Come Rain, Shine, Win, Or Loss: Don’t Leave A Home Football Game Early
With one final home game remaining on the schedule, I’ve grown a bit sentimental. Penn State football games are special, and as the team returns to Beaver Stadium for the last time this Saturday, keep these words in mind.
My first Penn State home football game was, in a word, miserable. The excitement that had me nearly bursting at the seams for weeks was dampened by a disappointing loss during the season-opener against Temple, and what was left of it was drenched and washed away by the rain that poured down on State College that afternoon.
I spent the evening before the game scoping out a sweatshirt to add my already growing collection of Penn State apparel, expecting a light rain, but nothing that would stop be from enjoying my first game. The closer kickoff got, though, the more dismal the forecast became. The next morning, I was stomping my way to Beaver Stadium in rain boots and a poncho, convincing myself I was prepared to stand on my feet in harsh weather for four hours.
In hindsight, the rain probably wasn’t that bad, but at the time, it was the only thing I could focus on. I thought I was ready, but as soon as the raindrops rolled off my poncho and onto the dry clothes I had on underneath, I freaked out a little. The sleeves of my sweatshirt started to get heavier and heavier with water and each time I flailed my shaker in celebration, it splashed me in the face. Mascara wasn’t my best choice that day.
I remember the exact moment I felt myself lose it. I couldn’t just stand there anymore. It was too cold, too wet, too dreary for football. Everyone assured me that it was going to be an easy win, so with little regret and a lot of longing for a warm bed, I scurried down the steps and out of the stadium, too distracted by the sloshing noise in my boots to hear the chants of sheer joy coming from the stands where I stood just minutes before.
Penn State beat Buffalo 27-14. Although it wasn’t exactly a lucky win, I consider myself incredibly unlucky for missing it.
Now, I can only imagine what it was like to feel the satisfaction of making it through my first home football game, even if soaked from head to toe. I will never know what it felt like to wrap my arms around the shoulders of the students around me and feel the warmth of unity instead of the warmth of dry clothes. I can only speculate what it felt like to hear the entire stadium and the football team sing the alma mater in wonderfully imperfect unison for the first time. It was a mistake I tried desperately not to duplicate the following season.
If any of the upsets in the history of the program taught us anything, it’s to stay in the stands until the end of the game. Whether you’re predicting a major win or anticipating a major loss, you don’t leave early. Despite the clear argument that says you paid good money for the tickets, you’re missing out on a major experience that only comes seven times a year.
Ask someone who left this year’s White Out game against Ohio State early and they’ll tell you how painful it was to miss the moment when the tide suddenly and miraculously turned. They’ll tell you how they could hear the crowd screaming from blocks away, but didn’t think anything of it until they checked their phones for an update. They’ll tell you how they might have missed out on a program-defining moment in history. Surely a few hours in the cold and wind isn’t worth that.
Still, those who stood in the stands from start to finish during that game didn’t entirely expect Penn State to come out with a win. Even when the team is getting a beat down, masses of fans stay where they are. The chants may grow infrequent, the shouts may become quiet, but they’re there to help push their Nittany Lions to the finish line. A university built on the solidarity of a community wouldn’t have it any other way.
Understandably so, there will be times during a losing battle when you want to turn away. For me, it’s always been a bit too heartbreaking to see something I love so much get crushed in front my own eyes. If all else fails and you’re on the verge of jumping ship, try to recall the times that you were glad you were there. No matter how small the moment may be, it stuck with you for a reason. If you can rack your brain for a memory filled with so much exuberance and joy, you can remember why you got up at 7 a.m. to buy tickets in the first place.
Of course, the choice to stay or go is up to you. It won’t make you any less of a Penn Stater if you choose to keep some of your fingers and toes over a football game. Before you go though, make sure you look down onto the field at a TV camera. Through that lens are thousands of people wishing they were in your shoes, if you want to make them a little bit jealous, you might want to reconsider.