Perspective can be a scarce commodity.
Especially in times of uncertainty.
And, if you haven't noticed, these are fairly uncertain times at Penn State.
Nittany Nation has been consumed for a couple weeks now with the status of the Lions' head coaching position.
First, the Blue and White faithful wanted to know just one thing -- will Bill O'Brien stay or go?
Once that was answered with O'Brien's departure for the Houston Texans, the PSU community immediately turned its attention to a new question -- who will replace O'Brien?
Right now, that remains unanswered.
Not surprisingly, cyberspace has filled that void with megabytes of speculation. First Greg Schiano was a prime contender, then he was quickly crossed off the list. Then Al Golden had been offered the job before he announced he was staying at Miami. Finally James Franklin's candidacy was waning, but now a different report says he's a "clear frontrunner."
It's hard to know what to believe at this point.
Into this maelstrom of conflicting information stepped Dallastown High School graduate Ben Kline to provide some much-needed perspective.
Kline is a redshirt sophomore linebacker for Penn State. He's not a star by any means. His PSU career has been slowed by injuries, but he was a contributor this past season when healthy and is expected to battle for a starting job in 2014.
But Kline is a very intelligent young man who is apparently well respected within the Penn State locker room. Academically, he's a two-time Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-District selection. His leadership abilities were validated when he was recently elected president of Penn State's Uplifting Athletes chapter, which is the driving force behind the Penn State Lift For Life, which has raised more than $825,000 in its 11 years of existence, including more than $140,000 last season. That money benefits the Kidney Cancer Association.
Kline put his intelligence and leadership qualities on display late last week when he wrote an open letter to the Penn State community. That letter was published in Monday's York Dispatch, so we won't get into all the particulars here. But one passage from Kline's letter was especially insightful.
"Football is a game that is built on the backs of players," Kline wrote. "It is built on the backs of the men who battle between the lines on game day, not the men who roam the sideline or sit in the press box. No matter how influential, legendary, or brilliant a coach may be, without the performance and production of the players on the field, none of a coach's achievements are possible, nor is the potential of the team fulfilled. Penn State football has been fortunate enough to be led by great coaches in the past. I myself was fortunate enough to play for two of them, one an unquestioned legend and the other a brilliant leader. Their contributions to our football program cannot be overstated. However, both of the aforementioned coaches could not have achieved any of their accomplishments without the players whom they oversaw.
"The standard among Penn State football players will never change. Toughness, resiliency, competitiveness -- these are the traits that Penn State football is known for. This is not by accident. This is the standard that has been created by the players of the past, and passed down to the current players. This is the standard that will be passed on to future players. This standard is what motivates me, and I know it is what motivates many of my teammates. At the end of the day, this is what makes Penn State football great, because this is the lifeblood of our football program. Coaches will come and go. Fear not. The roots of Penn State Football are far too deep to allow the whirlwinds of staff changes to shake us. This program is built and maintained by the players. Our great lettermen have established the standard. We will continue to try to live up to it, and see that it is passed on."
That, my friends, is true perspective, offered up from the cogent mind of a 21-year-old. It should help to soothe the nerves of a PSU community that is more than a little jumpy right now.
With young men such as Kline, the PSU football program should be just fine, both on and off the field, regardless of who the school ultimately hires as its next head football coach.
Kline deserves some recognition for reminding us of that.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go here for Kline's full letter.