Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Welcome to Penn State? I guess not

"Welcome to Notre Dame".

You can't get through a football Saturday without hearing that phrase somewhere on the campus ... from the parking lot attendants, the ushers at the stadium, the security guards at the Joyce Center, the folks at the Basilica, even from the fans themselves.

If there was a poll for Safest Venue for Visiting Fans, you can bet Notre Dame would top the list. Browse the fansites of Irish opponents after their trips to South Bend, and you'll typically find raves about the hospitality of Notre Dame and its fans (usually with the disclaimer "despite all the assholes we encounter on the Internet" thrown in there somewhere).

Every now and then, I wish it wasn't that way. Everyone wants "their house" to be the intimidating, home-field-advantage-granting atmosphere that can help the team when they need it. Maybe all this welcoming hurts the team. Maybe opponents should feel a little less comfortable.

But then I remember stories from friends who went to Miami in 1989 or Ohio State in 1995 or any game ever played in Boston. I don't want Notre Dame fans hurling epithets at women walking with their kids. I don't want Notre Dame fans throwing urine at people. I don't want Notre Dame fans getting sued by the fans they tackle in a drunken stupor.

"Welcome to Notre Dame"? Fine by me.

I suppose that's why this Daily Collegian article bothers me so much.

Collegian staff writer Andrew Staub found himself without a press pass for Saturday's Notre Dame / Penn State tussle, so he went about documenting his effort to "get [his] hands on what many referred to as the toughest ticket of the weekend". On his way he talked about the reception he received:

"I parked my car in a lot about a mile from the stadium where both Notre Dame and Penn State fans were tailgating, many of them in the same party."

"I even wore a Penn State Center for Sports Journalism hat into Friday's pep rally. Nobody said a word to me. Penn Staters even sat in the crowd. No drinks were dumped on them. No obscenities yelled."

"Overall, Notre Dame fans were great and got along well with Penn Staters."

All par for the course. As I said, I'll risk the lack of intimidation to behave like an adult, and I'm glad to see a good portion of my fellow ND fans feel the same way.

But then the next line stopped me in my tracks.

"I hope they don't expect the same next year when they come to State College."

Just like that. No apology or shame for the situation. No call to his fellow fans to emulate the behavior he saw. Just a simple expression (and apparent acceptance) of ignorance. Rolled right off the tongue without hesitation.

Thanks for the hospitality, suckers.

My father is a native Philadelphian, and many of my cousins attended PSU. In the post-game discussions Saturday, Dad expressed a strong desire to make the return trip next September to Happy Valley. We could rent an RV, he said, and make a weekend out of it. My cousins could come up and meet us there, and it'd be a great time, tickets or no.

Outwardly, I was enthusiastic about the idea. But visions of a vandalized RV danced in my head. Harassment from drunk coeds. A weekend of beer showers. And God forbid the Irish lose -- we'd have to leave by halftime.

It's not that I'm antagonistic by nature. I'm a mind-my-own-business kind of fan that doesn't go looking for trouble. But I've found in the past that makes no difference, and I doubt it'd make a difference here.

At the time on Saturday, I figured I was overreacting. It did sound like a fun trip. Sure, why not?

Then I read Mr. Staub's article. "Why not?" became "Why?"

I watched the game in the Joyce Center lot at bbdome's always-excellent annual mega-tailgater, complete with 44" TV. Just before kickoff, we were joined by three PSU girls who, sans tickets, needed a place to watch the game. We accommodated them with seats and food and drink, and except for a situation early in the game when they were being a little too enthusiastic in their cheering, everything went fine.

Just before halftime, one of the young ladies got into a bit of distress. She was having an asthma-related attack, and didn't have an inhaler with her. Fortunately, one of the other girls in her party did, and she availed herself of it and came out fine.

But for the rest of the game, every five to ten minutes or so, someone in our party checked up on her to make sure she was all right. We moved her to one of the shady seats, and got her some water. My dad missed most of the second half because they got to chatting about our relatives and friends who work at major news outlets, which interested her as a journalism major.

At the end of the party, the three PSU students walked away after thanking everyone profusely for their hospitality.

I thought of that young lady as I read the end of Mr. Staub's article. What would happen to a Notre Dame student who found herself in respiratory distress in Happy Valley? I would hope fans there would give her the same level of attention we gave our Nittany Lion friend, but reading that article, I'm not so sure.

I'd like to think my lack of surety would bother PSU fans, but reading that article, I'm not so sure.

I'd like to think I'll be making the trip next year, but....

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

i attended a nd psu game in 'happy valley' in the early 90s when nd got crushed.those loser fans harrassed us in the parking lot and tried to board our bus to steal our nd flag.i should of known,being a lifelong resident of philly.in the words of ron burgundy,stay classy,south bend

9/13/2006 12:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My father and I went to the same game were ND was beaten soundly. I'll never forget the verbal abuse my father and I took and we didn't say a word to anyone, just sat there minding our ow business before during and after the game. I have hated Penn State ever since and was so glad we crushed them. I wished Charlie would have been like Pete Caroll and scored 60 on them. You think Jo Pa would have only scored 41 if he could score more?? No freakin way. I have zero respect for Joe Paterno and think he is one of the biggest frauds. I can't wait to go back to Pittsburgh in October and wear my ND stuff and get the PSU loser fans pissed off when I walk by on the street or in the mall shopping, etc.

9/13/2006 12:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Miller81 said...

I think sometimes we confuse the events which impact team performance, and the events which impact fan enjoyment. It's difficult for me to discern how being boorish in the stadium would affect the team one way or another ... I am not suggesting not yelling and cheering ... I am speaking of being rude and boorish.

Let home fans yell, and cheer, and get emotionally invested in their team. And at ND, and maybe other venues in the future, let it be a safe harbor for visiting fans, except for those events which happen on the field of play.

9/13/2006 06:25:00 AM  
Anonymous nd1990 said...

I attended several games in Happy Valley in the late 80's (during our heyday with Lou). We did not experience any of the harrassment mentioned by some of the other posters. Every school has fans that can be complete jerks - I'm sure ND does too, although I think the majority of fans take pride in welcoming opposing fans to "our house". At the Tennessee game last year, we welcomed every Tennessee fan we saw and we even bought a few of them beers. I'll bet the next time ND goes to Tennessee that those fans give a warm welcome to the ND fans they meet. Your family's treatment of the three PSU girls may directly impact in a positive way the reception that some ND fans receive next year in Happy Valley. Keep it up. You can't beat the jerks by becoming one.

9/13/2006 06:28:00 AM  
Anonymous JD Burke said...

I am a proud alum of both schools -Penn State and ND and I am disgusted by your article for so many reasons. I always thought what made this rivalry so unique and was that both schools did it the right way and their fans conducted themselves with class Growing up in PA, I have attended many Penn State/ND games over the years at both ND and Happ Valley and loved what both schools represented - well I guess things have changed...

You say you are from Philly (shocking that you are already talking tough about next year's match-up) and I hope you are able to go to Columbus, OH to see the Ohio State game on 9/23 expecting the same thing b/c those fans are as close to Eagle fans in the college game - I would like to see how things turn for you wearing your jersey tough guy, or if they would provide an inhaler for a visiting fan - good luck.

Fans/students/alums like you make Penn State now look like a program that is not used to winning with class, which is not the case and I truly hope you are the exception and not the rule.

9/13/2006 06:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was a student at PSU in the late 80's/early 90's and rooted for ND every time. I was also in attendane for that 1991 game. Being a student there and rooting for the Irish wasn't always easy, but I was never harrassed. I take pride in my degree from PSU and acknowledge there are some fans, no matter the university, that do not represent their institutions in the best way. But I can tell you that if you make the trip, you won't be disappointed. Happy Valley is a welcoming place and is second only to the ND experience on game day.

9/13/2006 06:56:00 AM  
Blogger El Kabong said...


I'm not sure who you're addressing in your comment.

I'm not from Philly, my father is.

I didn't write the Collegian article.

9/13/2006 07:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny I was @ happy valley for that game where the Irish got crushed. Can't say I remember much, as I have tried to block it out. While I never attended ND, I have been a fan all my life, in love with everything the school stands for. I think it's great that the campus is so welcoming to all that attend, even opposing fans that what makes it ND. CLASS. I did have one major problem this weekend,and it had little to do with the game. My problem was the T-Shirt vendors walking around with Duffel Bags selling shirts that said state sucks and Michigan swallows, and after the game, in prep for next week, the Michigan is a whore t-shirt. I told both of them to get away from us with that junk, and would hope that no one would buy such a classless shirt, but I'm sure they did. Imagine, you just spent a perfect day tailgating and enjoying an ND vicotry and on your way out of the game you have to explain to your son and daughter what sucking and swallowing have to do with football, and that Michigan didn't change their nickname to the whores. I agree with anonymous from philly, stay classy Notre Dame.

9/13/2006 08:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that putting the offending sentence withing parantheses moderates the message a bit. I do not think it was written "Just like that. No apology or shame for the situation....Rolled right off the tongue without hesitation." The parenthetical is a wink-wink, not a call to arms.

Your overall point is well-taken, though (as is the article-writer's).

9/13/2006 08:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio and even though I graduated from ND ('72) as did my daughter('06)we continued to root for the Buckeyes AFTER ND. No more. My daughter and her fellow ND students were treated shamefully by the Buckeyes in Tempe. Just compare this last weekend. I was at the game and after a great win, we sang the Alma Mater and left without any ugliness toward the many PSU fans leaving. I even watched the Penn State Band walk out of the stadium and heard nothing unpleasant.
Back in Columbus, 30-40 fires were set on and around campus and a fire chief and University official were run over by a car driven by a student. And they won! Face it ND fans are the class of the nation!

9/13/2006 09:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Carroll02 said...

To anonymous who posted at 8:14 - I agree with you that those types of t-shirts are classless, but you misunderstood one of them. It does not say "Michigan is a whore." It says "Ann Arbor is a whore," the joke being that Ann Arbor could be a woman's name.

Juvenile and classless, yes, but at least understand the wordplay.

9/13/2006 10:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem you mention with Penn State is also a problem at Ohio State, Michigan State, to some degree at Michigan (less so), and unfortunately, at my alma mater, Wisconsin. I'm embarassed at the way people act at and around Wisconsin's Camp Randall, to the point that I don't want to take my daughter to games there. Notre Dame's class on game day is one of the reasons that I am a reformed ND-hater. It is important to keep it that way. I only wish Wisconsin, PSU, OSU, Michigan State, and Michigan would follow suit.

9/13/2006 10:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who doesn't want to be harassed by drunk coeds?

9/13/2006 10:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This past weekend I went to the PSU game as a Notre Dame alum with my best friend from high school who is a PSU alum. When we were preparing for our trip, she had asked me about wearing PSU garb to the game and I said that it would not be a problem at all. She then told me not to expect to wear ND garb next year unless I wanted to be harrassed. So sad.

9/13/2006 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger IsItTrue said...

Here's a candid comment from a lifelong subway alum with many Domer friends: a small, but everpresent strand of ND supporters excel at demonizing ND's opponents. I've always understood the dark sides of programs like Miami and USC, but I've never really understood the hatred of Michigan. When ND played Tennessee a few years back, the demonizers could be heard harping on UT's abysmal graduation rates. To me, the demonizers only degrade ND's stature.

9/13/2006 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger El Kabong said...

I'm not demonizing anyone. I'm responding to a specific comment made by a PSU student in their daily publication.

9/13/2006 12:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

all I have to say is I live in Columbus, but root for ND first. I wore ND gear for a month leading up to the Fiesta Bowl and was always welcomed with some smartass comment. OSU fans are the worst I've seen towards their own players and visiting fans. I can't wait for the day when I can attend a game at South Bend and see what college gameday is all about.

9/13/2006 01:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lighten up guys, you're taking yourself too seriously. You fell big-time for this sarcastic article.

9/13/2006 03:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't see:

"I hope they don't expect the same next year when they come to State College"

in the article; was that sentence edited out after ND Nation caught the writer at his worst?
That said, I hope ND cracks down on whoemver's ticket he bought. If you have tickets and can't go to the game, at least give/sell them to an alum or a subway alum...

An '06 alumna

9/13/2006 03:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, live in Columbus, and have to agree that the OSU fans are the biggest bunch of low-lifes I've ever seen. It's really disturbing since I do have one degree from there (but two from ND). I find it very odd that OSU defines itself solely by its hatred for another institution (Michigan). It's more odd still when you consider that Michigan is a much better school. All this is to say that I agree with your article--I'm so proud to be an ND alum. Irish fans, keep up the good work.

9/13/2006 03:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My best friend from high school came into town to see the Penn State game and how brought along a friend of his who was a Penn State alum. Despite being in full Penn State regalia everyone in our party welcomed him, along with a few other Penn State fans who were family members of some of our friends. I'm a grad student so our tickets were in the student section. I got this guy a ticket to the game and when we got inside he was an asshole the entire time to the same people who had been nice to him. He even started mocking our many post game traditions. After the game he expressed that he I should come out for the Penn State game next year and "we'll see what happens then" I really have no desire to do so if that is the typical behavior of PSU fans

9/13/2006 03:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Rich said...

I have attended ND games at Michigan, Tennessee, Miami, and (many at) USC--and, with the notable exception of the thug atmosphere at Miami, have been very well treated by all.

9/13/2006 04:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Growing up in central Pa, i have attended several ND/PSU games most notably 1987 in which lou rolled the dice and lost and in 89 when the irish won. in 89 when the shoe was on the other foot PSU fans were very fair weather, such as joepa gave up on us, the team doesn't care about the fans and what not. yes as a an ND fan I have done the same with Davie and Willingham, but for good reason they were horrible coaches and you could see it from day one. as for Paterno, look what he has done for the program and to treat him with the disrespect they have for the last six years( minus last year...savior). i have been to many a PSU game when they we're playing other teams and they have no vision of reality.

9/13/2006 07:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I and my friends are Penn State grads who attended the game with a high school friend and his mates who attended Notre Dame. We were on one of two buses full of Notre Dame and Penn State fans who all had a blast together tailgating and checking out campus on a beautiful day of College Football in South Bend.

For the record, I got my legs deliberately peed on in the bathroom by a ND fan who 'just couldn't hold it' and certainly had my share of jeers and rude comments and gestures. The difference is that I understand that there are jackasses all around - especially when folks are drinking. I’m sorry that you were hurt by the comment in the Collegian and would like to think that it, and comments about abuse ND fans have received, are in the vast minority and / or somehow out of context, but like I said, there are jackasses all around and even Penn State has its share.

Maybe your eagerness to lump Penn State in with the likes of Miami, Tennessee and OSU, and dismiss a trip to Happy Valley will allow you to maintain your xenophobic belief that everyone outside ND are a bunch of jerks, but I, and hundreds of thousands of Penn State alum, believe you’ll miss out on what is one of the greatest places to take in a College Football game in America with some of the greatest fans and I think your Dad would agree. Sure you risk getting confronted by a drunk coed (I didn’t know people still called college girls ‘coeds’) and yes, you may even get beer on you, but I’d imagine not anymore than a Saturday night at a bar in South Bend.

As for me and my friends, despite the embarrassing loss, we have already started plans to host the same Penn State / Notre Dame crew in Happy Valley to return the favor - We’d love to win big next year and we’d love to show you why we love Penn State, just like our friends did for us this year.

By the way, the negative Paterno comments are disappointing to say the least. Paterno, author of ‘The Grand Experiment’, inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, has given so much to college football and millions back to the institution he loves despite a relatively modest salary over his career. He is a living legend. ND can only hope that Charlie Weiss’ can do the same for Notre Dame and college football with his great reputation and NBA like mega contract.

9/13/2006 08:25:00 PM  
Blogger El Kabong said...

I'm not trying to espouse "xenophobic beliefs". I'm responding to a statement by a student journalist at Penn State that admits Notre Dame fans will probably not get the reception next year that Nittany Lion fans got this year.

As far as I can tell, the representative majority of the PSU fanbase cops to this as well, and their lack of disappointment disappoints me.

9/13/2006 09:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting my message above (anon). I only know of couple Penn Staters that were on the Joe Must Go bandwagon. The rest of us still get a thrill watching him come running out of the tunnel even if we know he's not calling all the shots anymore. Don't take what you read in the paper so seriously. I understand your point on the Collegian and I hope Penn State gets to show you and your pop a great time and hopefully a better game in Happy Valley next year!

9/13/2006 10:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I attended an ND-PSU game in Tony Rice's junior or senior year. My memory may be going, but I think we beat PSU pretty bad that night. I had never been there and really didn't know anyone from PSU. Because of JoPa, it always struck me as a classy place that I'd like to see a game at and mingle with the fans and alumni; a la Michigan. Instead, I met possibly the rudest, crudest group of fans I've ever been around. Their fan base and alumni struck me as nothing of what I'd expect from a JoPa University. Frankly, what continually popped into my mind was "backcountry, white trash". When you wrote about the Daily Collegian journalist it sounded dead-on accurate to what my experience was there. I've never had a desire to go anywhere near "Happy" Valley again.

9/13/2006 10:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I was reading through this, I came along this line posted by an anonymous person.

"I wished Charlie would have been like Pete Caroll and scored 60 on them. You think Jo Pa would have only scored 41 if he could score more?? No freakin way. I have zero respect for Joe Paterno and think he is one of the biggest frauds"

Whether you have respect for Joe Paterno or not, that is your own decision. But you might want to get your facts straight.

Joe Paterno, whether you like him or not, is one of the best coaches in college football history. On the field, this man has accomplished more than most coaches would ever dream of. Off the field, he has donated millions of dollars back to Penn State.

Now, I am not trying to start any arguements or anything, cause what exactly would that prove? All I want to say to the person that said the above comment is this. You show me 1 game, just 1, where Joe Paterno has allowed his starting line up run up the score in his 41 years as head coach.

As I said above, whether you like JoePa or not, is your own decision, but don't start making comments about something you know nothing about.

11/06/2006 12:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a penn stater who was at the ND/PSU game this year, I must say - not all your fans are as wholesome as they claim to be. This year, my dad and I were walking through some tailgaters, totally minding our own buisness - and a bunch of ND fans stopped us and two threw beer and wine all over us- needless to say, not all of your fans are perfect - and neither are ours at psu --- just remember - we ALL LOVE and are totally engrossed in our own schools!

7/30/2007 07:32:00 PM  

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