I’ve been quick to point out that Penn State’s, or any team’s, for that matter, 2020 season shouldn’t be viewed through the typical lens we view them through.

Reminders abound of just how odd this season has been.

Programs trot players out each week to play in front of cardboard cutouts of fans in largely lifeless stadiums as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.

Players in the Big Ten are tested each day as they wait to learn if they’ll be able to play in their upcoming games. If they’re fortunate enough to dodge a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, there’s the pesky false positive that wreaks havoc on the affected person’s psyche.

Colleges as of Friday emptied as students headed home for the Thanksgiving break, and many schools will shift to remote learning until the spring semester. However, college student-athletes will remain as they practice and play their respective sports.

I’ve asked myself and several others at least a dozen times why is the NCAA even keeping up the charade of college football at this point. Then I realize, the almighty dollar reigns supreme.

That said, despite my feelings on the matter, the game will go on.

Penn State has dealt with what seems to be an abnormal amount of tumult since the waning days of summer.

The start-stop-start of the football season kicked things off. Micah Parsons’ decision to opt out of the season because of fears of the coronavirus followed. Then came the depressing news that Journey Brown would have to retire from football because of a heart condition.

On Saturday, Nittany Lions nation learned that 2020 First-Team All-American tight end Pat Freiermuth would undergo season-ending surgery Thanksgiving week.

Oh yeah, did I mention that Penn State coach James Franklin has been estranged from his family since July? His youngest daughter suffers from sickle-cell disease, and the Franklin family decided it best that she, along with Franklin’s wife and eldest daughter, move to the family’s residence down South to protect her from exposure to the virus.

Franklin a couple of weeks ago was candid when he shared that he hasn’t done a good job of managing his family being away from him for an extended period.

Has Penn State been historically bad?


Have the Nittany Lions regressed for four of the five weeks of the season?


I’ll be the first to agree with you on both of the aforementioned points. Let’s not forget, I’ve had to sit through 300 minutes of it this season.

Hear me out, though.

With the absence of spring practice, a modified summer workout schedule, and the loss of a handful of key contributors, things were bound to be messy for Penn State — no matter how optimistic of a view you take on things.

Let’s also remember that Penn State this offseason added four new coaches.

To be honest, that Penn State or any other college program is playing right now is still somewhat baffling until you remember the monetary carrot that dangles in front of the schools.

Do we know the risk of playing these games is worth the “reward”?

Fans have every right to be upset at what they’ve seen over the last five weeks. But they must also keep things in perspective. Everything about this season – from the loss of practice time to the large number of injuries – was bound to be wacky.

I have no problem calling something out for what it is. But I also have reminded myself to keep this year in perspective, given all of the challenges and obstacles that must be navigated to keep it going. I don’t envy any coach or player who is in the process of doing so.

Elton Hayes is a veteran sports writer who covers Penn State for CNHI LLC publications. Contact him at ehayes@cnhi.com or follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.

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