Monday, September 12, 2011

Wearing Red in Happy Valley - A Rivalry?

We had been waiting for this past weekend for a year.  The date had been circled on the calendar ever since the Nittany Lions of Penn State came to Tuscaloosa last year.  Fortunately, two things occurred - Alabama won the game and the Penn State fans went home talking more about the hospitality they were shown than anything else.  Prior to that meeting, Nick Saban had made a point of telling fans everywhere that he expected respect to be shown to one of the perennial, premier programs in the country, as well as to the winningest coach in college history - Joe Paterno.  At 84, Paterno is still doing just fine in State College, though it's time once again for the question to be asked - "Is this the year Joe will call it quits?"  It happens every year, but lately the question comes earlier and lingers longer...depending, of course, on the record the team posts.  Still, you have to love a guy that, two years ago, broke his leg while teaching the team how to perform an onside kickoff.

This is a classic rivalry in college football with two of the oldest, most respected programs in the NCAA.  While other teams are wearing their Nike Combat uniforms, here are two teams that use simple styles with powerful players.  Penn State in their classic white pants, blue jerseys (with no names on them), and white helmets with a simple blue strip.  Alabama with their away game uniforms - white pants, white jerseys, and the crimson helmets with the player's number on the side.  Throwbacks.  It was, in all aspects, a classy look.  The best part, though, had to be the 'rivalry'.  In years gone by, many of us remember bear Bryant and Joe Paterno walking the sidelines.  The most famous of the games, personally, was the Sugar Bowl when Penn State was ranked #1 and Alabama was #2.  With Alabama leading late in the fourth quarter, they turned the ball over to Penn State...who then promptly marched down the field and prepared to score.  It was 14-7 and Penn State could become the national Champions, until.....the Goal Line Stand. Barry Krauss and the Tide defense held the Nittany Lions on that fourth down...and eventually were crowned National Champions.  It was one of the classic, "Games for the Ages."

This is a rivalry built, though, on mutual respect.  This year, prior to Alabama arriving in Tuscaloosa, Joe Paterno reminded the Lion fans that, "We went down their last year, took a pretty good lickin', their fans were very nice to us, so let's be good sportsmen this year.  That doesn't mean we're not going to kick their you-know-whats...."  A class act that is shown in the program.  The fans were great.  We watched the entire game, then listened to the Blue Band perform before heading out.  As we waited by the gates for our entire group, the band exited the stadium and, as they passed, gave us high-fives, thanked us for coming, and wished us safe travels on the way home.  They also wished us good luck the rest of the season.  Classy kids.  Classy school.  This, in contrast to the Alabama-Auburn rivalry or the Penn State-Ohio State rivalry where the fans really want to get physical with the opposing fans.  We enjoyed this and, more than anything, want to send a note of thanks to the Penn State faithful.  This is a rivalry the way it is supposed to be when two of the oldest, classiest programs in college sports meet.  I hope we can do it again.....soon.  Thanks for having us...and if you get this way any time soon, y'all stop in and say hello.

Until next time..........


  1. WE LOVED having ya'all!!!!
    From the tailgating crew that left Hanover together at 4am (I TOLD YOU!)- to the fans we included all day long.Had an AWESOME time hosting you!!! Bama won, no doubt - but I think we ALL won - respect and lots of friendship!
    WE ARE... PENN STATE! (I can't say those other words ANYMOR!

  2. Great blog Dave....loved it and loved meeting y'all. And most of all Thanks again for the tickets. I was worried I wasn't going to be there.
    Till next time