Had the school just come out and said "Sweet Caroline" was being dropped because it is too closely associated with those self-absorbed sycophants who cheer for the Boston Red Sox everyone would have understood. But saying and doing exactly the right things, knowing how to react and not over-react, has never been so difficult as it has in the past year at Penn State.
When the Lions play Ohio University in the season opener on Saturday, a cupcake bit of scheduling that is usually ignored by anyone not actually inside the stadium, the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN as the outside world continues to poke the ashes of the fire to see if anything can still be stirred. It is rubber-necking at the scene of the accident, for one more week, and then the Lions will probably be left alone amid the hills. For, like, 10 years.
Life at Penn State continues to travel on the parallel rails that converged last November. While the football team pays for the sins of others, there is a long line of folks who want to make sure everyone knows they weren't among the sinners.
At the front of the line is former school president Graham Spanier, who has been on a full-scale media blitz for the last two weeks, the theme of which apparently is, "Hey, I get a lot of e-mails."
Spanier told the New Yorker - which also doesn't have anything to do with Penn State, so the band won't be playing the "Theme from the New Yorker" this season, either, even though it is really slick and the cartoons are droll - that in any given year as school president he received 30,000 e-mails that he didn't think required a reply. (Join the club, pal.)
The former president also said the Freeh Report was a bunch of baloney, and his lawyer said the narrative of neglect constructed from e-mail traffic that involved Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley, vice president Gary Schultz and Joe Paterno was a "myth."
Meanwhile, Spanier and the board of trustees still can't agree on whether Spanier resigned or was fired. Other than that, everyone is pretty much on the same page.
Spanier has good reason to go on the offensive. He would very much like to not be indicted by the grand jury that is still impaneled, and taking issue with the Freeh Report is the straightest line to that goal. The first civil suit that included Penn State as a defendant was filed by one of Sandusky's victims last week and Spanier's name was right there in the filing. From a liability standpoint, he's got a lot to lose unless he can keep his deniability intact.
Some of Spanier's story is hard to believe, but that doesn't make him unique among those who were in charge at Penn State. He could be telling the truth, or maybe the truth got deleted without a reply somewhere in that stack of e-mails that kept crowding his in-box.
While Spanier makes his case, and while the board of trustees tries to figure out why nobody told it anything for 15 years, the football team will attempt to play a dozen games over on that other rail that is finally being allowed to take its own course.
New coach Bill O'Brien did an admirable job holding the team together after the NCAA got up on its golden pulpit and ordered a plague of locusts and a rain of frogs on the program. Only nine players transferred out, although those included the team's leading running back and leading wide receiver, and a few other solid starters. None of the transfers were Pennsylvania natives, which says something positive about the players who remain rooted in the program and something negative about the mercenary nature of big-time college football.
That aside, the Lions are going to struggle and the real struggle might not begin until the next couple of recruiting classes. Can O'Brien continue to attract Big Ten-quality players while the team is banned from the postseason and dealing with scholarship reductions? That's a lot to ask, and the NCAA sanctions - far more punitive than corrective - were intended to make sure he can't.
To what extent O'Brien succeeds will be interesting to watch, even if the games aren't always. Nevertheless, there will still be the stadium and the crowd and the excitement and the band. The playlist has been altered slightly from last season, of course, but everyone accepts that the good times might not seem so good for a while. A few pessimists are inclined to believe they never will.
Contact Bob Ford at email@example.com, read his blog at www.philly.com/postpatterns, and follow @bobfordsports on Twitter.