The Greatest Penn State Football Weekend That Never Was
There’s nothing quite like the year’s first Penn State football weekend.
As the anticipation builds throughout the week, campus and downtown State College really start buzzing Friday night. The excitement of a new semester and the expectations of a new season combine as we all hold on to the final days of a beautiful summer.
Traffic gets jammed on College Ave., lines stretch out the doors of restaurants and bars, and old friends and alumni reminisce on fond memories. Those same alumni are jealously looking on at current students who are finishing up their Friday afternoon classes and preparing for game day.
While I knew none of that would take place this past Friday, I could almost feel that same energy walking around town. There weren’t nearly that many people on College Ave. and there was no excitement surrounding an upcoming game, but I tried my best to imagine what it might look like.
Friday’s weather was exactly how it always feels the day before a game, so it wasn’t too hard to imagine just a few of those things that make a Happy Valley football weekend perfect. It was a warm night with a cool breeze that signaled fall was just around the corner. For many Penn Staters, that crisp wind usually is a reminder that they’ll be in Beaver Stadium watching the Nittany Lions soon.
On a normal football weekend, Friday’s energy only grows into the early hours of Saturday morning. Fans and students alike roll out of bed and scramble to the tailgating fields. If they’re lucky, freshmen in East Halls may get a wakeup call from the Blue Band as they watch a parade of blue and white march up Park Avenue and Curtin Road.
Upperclassmen living in apartments and houses downtown follow the crowd on that march up to Beaver Stadium. Even if they don’t have a friend planning a tailgate, it’s a safe bet they’ll be offered plenty of food and drinks as they make their rounds around the fields.
None of that took place this weekend either, but again I felt some remnants of that feeling on Saturday morning. The weather remained perfect, the sun was shining, and it was a beautiful 70 degrees or so. The air felt a little crisp, however, and that breeze from Friday night remained.
Saturday felt so much like a gameday that as I sat on my apartment porch overlooking State College, I was almost waiting to hear a collective roar from the crowd at Beaver Stadium.
We’re obviously not going to experience that roar for the foreseeable future. Fans won’t have the chance to reunite at massive tailgates, and forcing a timeout on the first play of the White Out thanks to a Beaver Stadium rendition of “Mo Bamba” will have to wait.
Everything that comes with a Penn State football weekend will need to wait, too.
As rumors continue to swirl on when Big Ten football may begin, most fans are well aware that it just won’t feel the same for a while. Even if football does return in some form, it’s no secret that these special fall weekends are so much bigger than the game.
Some students that crowd Beaver Stadium on Saturdays may not even know what a first down is, but they’ll still tell you that those are their favorite days of the year. That’s because they’re making lifelong memories, enjoying the company of their closest friends, and taking part in the best example of how powerful the Penn State community really is.
Those same students will one day become alumni rolling in on Friday night. They’ll bring their kids and family to a Happy Valley football weekend, and they’ll show them why this place is so special to them.
Football is just one of the many things that the coronavirus has halted in these past several months. While we know it’s just a game, the importance it has in supporting this community and bringing its people together can’t be overstated.
On some fall weekend in the future, we’ll return to State College and reunite in Beaver Stadium. We’ll pack our cars full for tailgates, meet old friends at our favorite bars, and enjoy a perfect weekend in Happy Valley.
Until that happens again, though, we’ll need to enjoy our fall weekends without football. Of course, it will feel empty and sad, and we’ll know something is missing, but that energy that surrounds a Penn State football weekend will never fully go away.
For now, we can hold onto those memories we have and know that feeling will come back even stronger once those oh-so-special fall weekends return.
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About the Author
Kotelnicki’s hiring was first reported Thursday afternoon.
Most of our staffers have Penn State playing in the Peach Bowl for the first time in program history.
Kotelnicki has everything he needs to succeed at Penn State. Can he break the Nittany Lions’ trend of flops at the offensive coordinator position?