Monday, October 16, 2006

NCAA: State College's Own Little Mardi Gras

They begin parking their campers and setting up tail gates on Friday and stay all the way through Sunday. It's an eclectic mix of old timers who can reminisce about the days of Jack Ham, Franco Harris and when Joe Paterno's glasses were less powerful than the Hubble Telescope, current students with opportunities to do better than ramen noodles and Milwaukee's Best Light and children who are most likely being groomed to attend Penn State when their times come. Most tailgates aren't exclusive to any one of the demographics, which makes Happy Valley a pretty special place to spend a Saturday afternoon.

You can walk for miles around campus and not be able to get the smell of barbecue out of your nostrils. You'll see spreads as big as a Golden Corral buffet line, Penn State flags as big as Beaver Stadium's north end zone and, in some cases, you'll actually see opposing fans welcomed and embraced. Everyone is united in one cause: to get away from (or escape with) their wives, drink beer and watch football. How much time they have and how they spend their hours depends on the fan, but I'll tell you what my favorite scenes are.

Games Within a Game: With the craftsmanship of Bob Vila and the creative genius of MacGyver, veteran Penn State fans can create a pastime and competition out of just about anything. Just as Mac can create a rocket propelled grenade launcher out of six pennies, a head of lettuce and a screwdriver, a PSU dad can create hours of entertainment with two planks and a set of six common washers. Proof that not only is the concept and spirit of beer pong in all of us, but that college students have a lot to learn about recreation as it pertains to alcohol consumption.

The Out-of-Towner: Saturday was my two-year reunion with State College and Penn State football, and it was a pretty unique experience for me. Driving through the crowds and football traffic, my New York license plates seemed to draw the ire of everyone who noticed. Parking attendants gave me the "move along" rolling of the eyes and agitated signals of where to go, and fans looked on with disgust. I think this is an issue everywhere, and though it's probably for good reason, New Yorkers are assumed to be jerks until proven otherwise. It's okay, State College, I still love you and will always be by your side.

Who Gave That Guy a Megaphone?: Echoing noise from an individual tailgate site isn't a rampant problem on most game days, but there are always some exceptions. I'm sure these are few of many examples, but we saw tailgates with a DJ spinning and with a live band playing. We also heard from 500 yards away one intoxicated fan shouting obscenities into a megaphone. Mildly entertaining at first, but more entertaining when you think about campus police pummeling him, shattering the megaphone and relentlessly spraying him with pepper spray minutes later.

The Football Gods Would Cry: Bless their hearts for trying, but fewer fans should attempt to play football games before kickoff. Middle-aged men and unathletic college kids make for something that only vaguely resembles the game of football. Each mini-game seems to go the same way - A gentleman, who is taking things way too seriously, throws with mechanics that would make Uncle Rico cringe, then tosses over the head of his teammate and off the bumper of a neighboring RV. I don't have any objection to football games being played, but an entrance exam should be taken to determine if you have appropriate skills to participate.

Mul-let's Party: Wearing a mullet wig, though a slightly outdated notion, still proved to be an interesting study in human behavior on Saturday. During the game, I wore a hat to keep the mullet under wraps and hoped to make people curious about its authenticity. The approach proved successful when I removed the hat and the mullet in the fourth quarter (coincidentally, I have a real mini-mullet working right now), to which I got an immediate "I knew it wasn't real!" from the woman behind me. This lady sat there wondering about my hair for over two hours, which was the ultimate reward for my efforts.


PSULi0npride said...

YES a New York Penn Stater. Well written and oh so true. Although for the michigan game i have to add the fact that we set up PATERNOVILLE thursday at 1am and camped out until saturday at 8am....just to be within the first few rows. That tailgate with the DJ, yeh i was there standing somewhere around the 450 CASES of beer and 300 handles of liq. Please keep writing about Happy Valley it is the greatest place on earth. Hell if you need someone to write for you on weekends you can't make it here...Im your man.

Kenny Bloggins said...

To you sir, I say thank you and congratulations. Thank you for the comment and for being in State College to reinforce my story, and congratulations for being the first to post a comment on our site! I wish we could have gotten to Paternoville and hung out with the crowd that MAKES PENN STATE SO GREAT, but we had a number of other things to do while we were there (sadly, napping is one of them). Keep fighting the good fight on behalf of New Yorkers everywhere, and keep checking the site!