jakemkaplan column

kaplandj • September 9, 2011

Software Business


JakemKaplan Collegian Columnist.  A man is made:

Just this week alone, I have heard countless times how Penn State fans need to respect visiting Alabama fans this weekend. It has been beaten into the ground how the blue-and-white clad army needs to ignore its customary booing of the opposition because the Crimson Tide faithful were gracious to visiting NittanyLion fans last September.

The Daily Collegian has received multiple letters about this very subject, almost every local newspaper has written about it and coach Joe Paterno was even asked about it at his weekly press conference on Tuesday.

But there’s more to the story than just southern hospitality, Penn State fans should also be conscientious of what many people from Alabama have been through in the last several months.

On April 27 — a mere 136 days ago Saturday — a tornado ripped through Alabama and killed more than 240 people. The horrid storm greatly affected the people of Tuscaloosa. Fifty people, including six Alabama students, were killed in the town where the university is located. Thousands of homes and businesses were lost. The cleanup in Tuscaloosa is expected last through this football season, according to the AP.

Close your eyes for a second and try to imagine what it would be like if something like this happened in State College. I can’t.

The return of college football last Saturday gave many people in Tuscaloosa something else to think about aside from rebuilding their lives. For the Alabama fans that travel north to State College to cheer on their team this weekend, don’t hinder their ability to have a good time and leave them with a bad impression of Happy Valley. Show them respect and be mindful that some of them may be in the process, or at least know people in the process, of rebuilding their lives after the tornado.

And as far as Alabama’s football team goes, it was no doubt directly affected by the disaster.

The Tide’s long snapper, Carson Tinker, lost his girlfriend, also an Alabama student, when the tornado shredded through his house. According to a story in Sports Illustrated, the tornado of 190 mph winds hit Tinker’s house at 55 mph. Tinker was thrown 100 yards, according to the story.

Out of he, his girlfriend, and his two dogs, he was the only survivor.

Can you imagine if something that terrible happened in State College and affected students here? Occurrences like these make you remember that life is much, much bigger than sports.

It bothers me nearly every day when I walk down College Avenue and see T-shirts hanging in the window of at least one store that read things such as, “Bama blows” or “Bama sucks” or other things of that nature. I understand Penn State students are fans, but as coach Joe Paterno put it in his weekly press conference on Tuesday: “I think the idea you’ve got to go in there and call people names or you’ve got to boo and all that kind of junk, I don’t think that belongs in college sports.”

The folks at the Family Clothesline, 352 East College Ave, took a step in the right direction a few weeks ago. They decided to sell navy and white T-shirts in preparation for Saturday’s game that read “Penn State Tornado Relief” with both the Nittany Lion and Crimson Tide logo embroidered on the shirt. All proceeds from sales go to Project Team Up, which plans to “score a new community vision,” according to its web site. It’s also an organization Alabama head football coach Nick Saban’s foundation has helped support.

The attitude of the people who came up with that idea at the Family Clotheslines is the same attitude Penn State fans should have this weekend when encountered by Crimson-clad fans. Not only were these people gracious toward you last year, but they were most likely affected, directly or indirectly, by a disaster we can’t even fathom in State College.

The reason Penn State fans boo is because they are competitive, as is the same with any dedicated fan base. I don’t disagree with booing the opposition during sporting events in any way. It’s all in good fun. But sometimes you just have to step back and think about what’s going on in the life of the people on the other end.

When you’re walking around the outskirts of Beaver Stadium Saturday morning before the game, take a minute to talk to some of the Alabama fans. Think about how you would want to be treated if you were a visiting fan after a string of rough months back home.

Alabama fans were nice to you last year. They could use some reciprocated support — now more than ever.

Jake Kaplan is a senior majoring in print journalism and is The Daily Collegian’s Thursday columnist.