One of my fondest early Penn State memories was watching the Nittany Lions beat Michigan in the Big House way back in 1994. In a back-and-forth affair, the Nittany Lions out-dueled the Wolverines to remain undefeated, and stake their claim as one of the front-runners to win the national championship (which they would go on to do, at least according the the New York Times).
After the game ended, I watched the live College Gameday finale late into the night, re-watching the highlights over and over and absorbing all the analysis on the huge win by the Nittany Lions. The studio was set up somewhere outside of the Big House, with a crowd of delirious Penn State fans who made the trip cheering on in the background. Kirk Herbstreit, Chris Fowler and Lee Corso kept going back to discussing Penn State and just how impressive they had been all season. There was just something so satisfying about the whole scene. Even at a young age, I could appreciate the feeling that for at least that moment in time, Penn State Football was the center of the college football universe.
That feeling will return for many on Saturday, as College Gameday prepares to air live outside of Old Main. But many seem to have negative feelings about something that just about any other fan base overwhelmingly supports.
Read through any comments section after the GameDay appearance was announced last Saturday. People have lamented the fact that the ESPN crew will step foot in Happy Valley, offering suggestions to boycott, boo loudly to drown out Herbstreit and company, and even a suggestion to throw rotten fruit (which may have come from someone from the silent film era).
I get it. I really do. Penn State fans have had a testy relationship with ESPN since 2011, when the Worldwide Leader often played fast and loose with facts to sensationalize the Sandusky Scandal, leading the charge for coverage that looked to simply vilify the entire Penn State community as opposed to taking the nuanced approach that was so desperately needed.
But why cut off our noses to spite the face? Let’s celebrate the fact that Happy Valley will again be the center of the College Football universe for a week, something that hasn’t happened since 2009. In the meantime, GameDay has set up shop in Columbus, Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge, Norman and Eugene over and over. It’s time for State College to be in the spotlight for once.
A national audience will get to see Penn State in its picturesque fall glory. The crew will give shout outs to several local businesses throughout the program. The long list of standout recruits who are making the trip on Saturday will enjoy one extra element to be wowed by before stepping in Beaver Stadium for a White Out crowd. The positives far outweight the negatives, and I don’t see how it’s even close.
Let’s welcome the GameDay crew, and recognize it for what it is- a testament to players and coaches who have brought the program all the way back from the brink, and will take the field as the nation’s #2 team on Saturday night.
Except for maybe Desmond Howard. Go ahead and boo him.