As a lifelong fan of Penn State football and a 15-year fan of Big Ten football, I appreciate the opportunity to reach out to like-minded Big Ten fans. As a frequent visitor to Ann Arbor, I have found the overwhelming majority of Michigan fans to be very similar to the overwhelming majority of Penn State fans, who recognize that there is no place in college sports for animosity toward opposing fans. They welcome us wholeheartedly to their college, stadium and even their tailgates. However, both universities also have a minority of disrespectful, abusive and embarrassing fans that get enjoyment from the degradation of others. I would like to see that change as much as possible at both institutions, and I believe that both are capable of making such a change.
Just as Ohio State has made strides to improve what many Big Ten fans would consider to be the most threatening and abusive Big Ten game day environment, I am hopeful that the Michigan and Penn State will follow suit. I truly believe that most Michigan fans find the verbal and physical abuse that my fellow Penn State fans and I endured on many occasions this past weekend to be just as despicable as we do when we see Michigan fans treated the same way in Happy Valley. I believe that it is time for the vocal majority of good, respectful fans to demand that there is no place for bad sportsmanship before, during or after the game.
Why is it that we demand better sportsmanship from our players than our fans? I never understood how normally good, respectful people feel better about themselves by making derogatory, abusive comments or throwing things at the fans of opposing teams. The same can be said for the boos that welcome the opposing team onto the field — a group of 18-21 year olds just trying to do their best — that would not be greeted the same way in any other scenario. I think that most of that would change if instead of being egged on by laughter and cheers from fellow fans, bad sportsmanship was properly recognized by jeers and boos from fans wearing the same colors.
It is in the interest of all local Big Ten communities to encourage the economic stimulus that traveling fans bring, and consequently treat opposing teams’ fans more like invited guests. Along those lines, many Penn State fans were disappointed by the University administration’s choice to move most of the opposing team’s seats to the top of the end zone sections. While this type of treatment may be tolerated in truly inhospitable locations like Morgantown, W. Va., it should have no place in Big Ten athletics. I am certain that traveling Michigan fans prefer their current seats in the northeast corner of Beaver Stadium to being strung out along the highest rows of the north end zone balcony. For their own interests, they should not tolerate similar treatment of opposing fans.
In the spirit that competition makes us better, it would be nice to add one more Big Ten competition to see who can be the most welcoming and hospitable venue for opposing team fans to visit. This message needs to start at the top.
Penn State fan