I thought of my Penn State people when the game got underway last Saturday. I thought of friends in Boston, New York, Denver, and Seattle, of local Penn Staters and extended family fans. I felt our collective positive energy directed toward our football team. Hopeful. Excited. Nervous. And as proof of the synergy, a text from my sister dinged my phone: “we own this”. My heart rose. We so own this.
Of course, we all know how it turned out. I’ve since written myself in circles for two days. I quite literally have three full pages of text just trying to get to the heart of the matter. I’ve been in the throes of Penn State Football Grief. I suspect I’m not alone.
Case in point. I saw my dad this morning. Me: “did you stay up to watch the game?” My dad: “I don’t want to talk about it.” That’s what the trio of sharks in Finding Nemo like to call, “Denial!”
There’s shock: Wait, that’s it?! That was fourth down? Did we just lose by one point AGAIN? I cannot believe that just happened. We should have won that game. Whyyyyyyyyy.
Anger: First of all, you have to catch the football. Second of all, when it’s 4th and short and you’re in field goal range and you are losing by one, you put points on the board. You kick the field goal and you take the lead. Third of all, if you are going to burn two timeouts in the last two minutes of the game, you had better have a spectacular reason. Fourth of all, a run up the middle that hasn’t worked all night is not that spectacular reason. Terrible. Just, terrible. I hate everything.
Anger’s a big one. Judging by the thousands of Facebook comments that all say the same thing, a lot of us are still angry. It’s ok. Take your time.
Sadness: This loss is so bad that Ohio State fans and Michigan fans are attempting to console us. I had to ban myself from the internet. No people today, please. I spent most of Sunday in a tired daze, feeling my playoff and Heisman hopes slip away. And sighing. Lots of sighing.
This afternoon when I allowed myself to return to social media, I saw photos of my Lions Pride boss tailgating with friends. Her caption was “We’re ever true to you, dear old white and blue” and I thought YES. There it is. That’s the heart of the matter.
Did you know in every single one of our Penn State songs we sing about loyalty? Danielle’s caption comes from Fight on State. The Nittany Lion’s chorus begins “Hail to the Lion, loyal and true.” The second verse of the Alma mater starts with “Sing our love and loyalty.” And, I never knew this before, but that quick little song the Blue Band always plays in the pregame show has a name—Penn State Victory— and it has more words than the yelling of “We! Are! Penn! State!” Those words include a line about, “thy loyal sons.” And daughters, too, of course.
We are a loyal people. We bleed blue. We know why the sky is blue and white. We are one heart that loves thy name. I’ve written these things before and I’m writing them again now as a reminder to us all that this is just one game. A wise man once said, “Losing a game is heartbreaking. Losing your sense of excellence or worth is a tragedy.”
So we lost to Ohio State. Heartbreaking, frustrating, disappointing, enraging? Sure. But who really cares about Ohio State anyway. When they interviewed Urban Meyer, I didn’t click off the TV in spite because in the background I could hear and see our players and students singing the Alma Mater. Singing our Iove and loyalty.
The Buckeyes may have woken up this morning happy they won the game, but we got to wake up knowing We Are Penn State. Wallow a little longer if you must; then, put on your best PSU shirt and join us. We are all still here. No matter what happens yesterday, today or tomorrow, it’s Penn State forever.