Of course it always helps when the fresh start is ranked sixth preseason. Also, doesn’t hurt one bit when the possibilities include Saquon Barkley's name added to a new top list every time you turn around.
I was standing in my kitchen when I read the first preseason rankings, which I promptly announced to my entire household and probably a couple neighbors. I kid you not, at that exact moment Bob Marley was on Pandora singing, “every little thing is gonna be alright.”
There was a time this summer when I wasn’t sure every little thing was gonna be alright. I mean, that’s been pretty much the new normal: wondering what news story will come next. The Penn State headlines were dreadful on several fronts, but I won’t rehash them or give them another second of airtime. I know you all are paying attention. You know those moments when you can’t believe you still have to educate.
Then, here comes August tugging forth a fresh start.
We’ve seen a lot of signs in the past few years proclaiming “We Are...Back!” I think this season is the real deal. We really are back. It’s not the hype around the football team or the possibility of a winning season that convinces me; it’s the t-shirts. A few seasons ago, walking around with a Penn State t-shirt was reserved for the loyal, truth-warriors among us. Now just look around when you’re out.
Earlier this summer I was sitting in the doctor's office and I overheard a girl in a white t-shirt with bold, capital “Penn State” on the front talking about how she only had Pitt left on her list to visit before deciding. I was in Sea Isle City a few weeks ago and Penn State shirt-wearers were everywhere. Navy Penn State flags with the huge S hung from beach house balconies. Last week we walked into an ice cream shop as an older gentleman was walking out. “I won’t make any comparisons to the Creamery. I won’t even mention it,” he joked. I turned to my husband, incredulous, wondering if I just exude Penn State and I saw HE was wearing his gray Nike lion head long sleeve. Paw print magnets and alumni bumper stickers. A note from a teacher on PSU stationary. Penn State pride is everywhere.
Penn State is ranked 6. Saquon Barkley and Mike Gesicki are named to the preseason All-America team. Barkley, Gesicki, Trace McSorley, Marcus Allen, Jason Cabinda, Brandon Smith, Tyler Davis and Blake Gillikin are already on multiple award watch lists. Even Coach Franklin is on a watch list for coach of the year.
And lest you think we have a culture problem, watch the videos of the football team carrying boxes and belongings into dorms for incoming freshman. Our team is the complete package and our fans are onboard. Those of you still eagerly awaiting your tickets can just thank the athletic department for further building your anticipation, right?
There's a particular joy in anticipating the start of the season. Sure it's not going to cure disease or usher in world peace, though some of these young lions may do just that. Yet, for a few hours on Saturday we get to be part of the team again. We get to experience the fresh start and the first real glimpse of this season’s possibilities. In a few short days, we’ll suit up in our Penn State t-shirts, we’ll hang our banners, and we'll cheer and groan together as one fierce Nittany Nation.