More than Football

It’s a football Saturday in Nebraska. And that means, you’ll find most residents of the state wearing red, at the Husker game or tuning in by TV or radio.

Well, on this particular Saturday much of the country was tuning in to the Nebraska game in College Station, Pennsylvania. The Huskers were playing the Penn State Nittany Lions. And it was a big game…an emotional game for the Penn State Players.

For the first time in 46 years, Penn State’s legendary coach, Joe Paterno, wouldn’t be on the sidelines as the head coach. He was fired because of the disturbing child sex scandal at Penn State University.

Before the game’s kick-off, players and coaches from both teams gathered in the center of the field for a moment of prayer. Nebraska assistant coach, Ron Brown led the moving moment, as Beaver Stadium and the country watched in silence.

“It’s shaped like a heart!” Billy Phillips commented on our 10/11 News Facebook page.

“It brought tears to my eyes,” said Sandy Whited on Facebook. “I, too, was very proud of our Huskers. At that point, they were not two different football teams; they were one team joined together.”

Then, this comment from my 9-year-old son.

“Mom, why isn’t Joe Paterno coaching the game?” Jacob asked. “What are they talking about?”

As parents, we do our best to try and shield our kids from these troubling topics. And here we were faced with a story about a former Penn State coach who sexually abused children…children about the same age as my son.

We just wanted to watch a football game. Even a sporting event isn’t immune from disturbing news.

Jon and I kept it real. Jon continued to work in the kitchen, while I was with Jacob in the living room. Together we spoke naturally about a tough topic.

We told Jacob that Jerry Sandusky was the defensive coordinator for Penn State. Many people thought he was a great guy, but he did some bad things. He hurt little boys.

“What did he do? How did he hurt the kids?” Jacob wondered.

Wow… where do we go from here?

Well, there are some bad guys in the world who do things that are against the law. You always have to tell us if someone scares you or hurts you in anyway. OK?

But, don’t be scared, because police are here to protect you and other kids from bad people.

Whew… Jacob seemed to understand, somehow.

As parents, sometimes you just don’t know how much to say to your kids. You don’t want to be too graphic or too scary.

Jon and I are actually doing a parenting series called “Everyday Parenting.” One of our topics is on kids and sexuality. The experts we interviewed say parents need to be “age appropriate” with such conversations. Since Jacob is nine, and he'll be starting the “birds and the bees” talk at school this year, we probably could tell him a bit more… share a few more details. Again, it’s what you’re comfortable with at home.

In today’s world, it’s hard to shield your kids from everything. Try to turn uncomfortable moments into teaching moments.


About the Author...
Taryn Vanderford
Taryn Vanderford is an Emmy-winning journalist who currently works on "First at Four", "Pure Nebraska" and "Moms Everyday" for 10/11 and Gray Television.

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