffling. Do they really think they have this superior knowledge? It just feels like they talk down to us. It’s like we don’t know anything, and they know what is best. If we, as alumni, have any power at all we should fire them all. What they have done to this University, Joe Paterno and the reputation of Penn State is unconscionable. You’re fired. Why can’t we do that? The latest meeting is another round of unbelievable drivel they have spewed on us.

Franco Harris is denied 3 minutes to speak at the meeting because he didn’t follow the rules. He didn’t sign up in advance. I get it rules are rules, but my God he bleed for this University and made them millions of dollars. You can’t give him 3 minutes of your time? Oh that’s right, this is the same board that fires a 61 year employee over the phone. Silly me. And, and they decide to table the decision about renaming the Gary Schultz Child Care facility until after his trial. Wouldn’t it have been nice if they had given JoePA the same curtesy? You’re too damn late. You’re fired. They got one thing right, it’s too late to apologize to the Paterno family. That window closed a long time ago. It would be hollow and disingenuous now. Don’t bother, we know how you really feel. Here’s a cell phone number, call someone who cares.

Now they are back peddling. They say they didn’t accept the all of the Freeh report, they accepted the recommendations of the Freeh report. Really? Do you think we believe that? How stupid do you think we are? Never mind, see paragraph one. You forgot to mention that you didn’t read the report before you accepted the findings. Their rush to judgement put us squarely in this mess. This board is too big, and so full of themselves. They can’t govern anymore. They failed at the worst possible time. I don’t think they meant to, it was just too much for them to handle. In reality, it’s a part time job for all of them. The Governor’s position on the Board was always a courtesy type of deal. Look at the records, the Governor was never that involved in the Board before. He rarely came to Board meetings. What changed? Why all the interest from the Governor? Just some interesting questions to ask. I only speak for myself. What is going on with this group of people? I said it before, if they are looking out for the good of Penn State, I wonder what the people that are trying to harm us are dreaming up?

How does this sound? They are looking into establishing rules about board members making public statements. I call this the, “Shut up Anthony Lubrano Rule”. Go Anthony, give it to them while you can, they are trying to take away your microphone. I can’t imagine him following that rule.

Brown University has decided to keep Joe Paterno in their Hall of Fame. Smart. We, on the other hand, tore down his statue and tried to erase him from history. All, after we fired him over the phone. The board may say they don’t believe all of the Freeh report, but it sure doesn’t look that way to me. However, I am just an alumni and not a board member. What do I know?

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Me and Neil Armstrong

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On Oct. 23, 1999 I was shooting a away Penn State Football game versus Purdue. After I got there I heard that 17 former astronauts were going to be there during half time. For a baby boomer this was a BIG deal. The first man to walk on the Moon would be there and so would the last man to walk on the Moon.

I immediately started searching for Neil Armstrong. Wouldn’t you? Anyway, all the astronauts were in one spot talking and laughing, but Neil was nowhere to be found. In his later life he didn’t care for all the attention and would rarely shake hands with anybody. I have been around a lot of celebrities and have never treated them any differently than I would anybody else I would photograph. It comes with the job. You get to see behind the curtain, but you must not be a fan or act any differently than I would with anybody I photographed. It’s a unwritten rule. So, I was really torn. I watched this man, on July 20, 1969 at 10:56 p.m., step foot on the Moon. I was in the basement of friends house watching a small B&W TV as he set foot on the moon….Live. I had to decide, do I break my own rules and approach this man or do I just stand by? Nope, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, I had to do it. I would be able to tell my grand kids that I shook the hand of the first man to walk on the Moon.

So, I figured he was hiding somewhere and I looked for him. Then I spotted him on the opposite side line hiding in plain sight. After working my way over to that area I alerted a photographer friend of mine, Steve Manuel, and told him I wanted a shot with Neil. So, I made my way near him and was waiting for Steve to shoot the photo. I was really nervous and I was thinking, “Shoot it, Shoot it”. Hence, the stupid look on my face. I was bouncing in my shoes. Neil didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Shortly after this photo was taken he turned and stepped right into me. Bang. I stuck out my hand and shook his hand and said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you sir”. He hated shaking hands and I just caught him off guard. Very fast, but memorable for me. He went on to play the huge Purdue drum during half time festivities. After the halftime show I shook Gene Cernan’s hand, the last man to walk on the Moon. So, within 30 minutes I got to shake the hands of both the first and last man on the Moon. This was a very very big deal for this baby boomer.

20 years later I applied to fly on the Space Shuttle as a part of the journalist in space program. I had about a 1 in a Million shot at being picked, but I had to try. The Journalist in space was scheduled to happen right after the teacher in space flight. The tragedy of that flight ended all future flights of anyone other than astronauts.

So, with the passing of Neil Armstrong I have a personal memory. Him bumping in to me was a quick moment for him, but a awe inspiring moment for a child of the 50’s and 60’s. His bravery and intelligence inspired a whole generation of people. I watched him walk on the Moon, I got to look him in the eye and that, my friends, was something I will never forget.

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NCAA 2, Penn State 0 Character builds teams.

If you’re keeping score it’s NCAA 2 Penn State 0. Another loss caused direcly by the sanctions. Would Penn State have lost either of these games with the players that were on the roster at the Blue/White game? Nope, I don’t think so. The other day I heard a term for the sanctions, I think they called them “The Toxic Sanctions”. It didn’t kill the program, but it will be a lingering, near death, illness for many years. What good have these sanctions done? Shouldn’t that be the focus of all this? Who does this help? Punishment of the athletes is senseless. What did they do to do deserve this? I will never understand the pure spiteful nature of this NCAA action.

What about these athletes that are buckeling their chinstraps and facing this head on? If these guys don’t have Lion hearts, I don’t know who does. Imagine the pressure. I applaud them no matter what the scoreboard says. I am in awe of courage in the face of adversity. That, truly, is what character is all about. It resides in your soul. You can’ t be coached or taught that.

So, the NCAA may be winning, but these guys are head and shoulders above all of them. You see, we have courage to continue to do the right thing no matter what they throw at us. Win or lose. They can keep score on the scoreboard, we’ll keep it in our hearts.

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Here we go…..

Well, it was a beautiful day, but hot. Sun shinning, lots of smiling fans and optimism you could feel. However, we were soon slapped with a dose of reality. We all hoped this team was going to be be able to look past all the troubles of the last year. I think I knew, but hoped the troubles didn’t affect them this much. However, we were all wrong. How could it not? The firing of a legendary coach, then the death of JoePA, the hiring of a new coach, the trial, the sanctions, the loss of key players, a new system, and the expectations. This team had distractions by the train load. Now, they need you. They need you not to abandon them, they need you to support them in this time of transition. This year could be a tough one to swallow, but it’s time to suck it up and support them through this. My fear is the stands of future games will start to become a little less filled. This is the support you can see. Let’s all hope this isn’t the case.

I think I lost ten pounds yesterday in the heat. I wish it had been twenty. I needed to have all my gear security checked and tagged. I needed my Penn State press pass to get in the gate. I needed a bright orange arm band and a white vest to wear. My number was 32, by the way, and one of my sports writer friends called me Blair Thomas in the press box. It made me smile. The vest added to the heat, thank God the sides were open. One of the photographers I know, who covers the White House, said the security to photograph the President isn’t this involved. I guess I am just not not smart enough to understand the reasoning behind these security measures. I only have a Masters degree.

What did I see yesterday? I didn’t see the changes I expected to see. It felt like Penn State Football. The names on the uniforms and the ribbons on the helmets were hardly noticeable. Really, unless you were on the field I don’t think they made that much difference. Yes, it was unusual not seeing Joe on the sidelines. Something we can all see in our minds eye if you choose to see it. For me, it was difficult finding coach O’Brien on the field. I had to search for him several times. He was involved in the game, no doubt. Calling plays, screaming at officials and pacing the sidelines. I like to think Joe would have approved. Especially, the yelling at officials part.

The Penn State fans were amazing and in the end heart broken. They wanted this team to win, because the team needed it, and the fans needed it too. They needed something to be happy about after all this doom and gloom that has engulfed us for so long. A win would be a positive thing that they could hang some hopes on. It just wasn’t the day for it. I felt it before play began. Standing on the sidelines waiting for the team to come on the field. When the Blue Band was on the field and Penn State made the announcement about a silent prayer for the victims and talked about the whole mess again. It just felt like the wrong time to do this. It immediately deflated the power of the moment. Don’t get me wrong here, I am all for the prayer for the victims and never forgetting them, I just think we did it at the Nebraska game and the Blue/White game. No one is trying to forget it, but at this moment it was like our noses were being rubbed in it. OK, everybody wants to move on. How about we quit reminding ourselves of this. No one will ever forget it, but is it part of the sanctions packages that we need to keep bringing it up? My fear is, and you know it is going to happen, every TV game will have a rehash of the past. No, we will never forget, because someone will keep reminding us. Why do we need to do it to ourselves?

The signs were heart felt and heart warming: “You stayed with us….”, “We stand with you…”. Brilliant. I loved it. I got choked up more than once seeing the emotions of the people carrying them felt. The painted faces, the signs, it felt like Penn State football to me. I didn’t make it to the bus arrival, because of traffic and the fact that my Penn State football press parking was further away from Beaver Stadium than ever before. I heard the busses coming, and the crowd’s roar from over a half mile away. I understand it was amazing and emotional. Great fans do great things.

When Bill O’Brien lead his team on the field for the first game of his young head coaching career, it was electric. There have been times, in the past, that I couldn’t hear in Beaver Stadium because of the roar of the crowd. I am sure Bill heard you and it was be a indelible memory in his mind for the rest of his life. I got to run about 10 yards, in front of him, right at the end before he got to the bench. The press presence on the field was enormous. This was a historic event. Some photographers stood in one place for hours to get the shot they wanted. I wasn’t that patient. I had too much work to do. So, in the end, I chose to be at the end of the line, when he emerged from the man made tunnel. I thought about how Joe would run the tunnel and I just used that experience to guide me. When Joe got the end he would would pump his fist to the crowd and they were my best shots. All the photographers lined up so they could see him coming down the tunnel and I started out with them. Then it just clicked. This wasn’t the best spot. Should I take the chance and break away for this spot and risk not getting anything? Yep, I took a chance. So, when Bill emerged near the 50 yard line, I got a few shots of with a long lens and then he broke away, just like Joe did, and I changed cameras and stood up and ran with him the last few yards. Perfect. I guess experience counts for something. I had a couple dozen useable photos of his entrance. (you can see one of them on my Facebook page)

The Photo at the top of this page is a little luck and a little age related. Penn State had just made a nice gain in yardage and I needed to get past the OU bench to get into position for the possible score. However, I decided I couldn’t make it in time and stayed where I was for one play longer than I wanted to. Then the helmet flying hit happened. I rarely shoot plays from behind the Penn State offense. Ideally, you want to see the faces as they come to you. This was just a lucky place to be.

The new offense was certainly new. 22 running plays, 48 passing plays. When was the last time that happened? It’s a complicated system that takes some time to implement. I think the short passing game is a great idea who’s time has come. Do I think Silas Redd would have made a difference in this game? Yep, I do. Losing him to USC was a real blow to this team. He could have balanced out the running game with the passing game. The power he brought to the position is undeniable. From what I saw Penn State better have a stable of running backs this year. Ohio University is a very good MAC team and a very good team period. However, the are not the Big 10. The Big 10 are the big boys. They are bigger and hit much harder than the MAC. Sorry it’s true. You need to be near super human to survive a whole season playing a Big 10 schedule. I am not sure we have that durable back to carry the ball through that barrage of bone shaking hits.

The one thing that surprised me the most was the defense. I wish I knew what happened to them. They wish they knew what happened to them. I got sick of that off tackle running play that always gained yardage. They couldn’t stop it. I, honestly, thought they were going to dominate this game. Was it the heat, the excitement of the day or who knows what else? Something was wrong with them on this day. One sack, one tackle for a loss, doesn’t sound normal to me. The steam left when the touchdown, after tip ball, was made. The defense will turn itself around. Today wasn’t their day.

So, in the end football is back in Happy Valley. All is not well, but in reality, we should have expected it. We didn’t. We hoped against hope that the past year would not hurt this team, it did. Now, we can move on. There are struggles ahead, but they are strong and determined young men. All they need need now is support when the times are tough. These times will determine who we really are as a team, as a University, as fans, and as people. Like all things worth rebuilding we might as well do it right.

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Thoughts on the Board of Trustees….

A few thoughts about the Board of Trustees.

They fired Joe Paterno by sending him a note. Nothing on the note, just a phone number. He called it, they fired him. After over 60 years of service and millions of dollars in donations, he got fired over the phone. I call this HEARTLESS. Who does this to any employee? Nobody. I would love to hear the recording of what Sue said to them when she called them back.

So the Board of trustees commissions the Freeh report at a cost of over $6 million dollars. What happens when they receive this expensive and extremely important report? They read parts of it and, before any of them read the whole report or have a full discussion, they endorse it. I call this IRRESPONSIBLE. Who does this? Nobody.

The University President negotiates a deal with the NCAA for unprecedented sanctions that isn’t covered by the NCAA bylaws and punishes everyone, except the real criminal. He had to have his lawyer look over the bylaws to see if he had to inform the Board of his decision. He didn’t. This whole mess was fueled by a president that didn’t inform the Board and the Board never pushed him for information. The new president does the exact same thing that got them in this mess and they did nothing. I call this INEPT.

To continue this cascade of ineptitude. The Board decides to remove the Paterno Statue. I am not so bothered that they took it out, but the way they did it just twisted the knife a bit. Cover it with tarps, so no one can watch. Why not own it? If it was such a good idea, show the world what you decided. Nope, let’s try to hide it. The absolute worst was when they couldn’t get the wall sculpture off the wall in one piece. They moved a fork lift and put up more tarps so we couldn’t see them cut up the sculpture and rip it down. Then to add insult to injury they not only took out the wall they chiseled out the foundation of the area. They wanted every shred of evidence that anything was ever there. This whole idea is going to backfire, because the Penn State faithful are going to continue to make this a meeting place and a memorial to Joe. They can not erase the memory of JoePA, no matter how hard they try. I call this CALLAS AND MISGUIDED.

Then the Board tries to hold a vote of confidence, for President Erickson’s decision to accept the NCAA sanctions, in a public meeting. However, this public meeting was over the phone. That is not a public meeting, it’s a conference call. However, they didn’t know their own rules. They couldn’t vote on it because the proper amount of time hadn’t pass. The vote was postponed, but they still voiced support for Erickson. So, it seems to be just a formality. Take the wildly unfair punishment handed out by the NCAA, and move on. For them it’s all about moving on. Yes, move on, but fight when they are shoving it down your throat. The NCAA has stuck us and we did nothing but accept the punishment and the board accepts the Freeh report as gospel. As time passes we are learning new things every day. So, the board rushed to act and made many decisions without thinking about the consequences. I call this a SEVERE LACK OF JUDGEMENT.

The last piece of the puzzle was the “retreat” they had last weekend. After all these mistakes some of them are starting to understand what we all see. When asked about anything to do with this case Corbett gets extremely defensive. He doesn’t want to talk about it. Kind of reminds me of the way Nixon was so upset with the press when asked about the Watergate break ins. I am not saying anything is going on here, but sure looks funny. Also, when the board speaks to us it sounds more like they are talking at us not to us. I don’t know why they seem so unlike anyone I know, but if I missed the boat when all the reasonable people left, I want it to come back and pick me up. If this board of HEARTLESS, IRRESPONSIBLE, INEPT, CALLAS, MISGUIDED and SEVERE LACK OF JUDGEMENT people are looking out for the good of Penn State and are guiding us out of this. Well, I just have one questions: I wonder what the people that don’t like us are planning?

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Black Shoes, White Sox…….

This image was shot on Sept.28, 2002. I have been working with a movie producer and he wanted to see some of my images from the last 8 months and older images of Joe. So, I began looking back and came across this image. Honestly, I vaguely remember shooting it. I doubt there is any single photographer alive that has photographed Joe more than I have. I have been at it for over 35 years. This image, to me, represents a side of Joe I always saw. He was always in motion. I am sure I wanted a photo of his shoes planted on the ground (and I probably have one somewhere), but this one represents him well. Black shoes, white sox, pants cuffed and in motion. Yeah, that pretty much says it all. Simple and right to the point.

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