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State Speaks: My Experience Behind Enemy Lines

Sometimes, you just need to speak your mind. Today we have Russ Beck discussing his experiences at Michigan this past weekend.

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of traveling to see our Nittany Lions play Michigan in Ann Arbor. As a student, I have been told that visiting the Big House should be on my “Penn State Bucket List” and, as a junior, this was my last chance. The smack down we ushered was certainly worth the journey.

The Michigan experience is significantly different than the Penn State experience. What surprised me most was that Michigan fans don’t know how to tailgate. I only saw two games of cornhole being played, no testicle toss, no dizzy bat, no stump, nothing else. No one had a large, party style, tailgate, no one had high definition televisions in their cars to watch other games, no one tailgated in converted school buses, I could go on and on. The most hardcore people I saw were a bunch of 40+-year-old guys who were in one of the groups tossing the beanbags into the wooden boxes. They could have tailgated in Happy Valley, nobody else could.

Now I would like to address the Michigan fans. I have been to a lot of Penn State home games and seen what opposing fans must deal with (Re: Nebraska 02, Notre Dame 07). I have also been to Steelers games in Baltimore and Cleveland and therefore have taken some bashings myself. HOWEVER, the Michigan fans could not have been more kind. I was so impressed with how our group was treated. Not once before, during, or after the game did anyone say or yell at me anything derogatory or even mean. I cannot express how much this surprised me.

Surely a University with a proud tradition like Michigan would have hardcore students…right? Wrong. Obviously, nobody wanted to come to this game. When I got to my seats (about one hour before kickoff), there was only one row of seats filled in the student section. Yes, only one row. Paternoville alone fills three rows, and even against Eastern Illinois with an hour before kickoff at least ten rows were full. People complain about our students not getting to the game on time, they should have seen Michigan’s pathetic performance. The students were also the next in line at the “Let’s Copy the Whiteout” stand. This rendition? Pitiful. Not all the students wore the ugly offshoot of yellow that is Maize and barely 75% of the rest of the stadium played along. Despite worse weather against Iowa, the Penn State student section was a sea of white. I know their team isn’t all that good, but Michigan students really needed to step up their game, it bordered on embarrassing.

Moving now to the stadium. This was possibly the number one thing I came to see. Vaunted Michigan Stadium, The Big House. While the Michigan fans we talked to were quite impressed with their large attendances (and quite unhappy when we reminded them that Beaver Stadium is actually larger in both size and capacity this year), I was not sold. The structure of the stadium is significantly different than the Beav. As many of you know, the stadium was dug into the ground. So it looks very small when you approach it, then you have to walk down into your seats. Beaver Stadium is much, much more intimidating and a lot louder. While sitting in my seats, I could see tree tops above the highest point of the stadium…unless a tree from the Mesozoic Era sprouted up in Happy Valley, this would be completely impossible. All around, really disappointing.

Over the years, Penn State has been subject to some pretty bad officiating in games against Michigan (Re: 2002, 2005). True to form, on Penn State’s opening drive there was an obvious Pass Interference that was not called as Daryll Clark lofted the ball to Chaz Powell on a post pattern. The Michigan fan sitting next to us looked over and said, “Wasn’t that Pass Interference?” We rolled our eyes and said yea that was pretty obvious. The Michigan fan’s response was, “That’s why we pay our dues.” At least Michigan fans know that the refs always make calls in their favor.

I wanted to hit on one more thing. Before this season, Joe Paterno asked fans not to boo the opposing team when they ran onto the field. While nobody listened, simply booing the other team is significantly more respectful than what Michigan fans do during the game. While, personally, nobody spoke directly at me…after every third down that the opposing offense fails to convert, all of the Michigan fans sing you suck over and over again building up to one giant stadium chant, YOU SUCK! Well, I’m sorry, but that shows very little class and I would be appalled if something of the sort became popular at Penn State. This weekend it was you, Michigan, who sucked. Regardless, my overall experience was very positive. The Lions got their first win in Ann Arbor since 1996, I didn’t get berated at all day, and I was able to go down and celebrate the victory with fellow fans, players, and the Blue Band as the final seconds ticked off the clock. I would love to go back, but I am sure that a losing effort would have been a much different story.

Next up on the Bucket List: Tell PJ Maierhofer that I love her. Oh wait, I already did that one…I don’t think she feels the same way.

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