Joe Bastardi: I Love This Football Team
PSU football is now 8-1. They are unbeaten in the Big Ten. The only team to have beaten the Nittany Lions is quite possibly the best team in the country, Alabama, and its toughest game this season so far was against Penn State.
Even better news: Temperatures for the Nebraska game will be above normal. Mother Nature will apologize for the snow that arrived earlier, in two unprecedented events in the Northeast in October. The first weekend of the month saw the earliest recorded accumulating snow in the mountains west of us, while this past weekend spoke for itself.
October nationwide, though, has been warmer than normal. And as I opined in my last article, believe it or not, with the set-up that we have, it should lead to rough sledding Thanksgiving to New Year's. The Wisconsin game could really be tough weather-wise this year. Patterns will be in transition for Ohio State out there, but at least our last home game should not be as nasty as it can be Nov 12.
Now to the crux of this argument.
In a way, a football Saturday here is a lesson in what is going on in America today. I love watching character in action, and that is what this team seems to be to me. What is a shame is that a bunch of relatively young, hard-working kids face some people who grumble about the way they win. These are people who supposedly have the players' backs.
But then again, it's 2011. And in America today, it seems being spoiled and being owed something have been elevated to an art form. Actually, since I got here in 1973, I noticed that about a lot of PSU fans: They expect to win, which is fine. But since they aren't actually members of the team, nor do they do the work with the team, they have no idea what is going on with the team.
They think they do, but they don't. So when things go wrong, they get antsy fast. Our only Heisman Trophy winner, John Cappelletti, was derided and called "fumbleletti" for a time. I am sure if Rob Bolden comes back next year and starts drilling passes, everyone around here will be saying: "We knew it."
Try growing up rooting for Texas A&M and crying when the Aggies lost routinely in the early '60s. Rooting for PSU is easy compared to loving the Aggies, even now.
After the "ugly" win Saturday (I thought it was beautiful, the way we managed to have enough guts and character to put it together at the end -- part of the reason being that a player with a broken foot came in and help ignite the offense), there was a lot of grumbling going on. So let me ask you this: Would you rather we had put up 40 points and lost? Flash-and-dash is nice, but chances are, a team like that can fold just as fast as it comes out of the gate.
And, by the way, you know that one loss we have, against Bama? Just how high-flying do you think those southern boys would have been if they had been playing in the snow and cold Saturday up here? We scored 11 ugly points against them. Well, in that weather, they may have only scored 10. Would that have been too ugly for PSU fans?
It takes a lot of guts and character not to break and still be there at the end; it takes a lot to be in there fighting when things aren't going right. And lost with a lot of people is the fact that sports in college are supposed to teach people something. The kids have to learn it if they want to have a chance to earn it.
As for the fans, people who should know it already -- well, it's disappointing to see the resentment. If you don't like the product, then don't go to the game. Don't buy the product. Believe me. Someone else who hasn't had the chance to "buy the product" is waiting to come in and try it. The coaches aren't gods and neither are the kids.
That is a problem today also, with people somehow thinking someone else in authority is going to solve their problems. It's your fault, not theirs, if you expect things out of them that many don't demand of themselves. I heard people grumbling after squeaking out a win against Temple, which then proceeded to shellack Maryland by four or give touchdowns the following week. How many of you thought we would be 8-1 now?
But as mad as many of you probably are at me now, I want you to think about this.
Here are a bunch of hard-working people you really know nothing about. Seriously, you don't know the house they grew up in, or what trials they have. You know yours and have to deal with them. But each of these people has to overcome things each day you and I know nothing about.
People think they are pampered athletes. Well, you want them to get out there and beat the tar out of the people who come in here, right? You want one big play after another, right? You think that comes easy? So if the quarterback throws the ball in the ground, or someone is off-sides on a play that goes from the touchdown, your expectations aren't satisfied.
Isn't that a bit selfish, given no one is there to boo you if you show up five minutes late at work or you do something wrong? So what we have here is a classic case of demanding from others what you and I can't do. That is to get out there in front of 100,000-plus people and perform on every play -- and this from kids who are demonstrating character and guts by fighting hard enough to have a chance to win. Seems kind of selfish, doesn't it? Seems like we think, because things may not be perfect in our lives, we should pay our money and be treated to what ever it is we want, like we are owed something.
Bottom line: This team is showing you what is good about America -- character, guts and fighting back in the face of adversity and learning lessons that you can build off of.
But an increasing number of its fans are showing you what is not so good: that they feel entitled to a team that owes them the desires of their hearts, which is to beat the tar out of an opponent at a level they are not capable of attaining themselves.
You think about that the next time you boo a 20-year-old, or want to wring the neck of a coach. And then think about what a Saturday afternoon in "Happy Valley" when your team plays ugly says about some of the larger things going on in society today. If you stand back and have a lick of objectivity, you might be surprised at what you find.
As for me, I love this team. It's a joy to watch guys with guts and character fight when things aren't going right. Gives me hope that lessons like this mean our nation's best day may still be in front of us, naive idealist that I am.