Despite the less than ideal weather last weekend, my brother and I trekked to State College Saturday evening to watch our Terps take on the Nittany Lions. This marks the first time in my life that I went to a game as a fan of the away team, and my second trip to State College overall. Regardless of your perception towards Penn State athletically or as an institution overall, I suggest people take time to venture to State College sometime in their lives, if they have not done so already. Downtown State College and the surrounding areas are worthy of a good exploration. Several bars, shops, restaurants and even Happy Valley Brewing Company make State College a pretty neat "little" college town that far surpasses, dare I say, College Park, in many ways.
However, I suppose I am not here to promote State College, nor put down the hygienic tendencies of R.J. Bentley’s. I was there to watch a basketball game, and I am sure that story is what most people are more interested in reading. Wearing our Maryland gear proudly, my brother and I were met with little animosity, everyone being quite friendly. Most people there seemed to approach Penn State basketball like many of us might approach Maryland football, with a casual indifference. It seemed as if most people there were almost expecting to lose, and the prospect of losing did not bother them. Most people seemed more content discussing Maryland basketball with us, more so than discussing the impending match-up that would occur in only a few hours. A few of the more veteran Penn State alum occasionally brought up the glory days of the Crispin brothers, but overall it seemed most people there do not lose much sleep when thinking about the potential success or failure of their men’s basketball team.
The Penn State men’s basketball team plays at the Bryce Jordan Center, named after the 14th President of Penn State University. It is juxtaposed directly between Beaver Stadium and PSU’s hockey arena. I was mildly distracted by sheets of heavy snow and sub-Antarctic temperatures to take in much else in regards to the surrounding area. Upon entering the Bryce Jordan Center, I found it to be much, much, larger than I had anticipated. The BJC holds around 15,000 people, making it only slightly smaller than the Xfinity Center. However, they do curtain off about 80 percent of the upper deck in an effort to preserve atmosphere. The student section, appropriately titled "Nittany Nation," takes up one side of the court and is about a dozen rows deep, and the pep band sits at the baseline where the away team shoots in the second half. The announced attendance was somewhere around 8,500 people, with 30 percent, or perhaps more, being Terp fans. Needless to say, there were a lot of empty seats.
As the game progressed it become clear that the State fans in attendance were a little less indifferent than the PSU peeps we encountered on the street and in the bars of downtown State College. They were much more boisterous than I had expected them to be, but, again this is my first road experience, so I have little to compare it to. There were enough Terp fans in attendance to make our presence known, much to the chagrin of the Penn State faithful. All in all, it was a competitive back-and-forth game which only helped to fuel the atmosphere. Bias aside, I can assume a Lion’s fan would be more in awe with a visit to the Xfinity Center during a Maryland game than I was last Saturday night, but it was an entertaining game and venue to attend and wouldn’t advise anyone against going next year if they had the opportunity. Nice people, cool town and a decent arena make for an enjoyable experience, just avoid talking about football and your visit should go pretty smoothly.