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Holly Swanson: A Penn State Football Fan’s List of Thanks

by on November 22, 2012 1:32 PM

There is an endless list of things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving ... my family, my friends, our health. But from a local perspective, I’m most thankful that it’s not this time last year. There are plenty of things we can say about the past 12 months and most of them are awful.

But being a Penn State football fan is just as fun as it’s always been. Game days are a chance to come together with friends and relax.

I never considered myself a Penn Stater before this season, but I am one now and I love it. And these are nine of the reasons why…

Michael Mauti—I’ve been a fan of (read: in love with) Michael Mauti since last summer when he stepped up as the unofficial leader of the team. He’s fun to watch and speaks from the heart. He’s dedicated to Penn State and not only stayed when others bailed, he embodied Success with Honor. When he got hurt last weekend, every Penn Stater felt it. Mauti deserves more public recognition and awards than he will probably earn. Did I mention that he’s downright dreamy?

The Paterno family—After the past few months, the Paternos have every reason to be outwardly angry. They had to deal with unimaginable personal tragedies that were compounded by intrusive publicity. If they wanted to, they could selfishly sway public opinion in their favor. But, instead, they have reacted gracefully and patiently.

Overnight parking—I don’t know what the official policy is for leaving your vehicle overnight in the football lots, but judging by the number of cars still there on Sunday morning, it’s pretty lenient. I have no firsthand knowledge of this, of course, but I’m told that those cars are usually left behind by tailgaters who, for one reason or another, shouldn’t get behind the wheel. Those drivers, and everyone else on the road, are lucky beyond words.

Tailgaters—I didn’t believe it at the beginning of the season, but it’s true—Penn State tailgaters are some of the most generous and most fun people you’ll find in college football. They feed you, they help you find your way when you’re lost, they give you extra tickets when you don’t have your own. Bottom line: they love their school and want you to love it, too.

Beaver Stadium litterbugs—you know those collectible travel mugs that cost $5? A lot of them get left behind by fans who don’t realize how easily they fit in their car’s cup holders or who are in too much of hurry to get out of the stadium. Either way, those of us who stay until the end not only get treated a great post-game performance by the Blue Band, we also get as many Penn State travel mugs as we can carry. And they make great gifts.

Football Do Gooders—when you have an average of 100,000 people in a relatively small space, a lot can happen, which is sometimes documented in the police log. One of the great things about Penn State football games, though, is that a lot of good happens, too. The Blue Out, in just its second year, raised almost $80,000 for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. Last weekend, the “Stuff a Blue Bus” project collected donations for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. I’ve seen tailgaters collecting for THON and for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. It’s difficult to go to a game and not find a cause worth supporting.

Coach O’Brien—I’m happy to admit that I was wrong: I didn’t think O’Brien was a good hire. I didn’t doubt his coaching experience, but I wasn’t sure if someone from outside the program could appreciate the challenges the team was about to face. I’ve learned my lesson. O’Brien is exactly what the Nittany Lions needed. He could coach a team of fish to climb a tree. And they’d be happy to do it for him.

The Blue Band—who doesn’t love a marching band? Well, lots of people, actually, but the Blue Band is different. They’re dynamic, talented, and fun to both watch and listen to. The only drawback is that we don’t hear more of them during the game. But when Drum Major Ian Kenney does the trademark flip, all while keeping that huge hat on his head...that’s magic.

Matt McGloin—few Penn State fans could have imagined two seasons ago that McGloin would be setting records for touchdown passes and most completions in a season. Some people weren’t even sure if he should be starting. But McGloin stepped up to the challenge and turned on talent that many people didn’t know he had. But he knew. And that’s part of his Moxie.

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Holly Swanson is a State College-based freelance writer. She is on Twitter @statecollegemom and can be reached via email at hollyannswanson@verizon.net.
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