Last night, I pulled my season tickets out of their envelope, laid them out on my kitchen table, and just stared at them. Over the past month, I've often thought about Saturday's game against Ohio. The thought has always brought excitement, but along with that excitement came all the baggage from the past ten months: doubt, fear, anger, sadness, shame. Penn State has lost more in the past ten months than I can fathom. All of us who love the school have been shaken. I have doubted if I'd ever again be able to get excited for football season the way I used to.
But last night, as I stared at those tickets, for a minute, all that baggage was gone. For me, the excitement is back.
I wasn't thinking about IT. Names like Schultz, Emmert and Freeh couldn't have been farther from my mind. Instead, I was thinking about the feeling I get when I've been on 322 for a couple hours and I pass the Red Rabbit, and realize that I've only got an hour to go. I was thinking about meeting my friends at Otto's or the Ale House on Friday night right as I get into town. I was remembering the feeling of being the first of my friends to get to the tailgating fields in the morning, and enjoying the view of the stadium through the early morning mist from the prime spot we'd secured. I was looking forward to eating and drinking and laughing and singing with friends I'd only get to see a few times a year.
I was thinking about football: the traditions and the pageantry, and the excitement that even a boring game can generate. Though I'm many years out of college now, I remember the pride of watching my fellow students go out and accomplish great things for our university. I was looking at those tickets for games against Ohio State and Wisconsin, and I was thinking about how awesome victories in those games would feel. I found myself thinking through each game on the schedule, trying to find the path to an undefeated season, just like I do every August.
I was thinking about my University, and as I often do, I was feeling very lucky to have gone to a University that gave me the best academic and social evironment that I could have asked for. On this particular occasion, I also thought about how lucky I was that by being a fan of the football team, I stayed connected to my University and a large circle of college friends in a way that I wouldn't have otherwise.
After a minute, I thought again about the shitstorm that had enveloped Penn State since last November. But in that moment, the emotional baggage that usually accompanies such thoughts was nowhere to be found. I wasn't blind to the problems that Penn State faced or to the wrongs that still need to be corrected. But I didn't feel like one of those miserable, devastated Penn State fans that ESPN reveled in displaying in the wake of the sanctions. I realized that even in the face of everything that's happened, being a Penn Stater brings me unqualified pride and joy, and that win or lose, I will still be able to celebrate my University every Saturday this fall, and for many falls to come. In that moment, I'd felt like I'd won.