Sunday, August 31, 2014

Penn State Football: These "Irish" Eyes Teared Up As Penn State Pulled Out a Tight Win

The tears flowed freely this weekend, and most of them were tears of sorrow, not joy.  They first came on Friday when someone posted a 17 minute video of the pep rally in Dublin, a pep rally in an unfamiliar location but with a very familiar format.

My husband Terry and I had attended so many in the past at away games and bowl games all over the country.   The pep rallies all seemed the same after a while, but there in Ireland, it was decidedly different.  The enthusiasm of the Penn State crowd was contagious and it reminded me that of course I would have been there "if only"...

....if only Terry had not passed away and my life hadn't changed forever.

I had thought that going to Ireland was a foolish idea, but in fact it excited a lot of fans who were looking for something different.  The fans appeared to conduct themselves with a lot of class and were having a great time.  I'm sure they spent more than a bit of money supporting the Irish economy.   Can't remember the last time there were that many fans for a pep rally.  Rose Bowl 2009 perhaps?  Former coach Bill O'Brien had the right idea.

Tears came again when the game was about to start and I was sitting at Rotelli's in downtown State College waiting for an Irish breakfast buffet to get organized.

I kept thinking that Terry would be irritated that breakfast wasn't ready BEFORE kickoff.  He would not have wanted to miss a minute of that game to go upstairs and retrieve his meal.  Which, if I wanted to satisfy my hunger, I needed to do. 

The meal was good, by the way.  Corned beef and eggs.  Irish soda bread.  Stew.  Breakfast pizza and other stuff.  Too much to try.  One alcoholic drink included, so I opted for some Irish coffee, something I had not had in a long long time, to put me in the mood to watch this Dublin experience.

Tears came later when I tried to describe to the Success with Honor organizers of this charity event at Rotelli's, what it was like staying in State College and going to a bar/restaurant for the first time ever to watch a Penn State game on TV. 

For many people in State College it is probably a familiar experience.  But for me, I was always on the road with Terry to see the games in person, until last year.  Last year Terry was battling cancer, and the away games were watched at home or in the hospital.  But at least he was still with me then.

What I remember mostly about watching away games on TV last year was the dreadful commentary that accompanied the TV coverage.  Yesterday, the environment was noisy enough that you couldn't really hear the speakers drone on and on.  So all you could do was watch the plays on TV.

That was a good thing, judging by what others have posted online about the announcers. 

At the end of the game, the tears of joy for a fantastic last minute win in Dublin were mixed with tears of sorrow.  I missed Terry so terribly deeply on this, the first game where I was truly without him.

I missed his running commentary, his sheer joy at a brilliant play well executed, his exasperation when a defensive breakdown allowed the other team to score, his screaming at the coach towards the end of the game when he felt he was being too conservative.

I could hear him say, "Goddammit Coach we need a touchdown not a field goal!!".

I missed his complaining that there was too much time on the clock, and that we were about to lose the game, or that there was not enough time on the clock to get down the field and pull out a win.   

At the end of the game yesterday I found myself saying all the things Terry would say to the people around me.

I think they were a bit mad when I predicted that UCF would score again, and then it happened.  I was just glad that there was still enough time on the clock - and three timeouts - so that Penn State could strike back with the game winning field goal. 

Kudos to Christian Hackenberg for getting the team down the field and to Sam Ficken!  I knew somehow that, given the right field position, he would come through with the winning field goal.  He has become quite the go-to guy on the Penn State team.  

The crowd at Rotelli's erupted.  Strangers and friends alike hugged and "high fived" one another and it was then that I realized that being in that crowded bar was probably the next best thing to being in the stands.  Penn Staters know how to celebrate victories together, wherever they are and with whomever wears blue and white.

It was a classic game.  A game that neither team should have lost, but one team had to.  Both teams played as well as could be expected for a first game of the season.  Mistakes made but overcome.  One key mistake at the end of the game by Penn State and the outcome might have been different.  Central Florida came out on the short end this time, and I wish them well for the rest of their season.

Kudos to the entire team for bringing home a victory and to Coach Franklin for his first win.  Now, get rested really fast and get ready to beat Akron! 
Later on Saturday, I went to Webster's Cafe for a reading and signing by Jay Paterno of his new book,  The Paterno Legacy.  Here is what Jay inscribed on my copy:

"To Carolyn,
Thanks for all your support.
It is all real and it will always last.
Best wishes,
Jay Paterno"

He is right, in more than a thousand ways.


  1. That was so beautiful. Thank you for sharing this with us and so sorry for your loss.

  2. I know just about how you feel. As you know, my dad passed away on July 27. His birthday was August 30--gameday. Next week will be the first home opener since the early 90's that he and I won't be attending together. While I am really looking forward to seeing our team take the field in person, a part of me knows that the experience won't be the same. He will be there in spirit I am sure, just as Terry was with you at breakfast. Your memories of him will live as long as you do, and so he will never be completely gone. Just different. Very different. Keep smiling and writing . . .

    1. I'll be thinking of you Todd. You will probably think about what your dad would be saying at every moment of the game. You too...enjoy the memories and God bless.