My father, the reason why I, and, in my opinion, the people around me, are such fantastic and ardent Penn State Football fans has been gone (as they say) for quite some time now.
There are many moments in the history of our family, country and world that he has missed. Or, at least, we have missed him. But, really, isn't it the history of sports and especially Penn State what really matters?
I am not sorry that he missed the dark years (or, as Ron Weasley would say "the years that shall not be named") - I have no idea what he would have thought. He would have been really disappointed in 2000 - the team was so sullen and lacked spark. Their win over (Drew Brees) Purdue was a bright(ish) spot - but it was just a bad season. 2001 had some glimmers - I would have loved it if Pop could have seen 324 - he'd have been so proud, having witnessed so many of the Ws. 2003 and 2004 were, obviously, devastating on the scoreboard - but they were actually a little "better" on the field - he would have seen some hope (ie Paul Posluszny) for the future.
And, of course, the one thing that really developed during those years was the tailgate. I can't say that I would have gone to as many games if Dad were still around - shameful, I know, but truthful. When Daddy was around, I made it home to State College for 1 or 2 games a season - since he's been gone, I've missed 3 home games (total) - and for each missed game I was out of the country (oddly enough, they won them all - no, I will not move). By 2003 we had started our own solo tailgate (To the Lion) and by 2005 we had a website, 2 blogs and a whole new crew of enthusiastic tailgaters. Pop would be proud of and impressed by our group - although I can imagine that he'd think it a little silly that I insist that we have a different theme every week. He'd definitely love the food - and he'd be pleased that we surround ourselves with fun, energetic and intelligent folks.
The 2005 team would have, as it did for all of us, reaffirmed his hope for the future of the team. I think that he would have cautiously (but optimistically) supported the slew of "babies" that took the field that season - any doubts would have been quelled by the end of the Northwestern game. I like to think his favorite would have been Deon Butler (THROW THE BALL TO BUTLER!) - he probably would have liked Jordan Norwood.
He would have been so frustrated with the coaching staff in 2006 and 2007 (surprise?) - but listen, Dad was calling for Joe Paterno's head every season (starting around 1976) - so that wouldn't have been anything new.
He definitely would have appreciated the 2008 season for it's high points - and he would still blame Iowa. But then again, he would be so proud of our "best darn formerly non-award winning tailgate, ever" (did I mention there is a banner?)
Oh, he would have been sooo in love the the women's volleyball team - and rightfully so.
There isn't a day that I don't think of my Dad - and there isn't a sporting event that I watch or enjoy without wishing he were there (or at least available to call and ask "did you see that?!?!?!?!"). But, in my heart, especially my football heart, I know he's already there.