1239 Swimming Upstream
(STATE COLLEGE PA) -- You can’t get there from here. It was Homecoming Weekend at sprawling Pennsylvania State University, famous for being well known, for an overblown man-boy “love” scandal and for the world’s worst sport, football.
The game is at Big Ugly, officially known as Beaver Stadium, a name you can’t say out loud without kind of snickering. Big Ug holds close to 108-thousand people and the game was a sellout. The parking lots hold 60-thousand cars and they were mostly full -- both the cars and the lots.
There were a lot of RVs … enough to house the entire off season population here. The tailgate areas were jammed with people under blue and white tents, showing their Penn State colors.
The roads around here are narrow, poorly lighted, badly banked and shaped like a string of “s”s. So what they do on game day is turn the bigger streets around the stadium into one way for the duration.
This means everything leads to Big Ugly before the game and everything leads away afterward.
So getting to the stadium pre game is relatively easy. If it’s a round trip, the trip back is more or less impossible.
But getting to the building after the game is absolutely impossible. Unless you lie.
The mission this Saturday night was to pick up the stepson who was working as a security guard at one of the larger parking fields.
He was left with instructions to call when the shift was over and to walk out of his patrol area and to a traffic light and stay there. But adventurous youth doesn’t much know about following directions. So he gets lost and calls and says “hey, I’m lost.”
Okay, where are you? Lost.
Is there a landmark?
Yes, I’m on a street called “Hospital Drive.”
Good. That’s easy to find.
But not easy to get to.
We head up the street to hang a left, then hang a right. Except at the end of the game you’re not allowed to hang that first left.
Traffic Brownie: You have to head this way. (points to his right.)
Driver: But I have to go to the hospital (said with a desperate facial expression that has taken years of practice to fake convincingly.)
It’s a lie. But it’s only a little one. Kind of a technical lie.
Once there, getting back onto a main road is another project.
Fortunately it took no interaction with the temporary Great Dictators of Traffic Patterns. Just a lot of slow-to-un moving cars.
Another lie wouldn’t work. “I have to go away from the hospital” doesn’t carry nearly the impact of “I have to go to the hospital” no matter how convincingly put.
Worst can happen, we go in the wrong direction and have to cross first the Pacific and then the North American continent to get to the house which is under seven miles from Big Ug.
Great opportunity for bonding. Greater opportunity for murder.
Veteran New York area drivers will understand that this was like home. It was midtown Manhattan to the Queens Midtown Tunnel to the Long Island Expressway on a Friday afternoon in the summer.
Except most of the drivers who go from midtown Manhattan to the Queens Midtown Tunnel to the Long Island Expressway know where they’re going, know which lane they should be in and how to get there. And these people don’t.
Plus New York has streetlights that actually throw some light -- not enough, but at least some.
The Penn State football team had not played at home in awhile. Some away games and a bye week. So there was a lot of pent up demand to see large young men beat each other senseless. A drought of violence that needed to be sated with the entrance of the gladiators fueled and lubricated by pre and post game attempted alcohol poisonings.
It was homecoming. And it was Michigan which came into the game 5 and 0 and left 5 and 1. And it was two games for the price of one, which is good, because the price of one is outrageous.
Penn State won 43-40 in quadruple overtime. That’s like a baseball doubleheader. Eight quarters. It’s like a heavyweight championship fight that goes 30 rounds or that famed auto race the Indianapolis 1000.
(Note for nitpickers: Yes, it’s true the game clock doesn’t run and the play clock does in OT, so technically they’re not extra quarters. But it’s still eight periods of play instead of four.)
Who was it that used to say “getting there is half the fun”? Cunard? Getting there was no fun, but uneventful. Getting back was a great experiment.
You can duplicate the results of that experiment if you wish. But you shouldn’t wish.
Recommended reading: John W. Gibson tells a chilling tale of 1930s small town politics turning violent and uses it to explain what’s going on in Washington today. Click here.
(Used by permission of the author)
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2013