Sunday, March 28, 2010

And So It Begins...

Spring practice for Penn State began on Friday and so the buzz is on about the upcoming football season. In a few weeks, on April 24, 70,000+ fans will descend upon Beaver Stadium for the annual Blue-White spring scrimmage. The scrimmage will include a family carnival and a new "idol" contest to identify Penn State's best musical talent. It's a good time for families - there is an autograph session with the players - and for anyone who wants to have an early look at new talent emerging on the football squad.

The game itself, frankly, is not all that exciting. How can it be, when Penn State simply plays itself, and there are limitations on tackling the quarterback and on the kicking game that are imposed to prevent injuries? I usually watch the first half intently, then get restless. But if it's a nice day, it's fun. It gets everyone into the mood for football. And whenever there is a turnover in players at key positions, there is a lot of speculation after the game about who we will actually see start in the fall. Rumors abound that Kevin Newsome may or may not be the starting quarterback this fall. That the position is wide open. So that will make it even more interesting. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2. A first this year.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Favorite Photos and Random Thoughts

Work avoidance takes many forms. Right now it means updating the photos on my blog rather than starting on that exam that I have to create by Tuesday. So I took a favorite picture from each of the games we attended this fall, and replaced the Capital One Bowl photos.

Also, Steve Seitz, who owns a rather unique Penn State trailer that I took photos of at the Capital One bowl, emailed me this photo of "Morning Lion" at sunrise. Now, anyone who knows where the Nittany Lion statue is knows that such a sunrise photo wouldn't exist at the real statue. There would be Rec Hall or some other Burrowes Road buildings in the background if you tried to capture sunrise there. This one was taken with the small replica statue that sits atop Steve's custom Penn State trailer at his Beaver Stadium tailgate. I believe it is a superb photo and I thank Steve for being willing to share it with all of you.

We attended the Lady Lions game last night - the first round of the WNIT - and were very disappointed with their short duration in post-season play. Credit Hofstra - a very scrappy team that outplayed Penn State both on defense and offense. Penn State had no answer for them. We will miss Tyra Grant - I'm sure the end of her career was a huge disappointment, but she gave us four great years of entertaining play. We wish her the best! But overall it was not only a disappointing game but a disappointing season - after a great start that got them a winning season overall, the Lady Lions seemed to fall apart at the end of the season, losing many more games than they won.

In the meantime, this week we were asked to order our FedEx Field tickets for the Penn State-Indiana game on November 20. What a delight it was to go on-line, view ticket options, order what we wanted and actually get a seat confirmation right away! We were allowed to order based on our Nittany Lion Club point total. So Terry and I ordered on the second day.

For the rest of our away game tickets, we do not get the option of choosing our seats. We send them a check for our order and then Penn State chooses the seats for us, assuming we have enough donation points to qualify. Unfortunately the ticket office at Penn State seems to believe that if you have a high point total, you would prefer seats as low as possible. So from my perspective, the more we contribute to Penn State, the worse our away game seats are becoming. We don't necessarily want to be in the nose-bleed section but we do want a decent view of the field and the game. That doesn't happen in the 2nd or 5th row of any game. You get folks with signs who hold them up whenever a camera passes by, or your view is blocked by the team and media standing in front of you.

Also, we don't even know until a few weeks before the game whether or not we have tickets. When you have to make hotel and air reservations in May, you're always taking a chance, especially for the "big" games this year like Alabama or Ohio State.

So how about it, Penn State? The FedEx field ordering process worked very well. Why not adopt a similar process for ALL away game tickets? Or at least, if you can't get the away venues to cooperate in a more sensible ticket ordering process, use available information technology. Why not ask us on the Nittany Lion Club profile what type of seat locations we prefer? A simple flag - prefer lower seats or higher seats - would give some guidance to the ticket office in providing the "best available seats" based on point level.

Well, have to get to back to that exam! Can't avoid work any longer.

P.S. If you're reading this in the Centre Daily Times, click on "View this blog with pictures" to see the photos.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Long Cold Winter of Discontent…

Yesterday, we went to the Bryce Jordan Center for the Penn State men’s basketball final home game against Purdue. The feel of spring was in the air…a pleasant mid-40’s temperature, a bright sunny day. On the way to the BJC, snowmen on people’s front lawns were starting to melt. The snow on our roof is gone, as are the icicles. Finally. But not before we had some nasty damage from an ice dam that will have to be repaired once the warm weather comes. It’s been that sort of winter…long and cold and frustrating. Especially when it comes to Penn State basketball.

The Lady Lions have at least had a winning season, albeit disappointing in the Big Ten after a great non-conference start. They have a shot at post-season NIT play. For the men, the Big Ten Tournament is all that’s left. It would take a major miracle for them to get into the post-season. They have to win the Big Ten Tournament. Not very likely! Although I suppose I should never say “never”.

As we walked up to the Bryce Jordan Center gate, there was a Penn State fan with six tickets to yesterday’s basketball game. He wasn’t trying to sell them. He was simply looking for a family of six who might be able to use them. He found a family of seven clad in Purdue clothing – this family of seven was delighted when he approached them, gave them his six tickets, and told them they were free. The family then bought one additional ticket, and the ticket agent was able to get them that ticket in the same section.

There was something truly heartwarming about watching this exchange take place. To give the six tickets to a Purdue family was an especially gracious gesture. It was the epitome of good sportsmanship, a “feel good” moment about Penn State fans and their attitude towards opposing team fans.

There were a lot of Purdue fans at the Bryce Jordan Center yesterday, a loud and boisterous group. The stakes were huge for Purdue. If they won this game they would clinch a share of the Big Ten championship. Penn State, if they won, would play the role of spoiler. No other stakes – other than the pride of winning their final home game – were available to our team.

It was a hard fought game and Penn State played – well – the way they’ve played all season in Big Ten basketball. Always in the game, keeping it close to the end. They had a chance to win, but ultimately it was a losing effort. A few mistakes here and there made the difference in the score. Penn State is a better team than their record. They can play with anyone in the Big Ten. The breaks haven’t gone their way. But they’re a competitive threat in every game, and they've been quite entertaining to watch.

Somehow throughout this winter of discontent they didn’t quit, and they kept improving, becoming a more balanced offense and defense over the season. There are no seniors on the team, so they will all return. Also, next year Talor Battle’s younger brother, Taran Buie, will join the Nittany Lions. He’s a nationally ranked shooting guard, and the expectations for him will be very high for immediate contributions to the team.

There a lot of posts in Facebook and other blogs that are very negative towards the men’s basketball team and calling for Coach Ed DeChellis to resign. I understand the frustration. But I keep reminding myself of the 2004 football season. A team that doesn’t quit but faces losses knows how to deal with adversity. For football, it turned around in 2005 in a remarkable season that was one second from being undefeated.

Can we expect the same from the men’s basketball team next year?
Some of the signs are there. Will they find more ways to win next season? I think so. I doubt it will be as miraculous as the 2005 football season was, but I think they’ve got the experience and some new talent– and a good shot at winning enough games to get into the NCAA for the first time in a long time.

That’s about all we can hope for - a better season next year and continued improvement. Unless, of course, they somehow pull off a major upset at the Big Ten Tournament this week and win the championship. But I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for a miracle. I just want to see them continue to be competitive and play well.