I’m not sure what kind of college experience you people had, but I went to a Southern school with a mediocre football team. No one goes to the University of Richmond to play football:
1 – It is a school of 3,000 students. 3,000. That’s the kind of school where the bad life decisions you made on Friday night follow you to class on Monday morning every. single. time.
2 – The football stadium isn’t on campus. It requires a carride through a very residential neighborhood and a very narrow, crowded street full of shops. It requires sobriety from at least one member of your party. And all of that means that it’s a lot of extra work to ask of college students on a Saturday morning.
3 – We’re a D-1 school. D-1….A. Which means that yes, we can give scholarships, but no, we decidedly cannot compete with any of the teams in the Big Ten (well, maybe Indiana).
Of course, the year after I graduated, against all odds, they won the national championship and decided to build a brand spanking new football stadium right on campus. Oh, and one of our alums made quite a name for himself playing for a little organization called the NFL.
But prior to all of those changes and improvements, my fellow Spiders and I went to football games primarily to tailgate. And also, we wore sundresses, heels and pearls. And there was no beer – it was all varieties of fraternity-made jungle juice. So really, we had little to no interest in the game, and many of us only made it into the stadium around 45% of the time. It’s pathetic, I know.
So I had my heart set on going to see a big college football game. I wanted thousands of people roaring in support of their team. I wanted a sea of monochromatic sweatshirts. I wanted cheap beer, campers that had traveled across the country full of devout fans, and I wanted some great football. And after a year of trying, Boyfriend and I finally got there. “There” being, of course, Beaver Stadium: Home of the Nittany Lions. The Lions are a Big Ten dynasty to be reckoned with. They routinely make an appearance in the BCS standings, and their following is such that fans travel to Michigan, ‘Bama, and beyond to watch their team compete for a bowl invite.
The couple seated behind us, for example, (in the impossibly cramped bleacher seats designed to house the 107,00+ fans that trek to State College every Saturday) were Penn State alums. They’d been at every home game for 40 years, and they knew the first and last name of every student on that field. They chanted with gusto, and their hearts broke in unison with the rest of the stadium when their team fumbled not one, but two kickoff returns. And when the game turned around, and the defense returned an interception 64 yards for a touchdown in the 3rd quarter, the husband high-fived Boyfriend, kissed his wife, and chanted right along with the students. This is a couple who has followed their aluma mater through wins, losses, and championships for forty years. I can’t even tell you who Richmond played last weekend.
I don’t think you can compete with that. The love I have for my school is a strong one, and Richmond has a wonderful almuni base, but this love, this devotion, to what happens on the field every weekend is what unites the enormous community of Penn State alums. This is not a school where you took a class with every person you graduated with, nor is it the kind of college where you see the same faces day in and day out. Rather, this is the kind of college where, when you look around the stadium on gameday, you see the people who shared the shame rituals as you did: the chants, the Blue Band, even the Lion, haven’t changed in decades. There might be new faces in the senior section every year, and the starting quarterback might be different, but the tradition is the same. And the tradition (as well as a winning record) is what makes this team, this place, and these people so special.
So I guess in the end, I have to thank Boyfriend. He not only facilitated this whole event, my desire to attend this specific event in the first place was thanks largely in part to the fervor he feels for this team. And now, having been there to see it for myself, I can clearly understand why.