As Blue White Illustrated’s Nate Bauer says accurately in his Twitter bio: “You like Penn State football. I like writing stories about it.”
And that’s true, we’re all here to do our jobs, write stories and get the information fans are interested in. How well we actually do that job is up for you to decide – and fortunately for you, with about 10,000 media outlets covering Penn State, you have a lot of choices on who to read in regards to this matter.
But buried underneath all these professional exteriors is the fact – in theory – everyone got into sports writing because they like sports. Nate for example likes golf, ask him about Bryson DeChambeau sometime.
Nevertheless covering Penn State football during the pandemic was a mixed bag. On the one hand we were fortunate enough to A: attend games and B: have our jobs during a time when that wasn’t a guarantee. So you can’t really complain about either of those factors. It’s also hard to complain about not having to deal with traffic, hard to complain about an easy drive home and hard to complain about bringing in your own food inside the press box.
The longer it went on though, the more you missed all the things you were used to. Because yea, I get excited on game days, I hope I always do. And sure I was lucky to be there, but it wasn’t the same. No amount of piped in sounds can change that. So here are five things I’m looking forward to now that fans are back.
Friday Night: Nothing beats Friday night in State College during football season. I don’t care if you’re just driving through town on your way home or actually waiting in a heinously long line outside of whatever your bar of choice might be. The day before a game is one of the great sights in a college town. Everyone is on the same page, everyone is ready, everyone is excited. For an added bonus, look in the right direction and you can see the traffic pouring into town. Take a walk and you can see the RV lot filling one after another. Sure, this isn’t strictly speaking a football thing but it sure reminds you what’s coming up the very next day.
The Drive Over: Normally football traffic makes me want to stick a traffic cone in my eye, but there was something not quite right about being able to hop in my car and drive across town without having to wait for anything other than the light to turn green. Sure, I obviously think I should get a police escort to the stadium because I’m clearly a very important person, but I also enjoy sitting in traffic and taking it all in. If you’ve never been to a college football game away from Beaver Stadium you may not appreciate the spectacle for what it is. Plenty of places simply don’t have the space to cram everyone around the stadium. Michigan State is a hodgepodge of locations, Michigan puts folks on a golf course, Ohio State has enough parking decks to house an army. Beaver Stadium? Move over cows. So yea, the traffic is annoying, but it’s a testament to how many people are all showing up for the exact same thing. That’s pretty cool, even if its occasionally annoying.
An Hour Before: This doesn’t usually translate well on TV because pregame broadcasts are almost always showing taped stadium footage, but getting inside early for the whiteout has turned into a thing more and more the past few years. This might be a Michigan and Ohio State factor, but seeing Beaver Stadium more or less full to the brim with 45 minutes to play is always impressive and adds a real layer of excitement. Sure, I might not be rooting for either team, but you don’t get into sports writing because you don’t like sports. I love pregame, it might be my favorite part of the game because nothing has happened yet and everything is about to. The excitement is never higher, the hype is never stronger. Everyone is ready for whatever happens next. And nobody does pregame hype quite like Penn State.
The Breath Hold: There is a certain sound that comes with a defensive end or linebacker turning the edge and running down the blindside of a quarterback. That same sound can be heard as ball rockets deep down the field to an open receiver but hasn’t reached him just yet. There is an anticipation, a rising roar as something is about to happen but hasn’t quite happened yet. Everyone is celebrating but they can’t quite celebrate. This is niche enjoyment, but the building roar as everyone sees something about to happen and the explosion when it does. No amount piped in noise can replicate that.
The Organic: I enjoy the musical moments and the traditions and all that jazz, but something about fans doing it all on their own is better than anything you can plan. It’s the crowd waving its arms for some weird reasons or starting a chant that has never been done before. It’s the team dancing in the stands after a game to a song or fans getting after an opposing coach for being upset on the sidelines. The unfortunate thing is that often times an organic moment can turn into something that gets overdone by the powers at be. That’s not to say new and cool traditions can’t be born, but don’t crush the soul out of it. That’s a tough balance to strike, but nothing beats the moment when something cool is born all on its own. Life finds a way.