Its that time of the year again. People from all around the Mid-Atlantic region pack up their cars and trucks, with their wives, kids, parents, or friends, and head off to middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania, or more affectionately known as Happy Valley. People from all different races, creeds, and backgrounds gather in one common interest (#footballculture). Its the time of year where the corporate CEO, struggling small business owner, and undervalued factory worker stand hand in hand, and on equal footing. No judging, no hating, only pride and love. For me, it will be the first time in four years in which I pack up my car and make that drive east, Friday after work, while the sun is sinking over the mountains.
For the last four years, I was lucky enough to attend Penn State, and feel the excitement pick up day to day, until it was (Margarita) Friday, and you were gathered with your best friends waiting for what the weekend might bring. At 8:00pm Thursday, we forgot about our business, engineering, or science classes, and reserved the next three days for ourselves.
Before then, I was just a western PA kid, brought up in a Penn State family. My grandad (known by the family and my college friends as JoeHa) has been a season ticket holder for 40+ years. My parents both went to Penn State. It was in my blood, and as a child I felt that excitement every Friday, knowing that my dad would wake me up at the crack of dawn the next morning, and we'd make our way east on I-80. When I was there, nothing else in the world mattered. I was free for the next several hours. That's what these outsiders do not understand. They say we don't "get it". They say we're brain washed. All we care about is football and wins.
Since, I was 2 year old, I have been attending Penn State football games, maybe missing 10 in my lifetime. I care about it so much, because it is the place where I have found the most enjoyment in my life. The greatest times I have ever had have been at Penn State, shared by my closest family and friends. Sure, the wins and great accomplishments were nice, and will never be forgotten no matter how much the NCAA tries. But for me, the greatest part about Saturdays at Penn State are the pregame tailgates, and how everyone around comes together in one common interest, and the hope that each and every Penn Stater feels in those hours leading up to kickoff.
I've come a long way since I was 2. I've seen the dominance of the teams of the 90's and the disappointment that came with them. I went through the dark ages, and watched as "my team" was embarrassed on a weekly basis. I was there in 2005 against Ohio State when we made the statement "We Are Back". I was there as a student when we were the definition of above average. However, through it all, my love for Penn State has not ever faded, but has only been strengthened. Sure, I'm no longer the naive boy who believes that every season will end in a championship. I've now come to terms that our team will probably find ways to disappoint us, if in fact like me, most of you still tend to think like that. The reason I'm proud of Penn State isn't because of all the success we have had in football, but rather for what she stands for. For what us real "Penn Staters" stand for.
So, as I get ready to make my way to the valley this weekend. As I call my granddad, dad, and friends to make all our preparations. As I get more and more excited as the days go by, until I am again with 30-50 of my best friends and family at our proud tailgate. I cannot for the life of me think of a season that I am more excited for. Maybe it come with the being an alum, and that as my friends as I like to say, "It's all we got left". But come Friday night/Saturday morning, everything else will fade away, and it will again be football season, which means hope can finally be restored.