I journeyed to Happy Valley…

… and, I found traditional American values alive and well in the Heartland.

I temporarily broke my news cycle addiction by trekking to the Ohio State – Penn State football game in State College, PA (aka. “Happy Valley”).

State College is in Pennsylvania farm country, secluded enough from the hustle & bustle of neighboring East Coast cities to legitimately claim its decades-old nickname.



Here are some highlights from my trip in Happy Valley,,,


First, some critical background.

I was born in raised in Ohio and, as a kid, dreamed of going to OSU … and maybe playing football like my big (10 years older, 5 inches taller, 100 pounds heavier) brother did.  Many family members went to OSU and bleed scarlet and gray.

The Ohio Sate Buckeyes are the last sports team that I really care about.

So, at my son’s urging, we went to the game.

Of course, we donned red jackets (that were as close to  scarlet as we could find).

That’s more daring than it sounds.

Penn State had declared the game to be a “white out” and asked all of its attending fans to wear white.

In this case, “all” meant over 110,000 rabid fans.

To say that we were outnumbered would be a gross understatement.

It felt like 2 against 110,000.  It wasn’t really that lopsided, though. We eventually spotted about 50 other red jackets in the crowd. (see the picture above).  Better odds at 2,000 to one.

Remembering the time that my same son was taunted at a New York Jets game for wearing a Chicago Bears jacket (when he was all of 8 years old), I was a bit nervous.

I’d temporarily forgotten that I was back in the Heartland …. away from the mad (and maddening) metropolitan crowd.

Walking from our car to the stadium,  through a sea of white-clad, beer-primed tailgaters, we got a grand total of one mild taunt.

A guy shouted “Does your mother know that you dress that way?”.

He had a smile on his face and followed his question “good luck”.

That’s the way it is in the Heartland … even when archrivals are playing their most important game of the season with a national TV crowd watching,

Things got even better from that point forward.

Every single Penn Stater was cheerful and helpful … even answering dumb questions like “which direction is the stadium?”.

It didn’t matter that we were the enemy.

They didn’t seem know or care that the country was in a constitutional crisis and that the world was going to end if Kavanaugh got confirmed to the Supreme Court.

Point of evidence: there were tens of thousands of cars and I didn’t spot a single MAGA or Resist bumper sticker.

During the pre-game activities, students displayed a big American flag on the field for the national anthem.  Everybody sang.

After the anthem, a group of players went off to the side and knelt.  They were praying, not protesting.

My first thought: “Are they allowed to do that?”

Then I remembered that we were back in the Heartland.

During the game, the decibel level was ear-drum shattering.

Over and over: “We are PENN STATE”.

I had never seen such positive, collective energy marshalled for anything.

When the game ended, players from both teams stood respectfully when the schools’ alma maters were played.

My thought: can you imagine all members of the Judiciary Committee standing respectfully when the other team’s alma mater was being played (or “Hail to the Chief”).

Of course, I was elated when the Buckeyes pulled out a last minute, come-from-behind win.

But, my elation quickly turned to old school fear.

We had to make our way back to the car through a massive crowd of emotionally-crushed, beer-loaded Penn State fans.

You can probably guess how that turned out.

No, we didn’t get jeered or punched.

We got some “nice game” salutations along the way … and, a couple folks pointed us (accurately) towards our distant Parking Lot 22.

Everybody seemed to have quickly recalibrated to “win some, lose some” and popped open another brewski.

After all, this was the Heartland, not Washington, DC.

Hat tip to the folks of Happy Valley … a microcosm of the real America.

Keep the spirit alive, guys … keep the faith

Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

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3 Responses to “I journeyed to Happy Valley…”

  1. ST Says:

    Forwarded this on to a number of my PSU friends – they’ll be very pleased.

  2. Dave Lombardi Says:

    I’m sure the absence of alcohol in NCAA stadiums helps prevent a dangerous post-game atmosphere for fans of the away team. One thing the NCAA does right I suppose.

  3. Maribeth Martorana Says:

    We are! Go Lions! So Penn State proud that my alma mater treated you guys so well! Win or lose, Penn Staters have such a a wonderful school spirit!

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