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Penn State Football Rewatch Club: 2016 Big Ten Title Game

by on March 26, 2020 2:00 PM

Welcome to Week 2 of the rewatch club, tonight at 7:30 it's Penn State and Wisconsin in the Big Ten Title game. Check Ben_Jones88 on Twitter around that time for a link.

I remember driving to Indianapolis and feeling nervous. Not about the game, well, I mean, anyone who decides to spend their life going to sporting events must get excited about the prospect of watching a big game, but I was nervous about the writing.

In truth I spent about a week thinking about the story I would write if they won, and the story I might write if they lost. If athletes like to visualize, then I may as well lean on that advice too.

It could be said that the value of authoritatively documenting sports has waned in the digital era. We all have cell phone video of things, we can YouTube a game and watch it again and again. The ability to fast forward and rewind our TV has allowed us to break down a play or a call faster -and sometimes- better than the people actually at the event.

But there is something romantic about writing a story. In theory it will last forever, floating out there on the web or filed away in print. It's a first hand account of a moment in history that for a few fleeting hours was the most important thing going on for thousands and sometimes millions of people.

So there are nerves ahead of a big game. Penn State pounding Rutgers into the ground is only so historic, its piece of history is small and routine.

A Big Ten Title game though, that's the kind of thing where lives are changed. That's the kind of thing where legacies are solidified. Those moments, you better document them properly.

I've often thought that as a writer you only have to write a little bit better than the team you are covering played. A bad game, don't try and win a Pulitzer. A great game? Well, give it a proper swing for the fence.

And for a good long while it looked like Penn State was going to make my writing a lot less stressful. The Nittany Lions were bullied at the point of attack, the offense struggled, James Franklin went for it on fourth down in a panic and Penn State's defense was porous when it needed to be anything but.

But anyone who had watched Penn State that season knew it wasn't over just yet. And sure enough, a touchdown by Saeed Blacknall opened the floodgates and began the barrage of second half offense that Penn State had become so well known for.

Even so it didn't make any sense, it wasn't supposed to happen this way. Wisconsin had been bludgeoning Penn State and suddenly Trace McSorley is standing there lofting a perfect wheel-route pass to Saquon Barkley to give Penn State the lead.

Then it's Marcus Allen and Grant Haley, again, teaming up for a fourth down stop weeks after that improbable scoop and score against Ohio State.

Of course it took me forever this morning to find the stories I wrote about that game, maybe a reminder that history is still a memory and that the present only lasts so long. Apparently I wrote about the 800 days that led up to Penn State's win, a senior class that had seen so much, and just how crazy the whole ride had been. 

I still haven't covered a game that big since, but every once in a while I still feel that pang of nerves as I ride the elevator into the press box, knowing that the task ahead is to document history as it happens.

And sure it's *just* sports, but sports are great and while we may overvalue them, that doesn't mean they aren't important.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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