Sunday, September 20, 2009

Congratulations to Todd Thurman, 250 Games of "Rocky Top" Football

This week, I heard from an avid Tennessee football fan. He just wanted to introduce himself via email. Somehow he discovered my blog. His name is Todd Thurman, and he told me that he hasn’t missed a Tennessee college football game – away or home – since 1989. In his email, he stated that “I am glad there are fans elsewhere that love to follow their team as much as I do.”

We had a few email exchanges, because I wanted to learn more. Not only is this a remarkable attendance streak, it’s somewhat unusual. Todd Thurman is only 38 years old! He’s been going to home games since he was 7 and home and away games since he was 9. He elaborates, “I have missed only 2 games since November 1985 (Boston College in Boston 1987 and UCLA in LA in 1989). My dad had always been a big fan and had gone since he was a teenager, but it wasn't until 1978 that we finally got season tickets. My great-grandfather was a fan and probably started our ‘hobby’. He would occasionally take my dad to Knoxville to see a game, but my favorite story is of he and my great-grandmother taking a train to Miami to see Tennessee beat Oklahoma 17-0 in the 1939 Orange Bowl.” Wow. What a legacy! Rocky-Top is certainly in his lineage!

The attendance streak was a father-son "hobby". He went to all those games with his dad. How special! And how bittersweet yesterday’s 250th game must have been. His dad died in June, and this is Todd’s first football season without him. I hope he's focused on cherishing all those memories to help ease such a profound loss.

I just wish he had also seen a win at Florida yesterday! But Tennessee gave Florida a tough game, so he must be proud of the way they performed.

According to Todd, “I always tell everyone that I feel very fortunate and blessed to be able to go to all of the games. I have a wonderful wife (I was well into my streak when we got married in 2003, so she knew what she was getting into) and I have two great daughters. I'm hoping to pass along my hobby to one of them.”

Wow again. Todd is young enough he could make it to 500 games in a row, or even more! He’s young enough to even surpass Giles Pellerin, the USC fan who attended 797 straight USC games in a row. Pellerin died at halftime of the USC-UCLA game in 1998, at the age of 92. He was lauded at college football stadiums everywhere whenever USC visited. Including Beaver Stadium in the early 1990’s. Terry and I remember being very humbled by his dedication.

But of course, you have to be very lucky - also very healthy - to avoid the many life events that can interfere with such records.

In fact, Todd and I talked about being superstitious on even predicting attendance streaks. Anything can happen to break one. That’s why, when I planned a surprise celebration for Terry’s 200th, it was actually his 203rd. I wanted to make sure he actually achieved it first. That’s why I didn’t mention Todd Thurman earlier this week. I didn’t want to jinx his 250th game by announcing it prematurely.

At Penn State, Mike and Sylvia Hudacek, from Plymouth, PA., achieved perhaps the longest Penn State attendance record. Penn State President Dr. Graham Spanier introduced Sylvia Hudacek at an away game pep rally several years ago. Even after Mike was unable to attend most away games, Sylvia kept going. We talked to her at that game. She told us she never kept records of how many games, but at the time, we figured it must have been around 280 games or more in a row - both home and away. Unfortunately, the Hudaceks' long streak is no longer active. But their dedication to Penn State football will always stand as a remarkable achievement.

Then there’s my colleague Fred Hurvitz, also a Marketing Instructor at Smeal College of Business. He hasn’t missed a Penn State home football game since 1959! In fact, the last game he missed was the 1959 Syracuse game at old Beaver Field. He has not missed a single game at Beaver Stadium (present site) which began operating in 1960. He doesn’t often go to away games, but still, a home-game streak that lasts 50 years is an outstanding achievement. Congratulations, Fred!

John Black, writer of the Penn State football newsletter for the Penn State Alumni Association, hasn't missed a Penn State football game anywhere since the mid-1970's. Even though it's his job (and his travel is reimbursed by Penn State) it's remarkable that there hasn't been a miss in all those years.

Who else is out there that you know of who has a story to tell about their attendance – following Penn State or another team? Perhaps even a different sport? It would be fun to collect stories. How you got involved, how you manage it. What your experience has been. The sacrifices you have made. This could be a fun way to celebrate all those records that everyone keeps! And, of course, the incredible passion behind your dedication.

If you know someone who has a story to tell, please forward this blog, or email me at

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