Penn State’s blue and white rainbow always seems to lead to Beaver Stadium. After all, that’s where the gold, or the gold standard, can be found.
Athletes of the highest caliber guard it as their home. An extremely organized and well-tuned band raises its invisible roof at halftime. Its students congregate to form one of the most intimidating tribes in the entire game of football. On Saturdays, it’s our home, our coliseum, our temple.
But we often forget that for 357 days of each year, the stadium is empty. On these days, 106,572 empty seats wait in anticipation for Saturday, or worse—next season. Maybe the cries from games past echo. Maybe the ghosts of players and coaches past pace on the sidelines, waiting for some unseen clock to tick down to its last second. Maybe, but no one is around to hear or witness it. “There is nothing less empty than an empty stadium. There is nothing less mute than stands bereft of spectators,” wrote Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano.
And yet, we still gaze at it on those non-game days. Sometimes you can catch a glimpse from your dorm window, or on the walk to class, or as you pass by in a car. It’s the ultimate daydream trigger—the lonely giant that plunges anyone who has stood behind its goalposts into reminiscence of chants and touchdowns past. We are obsessed with every aspect of it.
Of course, this goes beyond the actual, physical stadium. It transcends chicken baskets and the Nittany Lion and the S zone.
We love it because it’s ours. It is as Penn State as “we are”. Nothing invokes the spirit of our university like the giant Lion symbol that greets visitors who enter campus from the west. The stadium is where we, as students, can come together as one entity and support our school and, essentially, ourselves. Thoughts of coming together on a Saturday get us through the week. It’s the power of being together.
I stood in Beaver’s student section for the first time two weeks ago when Penn State played Kent State. I stood next to my best friend and his girlfriend and several hundred people that I don’t know. We all cheered together, celebrated when the ball crossed into the other team’s end zone, and jumped around to the ZombieNation Kernkraft 400 stadium chant remix after each touchdown. I even let the drunk guy behind me lean on my shoulder for a little while.
That was the first of seven home games this season. There are now six left. You will probably get no more than 30 more chances to stand in that student section as a student. You won’t be able take them all.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to. I think you should go to the game this weekend if you can. Let yourself be absorbed into the crowd and cheer shamelessly for the school that you are now completely, and wholly, a part of. Even if you don’t enjoy football like me, I still think you will love the raw passion of the army that is Penn State’s student section.
Because I hear that one day soon we’ll be on our way to work and will realize that our cheering days are over. All any of us will be left with, in the words of Galeano, is the “melancholy of the I that was once we.”