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‘The Funky Monkey’: Penn State Hoops Fan Takes Happy Valley To Funkytown

For Penn State men’s basketball fans, a home game in the Bryce Jordan Center is just another lively pastime to cheer on the team. But for Penn State senior AJ “The Funky Monkey” Rovner, cheering on Penn State hoops is a lifestyle.

Donning a monkey suit and glasses, Rovner attends every home game as “The Funky Monkey,” a name that is affectionately dedicated to Penn State’s three-point sniper Andrew Funk. 

In tribute to Funk’s nickname, Rovner dresses as the character and keeps track of Funk’s successful three-pointer conversions on a homemade counter while courtside.

“Freshman year, I didn’t really find my groove until I got into men’s basketball,” Rovner said. “I know it’s a little odd since we are known as a football school.”

A communications major from East Rockaway, New York, Rovner has been a dedicated Penn State hoops fan for the past three years. Sitting in Bigler Hall in 2019, he decided to purchase season tickets with a friend. That decision would change his life forever and shape his college career. 

“We basically said we were bored one night. I’ll never forget,” Rovner said. “They were playing Maryland Eastern Shore. It was the first game our freshman year. We kinda just started going every game and then our friend group grew, and we just kept going since.”

Finding his friends and future roommates through their common love of the team, Rovner wanted to do something special to support the team in his senior year.

“I wanted to customize something with basketball,” Rovner said. “I think Funk’s a great three-point shooter, so it really just brought it all together, and it seems like people have really caught onto it and enjoyed it.”

With the help of two roommates, Rovner crafted his alter ego in simple steps: creating a poster to count Funk’s three-pointers and buying a monkey suit. He also commonly wears beads or glasses to “bring the Funk to it.” 

“Obviously the first day I show up in a monkey suit, people are probably looking at me like, ‘What’s this kid doing?’” Rovner said.

While the costume may have turned some heads at first, it soon became a Penn State hoops staple and quickly caught the attention of jumbotron cameramen.

“But then, once he started to hit threes, they saw me flip the number,” Rovner said. “Every game now, they kinda have that camera that just waits, and every time he hits a three, they actually come over to me every time.”

Rovner even caught the eye of Funk himself, whose signature can be found on the poster. 

“We got Funk to sign it. We put the number 10 in one corner and ‘We Are,’ in the other,” Rovner said. “We saved specifically one corner for him to sign it.

Sitting in the first row, Rovner spoke with Funk and got the chance to explain his love of three-point shooters. 

“I kind of explained to Andrew what my whole philosophy was, and he knows his nickname, so it wasn’t much of a surprise to him,” Rovner said. “When he comes through, he always goes ‘That’s my man,’ or ‘What’s up, man?’… It seems like he likes it, too.”

Getting shoutouts from Funk himself, Rovner quickly became what jumbotron legends are made of. Still, he doesn’t let the fame go to his head and would have continued as the Funky Monkey either way. 

“Even if it didn’t really gain much traction, I really feel like the unique aspect of it is cool,” Rovner said. “If somebody doesn’t like what I’m doing, as long as it’s not gonna hurt anybody or offend anybody, I don’t really care what you think.”

Confident in Funkytown, Rovner built a legacy based on what started his journey in the first place: the community found by a common love of the team. 

“I kinda just do my own thing, and if it makes a couple of people smile… I know kids have come up to me and asked me to take pictures, so I know if it’s making six, seven-year-old girls and boys happy, I know I’m doing something right,” Rovner said.

Staying in character as a season ticket holder, Rovner plans to attend the home game of the season. He will also attend the Big Ten Tournament on March 8 in Chicago, Illinois, and appear as the Funky Monkey.

Grateful for the team that brought him confidence and friendship, the Funky Monkey shows deep Penn State pride and serves as a true example of what it means to be a fan.

“That’s what school spirit does,” Rovner said. “It brings people together.”

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About the Author

Lizzie Palmieri

Lizzie is a senior majoring in Marketing and Psychology from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Ask her about Disney World, Diet Pepsi, or dancing on the Jumbotron at Beaver Stadium. When not causing general trouble, Lizzie enjoys playing golf, performing in the theatre, and being the CEO of reorganizing the fridge. Her favorite thing to do is hang out with her sassy sidekick, 19-year-old Italian Greyhound, Macaroni. Follow her on Twitter @lizziepalmieri if your deepest desire is bestie vibes only.

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