My dad and I have many contrasting opinions when it comes to sports, but one thing I believe we strongly agree on is that college football is our favorite sport.
I imagine my story is not wholly unique. I would bet just about every sports fan out there was introduced to their favorite sport by their father. Keep in mind this is not to take away from the mothers, grandparents, aunts and uncles who also helped introduce a child to college football or other sports. But the odds are probably in my favor when I say most of us had our fathers open up this door to the sports world.
And I must admit my father probably thought he was taking on an uphill challenge with me when it came to sports. My amateur sports career ended after a few years of Peewee soccer. For whatever reason, my interest was never there to play many organized sports. Sure, I’d play a game of wiffle ball with the neighborhood kids and I would ride my bike, but as the years went by I was more likely to pick up a Nintendo controller over a baseball bat or football except for having a catch in the backyard. While my dad may feel as though he failed with me when it came to sports, I like to think that maybe he can take pride in waiting for me to come around to being a sports fan.
My dad is a long time Penn State football fan. He grew up paying attention to Penn State, as they were the only local team likely to get any sort of television coverage. My dad later went to West Chester University but his best friend went to Penn State. As an alum of Penn State his friend had the opportunity to buy season tickets years before Beaver Stadium hosted up to 110,000 fans. Fortunately for my dad, his friend was not nearly as interested in the tickets but he was kind enough to order the season tickets anyway and allow my dad to use them (my dad paid for the tickets of course). This routine went on for years until recently when my dad was allowed to pay a one-time fee to have the tickets transferred over in his name.
My parents went to many Penn State games over the years, but eventually I came along and I soon had many milestones in my life categorized by Penn State game. As I’m told, after my mother delivered me my dad was quoted as saying “Good job! What’s the Penn State score?”
If you are curious, No. 6 Penn State, a week after being upset as the nation’s top ranked team by Miami, held on to beat North Carolina State, 22-15. Over the years my birthdays would sometimes present a scheduling conflict with Penn State home games. I was going to have a birthday get-together (I was at an age where birthday parties were sort of outgrown and not exactly cool) but had to schedule it for a week after my birthday because Penn State was playing Michigan. On the road. What?
But I was never alone. My uncle had to reschedule his wedding because Penn State was hosting Miami. My dad and another uncle, both in the wedding, had tickets for the big game and they were willing to sacrifice the Boston College game the following week if needed. Fortunately my sister was born in February, so she never had to deal with these sort of conflicts of interest. There may have been a time when I got annoyed feeling as though I came second to Penn State football, but it was only temporary.
It was my dad who in fact got me hooked on college football. After I began to show a genuine interest in watching and paying attention to sports, courtesy of a magical summer in 1993 with the Philadelphia Phillies, I quickly latched on toe Penn State football. I started paying closer attention to the top 25 polls and learning about the other programs around the country. Growing up in the Philadelphia area I was deprived of as much college football coverage as those in the south or midwest may have been. As I have said before, Philadelphia is a pro sports town, with college football often taking the back seat to the back seat. But I stuck with it.
My dad took me to my first college football game in 1991. No. 5 Penn State played their home opener a week after upending No. 8 Georgia Tech in the Kick-Off Classic the week before and the Nittany Lions destroyed Cincinnati 81-0. My memory of the details of the game are sketchy at best today but I distinctly remember the ride home when my dad told me to not get used to that kind of score. I may never see it again. I haven’t yet, thankfully.
Today my dad and I have some slightly different views on the game. He prefers standard bowls and I have been a mild proponent for a playoff format. But one thing we both agree on is that watching a college football game would be top on our list given various sporting events to choose from.
Some might call this good parenting.
Happy father’s day to all of the dads out there molding college football’s future stars and fans today, and to those who have already put in that time.