“Happy” Returns to Penn State’s Happy Valley
I’ve been a sports fan for as long as I can remember. My first sports love was Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts and I can’t really explain the origin. I think it started when I was about 8 years old and I saw Unitas in his high-top black shoes playing on TV.
I can’t recall much more but all of a sudden I became a Colts fanatic and from about 1968 until they moved out of Baltimore in 1983 I lived and died each Sunday with them. Sure I had my other favorite pro teams: the Mets, Knicks and Rangers. But my relationship with the Colts was special.
When the owner took the team to Indianapolis it broke my heart and I swore I would never root for that team again. And 33 years later I have not. I cheer for the Giants each week and they are my favorite NFL team but I’m not a true fan in that wins and losses don’t have a deep effect on me. Football is my favorite sport so I needed a new love interest and found it on Saturdays, not Sundays.
Penn State has always held a special place for us because of my father’s long friendship with George Paterno, two years younger than brother Joe who you clearly know of. We always followed the Nittany Lions and my first Penn State game was the 1974 Orange Bowl when circumstances led to me riding on the player’s bus back to their hotel after the game. It’s a long story I’ll save for another day but it also hooked me as not just a follower but a true fan.
I’ve spent many a Saturday in Happy Valley and have great memories of day trips with my father, brother and then young son. The passion ramped up when Brandon decided to attend Penn State and has not stopped since. My daughter Alex followed him to State College and while both have graduated my love for the Blue and White has not wavered.
The Paterno Brothers have both passed on and so has my father who saw the university suffer through a terrible scandal that has left many wounds. I wish he could see what’s happened this year and maybe he can because the “happy” has returned to the valley.
Saturday night, in what is the unlikeliest of scenarios, Penn State will play for the Big Ten Championship. WE ARE!