Friday, November 12, 2010

Guest Blog: Ray Goes to a Penn State Football Game

 Our buddy Ray in Pennsylvania went to a PSU game and sent the following. Ray and I both went to Penn State back when guys like Franco Harris (left, I'm happy for any excuse to put his picture on my blog), Jack Ham and Lydell Mitchell were on the team. Enjoy:

    The writing muse is charming me again so I will start getting caught up on my story list. They aren't going to be in calendar order but that shouldn't hurt anything. Mike Nappe had two tickets to the Penn State Michigan game and asked if I would like to go. I jumped right on that. I hadn't been to a Penn State football game since the 1980's when I went with Dave Reuscher and sat with the Notre Dame fans. That was just as well since Penn State got whacked badly on a very cold and windy night.
    This was a night game, nationally televised on ESPN. I expected traffic chaos starting in Philipsburg but there was none until we turned off the 322 bypass right near the stadium. Even with a parking pass, we were still halfway to Bellefonte or so it seemed. You can see how far away the stadium was and this shot was made after we had walked pretty far away from the car.

    Tailgating is a big part of the football experience. Some folks came very well prepared. This gang hauled in a table for beer pong. I don't believe that had been invented yet when Joe Paterno had his first undefeated season. 
    Mixed among all the blue and whites were a few token Michigan fans who seemed so happy before the game. I bet they were not smiling so much afterwards. 
    There were hundreds of RV's scattered around. This one was ready to watch the game without getting into the stadium. 
    I know some of you might be shocked to hear this, but a lot of folks were drinking a lot of beer in the fields before the game. We all know what this leads to. 
    As we got closer to the stadium we saw this great sight towering above the parking lots. No, not Mount Nittany at sunset. This was a really great sight. Mike asked me if I knew anybody there but before I could answer, one of them said, "Hey, it's Ray Beimel." Turns out I knew everybody there and had taken a picture of most of them one time or another. There were Straubs and Bosniks and Weidenboerners and Mallisons and Mannings and Chiapellis and more. They kindly invited us over for a beer. We stayed long enough to have a couple of Peter Straub Special Darks, a very tasty dark beer rapidly becoming a big favorite with anyone who tastes it. While we talked, Brian Chiapelli noticed that the next group over included Shane Conlan, former stand out linebacker at PSU and the NFL. Brian invited him over to have a Straub Light. Shane was gracious, shook hands with everyone, posed for pictures, pretended to like the beer. 

    Two beers later we got into the stadium. Our seats were high up at the south end, very high up. The good thing about them is that they are seats with backs there. Most of the rest are bleacher seats. To give you an idea of how high up, look at these two views that were taken from not quite the top. One is the Bryce Jordan Center, the big venue for concerts and sporting events. When JoePa was the new coach, these were open fields. The other view is looking west toward East Halls. You gotta have some elevation to get that perspective. 

    This is the Blue Band, dance troupe, and cheerleaders lined up for the football team to enter. At the goal post is a wedge of photographers held in place by ropes wielded by large security fellows.
    The thing with the student section these days is the "White Out." Everyone wears white. The student section was the last to fill. Probably had something to do with the Beer Pong tournament from above. When it was all full, there were over 108,000 people who had paid to watch the game. I have no idea how many were there working. That makes Beaver Stadium the third largest "city" in Pennsylvania for a few hours. If every man, woman, and child in Allentown came to the stadium, it would not be full. The scoreboard flashed a graphic that said over 24 million people had watched a Joe Paterno coached football game in the stadium. And when you consider that it only held 50,000 when Joe started... 

    I only packed one normal lens so I couldn't get the whole stadium in one shot and I couldn't get any good shots of game action. Penn State won, of course, giving Joe his 399th victory. There were two things in the game that I had never seen before. First play after the opening kickoff was a pass. Joe never passed on first down in the old days. And then in the 4th quarter, Penn State ran a fake field goal play for a first down. Zut alors! JoePa ran a trick play!
    The size of the crowd is mind-boggling. 108,000 people each wearing socks (except for the one girl I saw wearing shorts and flip flops) at $3 a pair is $324,000. Not toe mention underwear, pants, shirts, and shoes. I am not sure what the average ticket price is but I will say it is $65. That's over $7 million dollars. No matter how you calculate it, one Penn State football game is a huge pile of money.
    Getting to the game was easy. Getting out of the parking lot took a while but once on the road the traffic was moving very well. This is a far cry from the old days when cars would be going out University Drive and Park Avenue for hours afterwards. In the old days (hey, I'm 60, I am allowed to preface my remarks with that phrase), the aftermath of a PSU football game resembled the aftermath of Pickett's Charge. Bodies lying in fields, the "wounded" being helped by steadier friends, not a lot of blood but some serious vomiting. I blame demon rum. No, really. The drink of choice then was rum and coke. While there was a lot of drinking outside the stadium, inside I saw little of it. The crowd was very well behaved, patient in the inevitable lines, and just acting like there were happy to be there. It was a very good experience in every respect.
    Many thanks to Denise Morelli for letting us use her season tickets. Wishing you all well,  Ray

Ray is a professional photographer. His web site is Beimel Photographics.

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