The Penn State faithful have spent the last nine months trying to figure out and be experts on things way outside of their comfort zone. On Saturday, those people get to slide back into their groove.
Propane tanks are filled, coolers are being packed and jerseys; #11, #22, #12 among others, are coming out of the closets and finding their ways onto the backs of devoted fans from all over the northeast. Tonight, the RVs will start rolling in and the hotels will fill up. Penn State football, the closest thing to a normal Saturday afternoon that most of know, will return to Happy Valley.
Gone are the days of following trials, reading legal reports and investigations while arguing over statues and tributes. Back are the days of arguing over play calls and hating the Buckeyes.
105,000ish fans will pile into Beaver Stadium full of football energy that has been building for months and months. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, they are on the other end of this. One fan told me, following the sanctions, “Poor Ohio University got the worst of those sanctions.” While that may not be entirely true, it’s an interesting take. They are going to face an emotional team and crowd that is hard to imagine at this point.
The Penn State football team and it’s fans will unite this weekend, to provide each other with support that can’t be found anywhere else. If you’re not a part of it, your sympathy, understanding and condolences don’t seem as meaningful. That’s not to say they aren’t appreciated, just not as effective. The random conversations I’ve had with Penn Staters just feel different than those with the most understanding of Ohio State fans. On Saturday, those conversations will be plentiful.
Many new faces will roam the sidelines of Beaver Stadium, all with full support from the fans and community. The cheers will be loud and emotions will be strong but at the forefront will be that blue ribbon on the helmets of the players-on both teams, in this instance. Penn State football is about more than football now and that will continue long into the future. The mission is clear and the group selected to carry it out is the right one.
It’s fair to assume that things in Happy Valley will never be quite the same, but on Saturday afternoon, things will return to as close to normal as we’ve seen in a long time.
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