Monday, July 23, 2007

Brothers in Arms

I got an e-mail from one of my readers pointing me to this article from Pittsburgh blog Doubt About It asking some very salient questions. It also links to Notre Dame Blog Rakes Of Mallow and CW's decidedly harsh attack on Penn State fandom. Since I consider this blog to be of the "Reader's Digest" variety I'll touch on both – killing two birds with one wiffle ball bat (I can't throw stones very well and a wiffle ball bat would be much more fun).

The first question at hand is why Steelers fans don't like Penn State (fans and State College in general). Why the vitriol laced personal attacks? Let me start by saying that college football fans in Pennsylvania are generally in three camps: Notre Dame, Penn State, and Pittsburgh. All three fan bases are mutually exclusive – you'll be hard pressed to find a Pittsburgh fan that feels all warm and fuzzy inside when Penn State wins. That being said, most fans that grew up in the city of Pittsburgh are generally Panther fans and have a hatred of all things Penn State. But Panthers/Steelers fans contempt doesn't just remain on the field it spills over into everyday life. There are two distinct different lifestyles between the two locals: one a bustling city the other a sleepy rural college town. State College exists because of Penn State; it would be nothing without the university. Pittsburgh exists because of molting hot steel and the process of turning it into something useful (until the collapse of the steel industry that is). The university of Pittsburgh is just a part of something much larger (that's not meant to be shot at Pitt, I'm just stating fact). In fact, Pennsylvania is kind of unique in that there are two very large cities that take up a relatively small amount of real estate and the rest of the state is large amounts of woods and cow pastures. Yes, yes I know I'm generalizing and I don't mean to anger friends from our state capital but you get my point – you are either a "city person" or a gun toting, NRA card-carrying back woods hick. It's ok, be proud of who you are. So fans from the city of Pittsburgh consider State College to be a cultural wasteland and feel it necessary to point that out when arguments of football begin.

I've also found that most rabid College football fans don't care for the pro game as much and vice versa. While there's always exceptions most hard core Steelers fans have a tepid relationship with college football and will tell you they "follow it" when asked. While you would think that two blue-collar teams predicated on strong defenses and no-nonsense team play would attract the same fans, it just doesn't work out that way; from my experience.

That brings us to the Penn State delusional fan base. While CW posted a pretty effective mea culpa, the original body of work needs some attention.

Penn State fans also seem to think that just because a great-great-grandfather "runs" their team, they're quite different from the Ohio States of the world when it comes to class. I'd love to think so, but sadly, all of my experiences in State College lead me to believe otherwise. I attended the 2005 Ohio State/Penn State classic, and while I maybe could handle their entire student section chanting "Fuck Ohio!" and "Fuck Lee Corso!", they turned their back on the dotting of the "I"! …Whether it was the cursing, the turning around during one of the sport's great traditions or the fact they avoided actual cheering in lieu of just jumping up and down to "Zombie Nation", I'd have to say at least the Penn State student section is a tad overrated when it comes to "class". You'd think the idea of being somewhat respectable to your opponent might appeal to the Lion fanbase, but apparently not.

The part of his argument that I actually agree with is the rather unpleasantness spewing from the student section these days. In general I've found today's Penn State students to sometimes act in a manner I consider embarrassing and I can't explain why. Yelling obscenities from the student section is simply unacceptable. Now before you call me a hypocrite because I occasionally drop the F-bomb here, allow me to point out that this blog is not a family oriented site and any good net-nanny program will block The Nittany Line if set correctly. Families sitting in adjacent sections to the students should not be subject to that type of language. While I concede that point I need to ask what game was he watching in 2005? The fans didn't actually cheer?!? Really? I was there and it was the loudest game I've ever attended. Not only did the Buckeye players miss the snap count because of noise, some even said they couldn't hear the play call in the huddle. If that's not actual cheering I don't know what is.

I grew up in PSU country, and whether it was the Penn State fans I was around were more sane or that in comparison to the ranting and raving of Steeler fans everyone seemed quite logical, I never noticed how crazed they were until last summer. Justifiably excited coming off a season where they were one last second touchdown away from undefeated, attempts at using logic when discussing the Nittany Lions' upcoming season were dismissed with a wave of the hand and a loud cry of "We Are Penn State!".

What insane asylum was he visiting when talking to this Penn State fan? If I ever reply to any opposing fan's argument with "We Are Penn State!" I would hope my fellow Nittany Lion fans would smack me over the back of the head with a blunt object. While you will find loonies skulking around the message boards you will be hard-pressed to find them in the local sports bars of central Pennsylvania. Most Penn State fans that I know are pretty grounded when it comes to season predictions. Actually a very large majority of Nittany Lion fans were worried about Anthony Morelli's ability to read a defense – and some still are to this day.

The Notre Dame/Penn State game on September 8th is obviously important to the Irish, as every potential win needs to be focused on in an attempt to reach bowl eligibility this season, but for the Nittany Lion fanbase it's become almost an obsession.

He then links to the new Blog Penn State vs Notre Dame which would be a great example to back his argument if the site wasn't started by both Penn State AND Notre Dame fans. Notre Dame fans can try to brush off their contests with Penn State but there are plenty of Irish fans, especially those living in PA, that want to beat the Lions badly.

I think the animosity between the two teams comes from a hint of jealousy from Penn State about the coverage Notre Dame gets, justifiably or not, and then NDNation's reaction, which I think could be surmised as "Yes, while I am excited for the Georgia Tech game, their fans are not nearly as annoying as Penn State fans and therefore I'd like to beat them a lot more."

Ahhhh… there's that Notre Dame arrogance I've grown to know and love.

While there are certainly sane PSU supporters on the web, the fact so many of them are batshit crazy, yet ignored by the greater policing populace of the blogosphere that constantly snarks after Irish fans bothers me.

Since we are talking in absolutes allow me to surmise that while there are plenty of very knowledgeable, die-hard Notre Dame fans out there the Bandwagon jumping, conceited loudmouths tarnish your image. I can't throw a stone (or a wiffle ball bat) from my front porch without hitting an obnoxious fair weather Notre Dame fan who probably couldn't name me the starting Irish linebackers let alone the offensive line. I know several Michigan fans and a couple Ohio State fans that I can sit down and have a rational X's and O's discussion with but that's not the case with any Notre Dame fans I know and, without a doubt, I know a lot more of them. Let me just give you a little taste of what I'm talking about. I was recently having a pleasant conversation with a Michigan fan at the local watering hole discussing Mario Manningham – Justin King matchups and what not when a third person at the end of the bar interjected.

Obnoxious Notre Dame fan at the end of the bar: 41-17 Baby!
Me: ahh, excuse me?
Me: Oh, I see you're a Notre Dame fan (he wasn't wearing any ND paraphernalia that I could see).
ONDFATEOTB: Damn straight.
Me: Oh yeah, name me one of your starting offensive lineman.
ONDFATEOTB: Doesn't matter man, we got the best quarterback in the land
Me: Really, what's his name?
Me: and what's his first name?
ONDFATEOTB: Jerry, er… Jimmy. It's Jimmy Clausen.
Me: Yeah, that's what I thought
*end of conversation*

I'd love to do a survey of Notre Dame fans living in PA to see how much they actually know about Irish "tradition." I'd be willing to bet a large majority of ND fans don't even know that the word of life mural is a beautiful celebration of scholars and saints on the face of a library and not connected to football in any way other than the way Jesus' arms are positioned.

Not a football thing

Here's the bottom line: Penn State fans aren't jealous of Notre Dame's attention, plain and simple. I certainly wouldn't want PSU to be overrated like Notre Dame is year in and year out. That's why ND hasn't won a bowl game in over a decade; they end up playing a team they shouldn't because the pollsters love them. All Penn State fans want is a fair and balanced assessment of the Nittany Lions at the end of the year. Do you think Notre Dame could go two years in a row undefeated and not walk away with any national championships? If the Irish had Penn State's offense in 1994 do you think the press would give it a passing "meh" or would they be shouting from the rooftops how it was one of the greatest offenses of all time (statistically speaking)? So sure, Penn State fans want to beat Notre Dame bad, but I would say that without a doubt, Michigan and Ohio State are far more important to Nittany Lion fans. I have plenty of respect for the university of Notre Dame; they have high expectations for their student-athletes, and while PSU may not have the same admission standards of ND, they do have strict policies on athletic integrity and I think most Penn Staters would agree.

In the end you have two of the largest fan bases in the country so you are bound to have a lot of jackasses in both camps – it has more to do with statistics then the team they follow. While the Rakes Of Mallow and other ND blogs are run by intelligent, well informed Irish fans, I cannot say the same for their fanbase as a whole.


Nick said...

Dude, coming up with content is so much easier if people ask you about stuff.

Galen said...

You've got that right. See, you are learning.

Anonymous said...

On the geographical note (Pitt and Steelers fans hate Penn State). I grew up in Pittsburgh, but hated the Panthers. I do love the Steelers, however. I went to Penn State, but I went there because of the football team. We consistently beat the crap out of Pitt and I loved every minute of it.

BSD said...

LOL @ Nick!

It's tough, man. You can't let the hawt chicks distract you from coming up with daily content. Otherwise you become the Matt Leinhart of the blogosphere. I'm sure Galen told you that in the interview.

Just do what Galen and I do when you can't think of anything to write about. Poke an opposing school's blogger in the eye.

PSUgirl said...

Galen, why does your mom care so much about that Pittsburgh blog?

Galen said...


It must be a slow day it took me a while to get that one PSUgirl.