Football Fans “Rise and Rally”

July 31, 2012 at 8:40 am 6 comments

“I feel like I’m at a bowl game.”

So said a woman making her way up Hastings Road on the way to Holuba Hall. It was a little before 6 a.m. Tuesday, and the woman was part of a steady stream of fans converging on the football practice facility, a crowd that eventually swelled into the thousands. It did feel a bit like the vibe before a postseason game—the sort that Penn State fans won’t be able to enjoy for another four years, at least.

This was “Rise and Rally,” an early-morning show of support for the Nittany Lion football team. Organized last week by Tim Sweeney ’89 and Keith Conlin ’95, former players who now host a local radio show, the rally brought together other former players (Sweeney is president of the football Letterman’s Club), students, and fans as a way to counteract the sense of a program under siege. With NCAA sanctions threatening the team’s ability to compete and every player on the roster free to transfer without limitation, there was a sense just a week ago that Penn State might see its program fall apart. Over the past week, coaches and players have largely reiterated their commitment; Tuesday was the first chance for fans to do so in person, and to let the players hear it. It’s clear they did.

The crowd, already a thousand deep by 6 a.m., milled about, sustained by free cookies, donuts, and coffee, before players started arriving a little after 6. They came in twos and threes, sleepy eyed as they made their way into the Lasch Building for their morning workout. The fans—a mix of  young and old, locals and those who traveled for hours, and what looked like the entire men’s basketball and women’s soccer teams, among others—formed a tunnel to cheer them on as they came. Near the entrance, away from the crowd, Sue Paterno ’62 was there as well.

Eventually, the players made their way to the outdoor practice field, where fans filled the sideline to watch them work out; when it was over, the fans joined the players at midfield for a massive huddle and a cheer: “Family on three!”

If there was any doubt that the rally served its intended purpose, quarterback Matt McGloin dispelled it. “After experiencing this today,” McGloin told Tim Owen of Blue-White Illustrated, “I don’t know who would want to leave this place.”

For many outside of the Penn State community—and even some within it—the rally will serve another purpose: Confirming their impression of a place with its priorities out of whack. Taking it all in Tuesday morning, I found myself trying to explain to my 7-year-old son why everyone came out to cheer for football players on a summer weekday with no game scheduled. He’s too young to fully understand the idea of people in a community needing a reason to come together, to show that they support each other as much as they do the players. For different reasons, a lot of adults with no connection to Penn State can’t—or won’t—understand it, either.

That’s something all of us will have to deal with for a long time. For now, at least, it felt good to be back among friends.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Brian Dawson AnSci '10  |  July 31, 2012 at 9:00 am

    I was thrilled to see the turnout this morning. I had expected a good turnout, but this was something else.

    Of course, this will be spun, as you mentioned, as a fan base “out of touch with reality”. But you know what? Not only do I not care what they think, the fact that those critics are thrilled that our student athletes are being punished for something they had nothing to do with just shows how corrupted their minds have become with the anti-Penn State movement across the country (and unlike previous college football scandals, not ONE of our players received an improper benefit, or the team gaining an improper advantage).

    Last week, those football players showed us the most leadership to come out of Penn State in this entire saga since November. They gave us a rallying point, a reason to put a little faith back in humanity, but most of all showed us what Penn State football, and the PSU fan base takes the most pride in: developing young men as well as athletes who make us proud on the field, but even more so in the classroom.

    A few tweets from the players this morning were thanking fans for coming out, but for this alumnus, the graditude is for us to give to them.

    We Are!

  • 2. Vicki  |  July 31, 2012 at 9:41 am

    The Penn State community supports young people everywhere — abuse victims, disadvantaged youth, hard-working students with dreams, children with cancer….everybody.

  • 3. dwhirsch  |  July 31, 2012 at 10:26 am

    The words most poignant to me are at the end: “…people in a community needing a reason to come together….” That’s the identity of it: Cheering Penn State (especially at anything football-related)=we support child abuse. It’s not true, but try telling that to others. Where is the media attention on RAINN? What about Lady Lions’ Pink Zone, THON or Lift For Life? Cheering a football team is simply the most vocal and public way we express that pride.

    Perhaps even moreso: “For different reasons, a lot of adults with no connection to Penn State can’t—or won’t—understand it, either.” It is heartbreaking that very few will want to try. That action puts everyone at a disadvantage. Here’s to the courage of everyone attending. It means more that “just” a football team.

  • 4. Gary A. mann  |  July 31, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    After reading the dribble in the many comments on the blogs and the press, it is little wonder that the WE ARE….PISSED OFF t-shirts are selling like hot cakes in State College. We are pissed that the children were violated. We are pissed that parents, grade school officials, police departments, District Attorneys, the Second Mile organization, and the University allowed this to go on as long as it did. We are pissed at our Board of Trustees, and our President, for bowing to the hysterical media. We are pissed at the Freeh report that makes so many suppositions and innuendoes without many facts. We are pissed because the media, and many others, can’t differentiate between the State College Police Department and the University Police Department. We are pissed because the NCAA made a monumental decision simply on the Freeh report which is flawed. We are pissed because so many people out there seem to think they know what we’re thinking. And we are especially pissed because of all of the irrational, close minded, uninformed, comments that are being made about our school, our student-athletes, our community, and the Nittany Nation.

    If they really want to do something beneficial, they need to stop running their mouths and reach deep into their pockets and contribute to child abuse charities. PSU has been contributing to children’s causes for decades. But they probably wouldn’t know that because it wasn’t reported by the press.

    Gary A. Mann
    Life Member
    Penn State Alumni Association

  • 5. robbyn  |  August 1, 2012 at 9:44 am

    The sentence “for many outside the penn state community…” is so spot on. Bravo Ryan.

  • […] and noisy while rock and hip-hop blared from custom speaker boxes on the sideline. Buoyed by the support of fans and a coaching staff that won’t let them feel sorry for themselves, these Lions hardly appear […]

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