My father and I have been taking Big Ten road trips since 1997, when I first traveled to East Lansing to watch Michigan and Michigan State.
Since then, I have seen Michigan play in almost every Big Ten stadium. The only two left are Minnesota and Ohio State, and of course, Nebraska, once it joins in 2012.
Throughout the years, I have encountered many different fanbases. Each school in the Big Ten has its own traditions and fans that follow their team. I have learned a lot about Big Ten football since these road trips began in 1997.
This weekend, I had the pleasure of going to Happy Valley to watch a game at Penn State University. I have learned that every school has its ups and downs with fans. It is never easy going to an opposing team’s stadium. That is, until I went to Penn State.
My dad and I got to PSU three hours before kickoff. I wanted to see the campus a little bit, so we started walking around. Instantly, I could already tell this was a different environment.
The campus was much mellower than other places. Everyone was tailgating and enjoying themselves, but no one was loud and obnoxious. It was almost as if the fans were saving their energy for the game.
As we walked through the tailgates, Penn State fans approached my dad and me. One asked if anyone was feeding us. My jaw dropped. An opposing fan making sure his visitors were being taken care of? This was completely unheard of in college football.
We continued walking and were approached again. "Are you guys having a good time?" I have been to nine Big Ten stadiums and have never been treated with this kind of respect.
We were approached several more times by Penn State fans. "Is this your first time here?" "Are you being treated right?" "Are you enjoying yourselves?" "How was your drive in?"
This is what college football is all about. The Penn State fans wanted to make sure the visiting team's fans enjoyed themselves and enjoyed their experience.
During the game, we still got the occasional taunt because Michigan struggled. Before and after the game, however, we were constantly approached and asked about our experience, our drive in, etc.
Out of all the stadiums in the Big Ten, PSU knows how to treat their fans. I would recommend that stadium to anyone that wants a great experience. The fans are classy.
There is always the occasional idiot, and PSU did have one who swore at us and tried to pick a fight with us. He even snapped at me during the national anthem. Luckily, the other PSU fans stuck up for us and told him to leave us alone. He was eventually forced to go sit in his seat instead of standing behind me and my dad.
It did not ruin our experience. Besides the fans, the stadium itself was a sight to see. It is not as loud as people say, but it was still crazy. The band and sound system never stopped making noise, keeping the fans engaged during those awful TV timeouts.
I would like to thank Penn State and their fans for such a great experience. You are truly the classiest fans in the Big Ten. Even though my team lost, it was a pleasure being in Happy Valley and around such a nice group of people.
I can only hope that the rest of college football will take a note. It is fine and fun to taunt a little during the game, but make sure the opposing team has a great time. After all, if no one from the other team ever comes back again to watch a game, who are you going to tease?