A few weeks (maybe months) back a commenter on another site (for lack of a better term) made fun of me when I said that my first priority for Penn State football was/is that the players play to the best of their abilities and with heart. Which is, I guess, too lovey dovey or huggy wuggy for some fans. And that's fine, if little children who have no first hand knowledge of the history and real tradition of Penn State Football want to label me a Pollyanna - so be it.
My point was/is that I believe (because it's what I've witnessed) if football players are smart, conditioned, loyal and motivated, they will win games that they are not supposed to. I grew up with announcers broadcasting to the nation that Penn State teams were undersized, too slow, and/or outclassed - and so many of those times the Penn State kids would secure a win, through grit and determination, and over time, Penn State compiled such a wonderful legacy...
I wish that PSU was the perpetual MNC - and every (seriously. every year) I expect them to, somehow, challenge for the title (that's the Penn State I grew up with) - but I don't need championships to be a Penn State football fan.
So I wonder - what makes Penn State football great?
- a history of excellence - many wins and bowl games and undefeated seasons - 2 championships - great players in the NFL
- uniforms - although I begrudgingly accept the new "safer" helmets (ugg-lee).
- stadium - one of the most intimidating and magical places to play a football game.
- tailgating - the best tailgaters in the world. The diehard parking lot corps.
- songs, cheers, traditions - and by songs I mean our fight songs - I enjoy the novelty bits - but I'd be much more impressed if the whole stadium would sing Fight on State or The Nittany Lion together - that would rock.
- our predominant reputation of clean play -
- underdog. In case you didn't know it - Penn State is always the underdog, always.
- playing with heart - no matter what.
I wouldn't (and didn't) stop going to Penn State games if they were losing every week - however, I might not make the trip up for every home game if I thought they weren't even trying. In 2000 the team had a real "hang dog" attitude - on and off the field - it was painful to watch - there was no fire in their bellies - it was the beginning of the dark years - but it was also, to me the most disappointing because the players didn't seem to want to do anything about it.
I don't know - i'd gotten kind of caught up in the whole "we must win - or be doomed to obscurity forever" whirlwind - but I'm not so sure - I get ticked off when commentators say not so nice things about PSU- but what's new about that - and these days the "bad news" stories are way sexier than their good news counterparts.
Do I want PSU to win - yes, every day and in every way - but that's not what makes me like (okay love) them - I was a Penn State fan long before I had any appreciation for the nuances of the game. A 2 or more loss season was devastating - 1 loss was a disappointment - but not the end of the world. I look at PSU's record in the 80s and 90s and i think - good golly they won a lot of games - if only the 00s could have been like that.