(This is the third post sponsored by Samsung about how technology has enhanced sports. I was supposed to run this today, but I ran it last week instead. So I'm running it again. That is all.)
I know this is hard to believe for some of you, but once upon a time we used to enjoy football games without piped in music or jumbo-trons telling us when to "GET LOUD" or "MAKE NOISE" or giving us weather reports for the drive home and reminding us to stop at Sheetz on the way to the Rockvale Outlets and drink a Pepsi. And you had to wait to the intermission in between quarters to hear the public address announcer tell you the scores of other games. They weren't just rolling across the ticker board constantly like they do today.
To the old-timer purists, these things are an abomination. Back in their day they just went to the game and sat there. When the home team scored you stood up and cheered. The rest of the game you stayed in your seat and watched. Maybe you listened to the band play at halftime, but more than likely you ran to the restroom and got a hot dog on the way back to your seat.
Going to a football game now is more than just attending a sporting event. It's a multimedia experience. Music designed to pump up the crowd blares through the stadium as the players warm up. Pregame videos play on the big screen showing players doing battle to classical music as if they were Roman gladiators.
It used to be when the team was on the opposite end of the field from where you were sitting you could not make out the numbers on their jerseys unless you brought a pair of binoculars. Now you just look up at the jumbo-tron after the play to easily see who did what.
Though it may seem odd to see these technological enhancements at a school as rich in tradition as Penn State, it's not to hard to see that they played a big part in saving Penn State football from slipping into permanent irrelevance. In the early part of the past decade it was difficult to get high school kids interested in attending what was once called "the farmer school in central Pennsylvania." Not only was the team losing, but the game day experience was incredibly boring. The fans did the same cheers while the Blue Band played the same songs over and over.
But starting around 2004 things began to change. Penn State began piping music into the stadium before the game. The jumbo-tron was installed to show replays and inspirational videos as well as direct crowd noise. Then in 2005 against the Ohio State Buckeyes the nation was introduced to one of the most amazing and intimidating things ever witnessed in college football. After a big defensive play like a sack or a turnover, Zombie Nation came over the loud speakers, and 110,000 people began jumping up and down. The stadium made of concrete and steel pounded to the beat as fans sang along. Penn State won the game, and Buckeye players after the game admitted they had never played in a venue more intimidating and difficult to communicate in.
It was the game that put Penn State football back on the map. Because of the national championship implications, millions of fans were watching the game on television. High school kids across the country got a taste of what Penn State football had become, and they all wanted to be a part of it. Suddenly, playing football at Penn State was cool again.
So next time you're at a football game, take a look around and appreciate how much technology has enhanced your experience. And take a moment to think about how technology saved Penn State football from the brink of extinction.