A long, long way from home

Rarely do students have the financial ability or opportunity to take long road trips to away football games. That is why I am starting a campaign to use our Activity and Services fees in order to bus us and pay for our hotels for away games. Paying an extra, say, 10 dollars a semester is worth it, right?

While this idea is impossible and downright lunacy, I’m hoping to get a little praise and support from my fellow students. My basis for this request is based on recent trip we Oracle folk took to State College, Penn.

I must admit that the daunting task of driving 17 hours to an unknown land was stressful to deal with internally. Couple this with the skyrocketing gas prices and you’ve got a fresh recipe for an ulcer.

The trip began at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday. Morale was high in the car after we watched the end of the USC versus UCF debacle. Anytime the Knights lose – which is often in recent years – is reason for celebration.

We made a mad dash up the East Coast on a nonstop free-for-all where our only pit stops were for gouged gasoline and our managing editor’s insatiable hunger for Chicken Whoppers.

By the time we arrived in Burnham, it had been 19 hours of XBOX play and Chappelle’s Show. Said managing editor passed out on arrival, but the other three of us decided to test the uncertain nightlife of University Park.

We happened upon Beaver Stadium just as the pep rally was beginning. Taking our seats in the stands, we noticed the 30,000-plus people waiting for a glimpse at the great Joe Paterno. Having never visited Beaver Stadium before, I found out quickly that the aura of the stadium gave JoePa some sort of Jedi mind-trick powers.

He spoke unintelligibly over a microphone for a few moments, each time with a louder cheer from the crowd. Then, the unthinkable happened. With a simple whisk of his hand, the entire stadium sat down and shut up, including myself, photographer Mike Reynolds and Sports Editor Mike Camunas. It was uncontrollable – even if you didn’t want to sit – you just sat.

Freaked out beyond measure, we traveled back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep before the battle USF faced the following afternoon.

The next day, we headed back to the Beav rejuvenated and ready for action. We were so pumped up, in fact, that we completely skipped breakfast. This hit us as we exited the car and headed towards the stadium. “Must-get-food-” I stammered as I slugged towards the stadium.

Just when all hope seemed lost, a man shoved a hamburger in my face.

Puzzled, I whispered, “How much?”

“How much?” he replied, laughing. I also laughed, confused, but not wanting to feel left out. “It’s free, have as much as you want.”

Now, I’m not a man to skip free food, but this felt fishy. I hung back for a few moments and, to my disbelief, watched as various passers-by partook in the free food. Convinced, I nearly cleaned the poor schmucks out of all their food, as well as two overly liquored margaritas.

All my fears were turned aside as I talked to many of the locals. It was odd; they were actually wishing USF luck. This perplexed me. I wasn’t used to people being this nice, being from Tampa and all. Free food, free booze and friendly locals? This was more than I could take.

I walked down to the sidelines and spotted a rowdy crowd of USF fans who made the trip. There was a small pocket of green and gold that came to enjoy the late summer day. The Nittany Lion fans were respectful and I saw little heckling, save the 7-year-old who threatened my life.

When all was said and done, USF had put up a good fight but couldn’t pull off the upset, losing 23-13.

The experience, however, was priceless. And if that wasn’t enough, the icing on the cake was when we met a pretty sweet squad of local kids from Scranton who let us party with them until the wee hours of the morning. Suddenly, the 17-hour drive home didn’t seem so painful. I was relaxed and the trip was worthwhile.

We have the unique experience of visiting some of the nation’s top stadiums this year. The opportunity to see the Heinz Field, the Orange Bowl and Beaver Stadium is something students shouldn’t pass up. While the idea of raising fees is borderline out of the question, hopefully everyone gets the chance to participate in this unique college experience.