Picture me sitting at my kitchen table. My laptop is in front of me, my head is resting on one hand, and my fingertips are tapping the tabletop one-by-one until they reset at the fifth finger. What’s a part-time sports writer to do when there are no sports to cover? That’s where I am. It’s where we’re all at right now as we chase a cure for this virus that has flipped this world upside down. Doors have closed with only hope hanging in the balance that they will re-open sometime soon. Lights have been turned off on entire seasons and championship runs. Heck, I just found the courage myself to finally hit the dreaded words ‘Cancel Event’ on the Blue-White extravaganza my tailgate friends and I had been planning for months!
I’m still mad for Lamar Stevens. Check that, more like heartbroken over those measly seven points and the dance that never took place. In one mock bracket on ESPN, Penn State landed as a No. 6 seed in the Dayton regional. No easy task mind you, but definitely doable if the Nittany Lions could have found some mojo. Just when I thought I couldn’t shake my head at what could have been, my mind was swept into a flashback of sitting in a local Virginia dive bar as I watched Talor Battle snag a missed free-throw with two seconds to go, bob and weave his way through players dressed in orange, and make the most improbable length of court layup to win the game over the No. 23 ranked Fightin’ Illini! As visions of a post-game BJC court storming were replaying in my mind, I realized that as confident as we were of Stevens notching that scoring record had life continued the way it was, finishing a close second to Mr. Battle was absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
And then that daydreaming led me to an image of Adam Taliaferro as he lay motionless for what seemed like eternity on the Buckeye turf in October of 2000. Adam was told he would never walk again as we all know, but I had the honor and privilege of being one of the 109,000+ inside Beaver Stadium on the night of September 1, 2001, when he lead his squad out of the tunnel, hop, skip, and all. The moment was surreal, to say the least, and I can still smell the smoke that settled into the crowd from the fireworks and pregame festivities. There was not a dry eye in the house as we all cheered wildly. Ten days later, on the morning of September 11, 2001, life as we knew it would change forever.
Until today, I never once correlated the night Adam defied all odds and 9/11 together, even though they were only days apart. It’s almost like an imaginary concrete wall stood between them. I guess it must have finally been appropriate after all those years, given the current circumstances. We lost pretty handily to Miami that night in Happy Valley but wins and losses didn’t mean that much back then, for obvious reasons.
It’s hard to imagine how we ever got by with nothing more than ourselves, a landline, and a fairly new invention called e-mail as forms of communication. For better or worse, as we contemplate another glitch in our history, we now have each other and hundreds, if not thousands of our closest Penn State family just a click away. We can laugh together, commiserate as one, and reminisce on the good ol’ days like I catch myself doing today.
Slowly but surely on Monday afternoon, images of our students taking online courses started to trickle in from makeshift locations at home. As did some Instagram and Twitter posts of senior Will Fries, true freshman Caziah Holmes, and a few others from the football team taking it upon themselves to improvise their weight lifting routines as our country crept closer into self-imposed quarantine. It’s not much to hold onto but it is a subtle reminder to us all that we are resilient, life goes on, and that wins, losses, and even scoring records are sometimes forced to be put in perspective. After all, a game is just a game and until they all return, we have a lifetime of memories to appreciate. Until we roar again, Nittany Nation. Until we ROAR again!