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Let's not be so dramatic about rowdy football fans

If you ask any of my friends what I was like for the week before the Penn State-Rutgers game, they would surely tell you that I was a mess. I was constantly reading articles, making predictions or just yelling with excitement and nerves. As a Penn State alumna, a huge football fan and a current Rutgers graduate student, I had a serious vested interest in this game. Not to mention that since it was announced that Rutgers would join the Big Ten Conference, I had been smack talking and trying to explain what a real football school is like. I really needed the Penn State team to back me up.

But, to be honest, Penn State football has broken my heart before, and they’ll break it again in big games. What I was really and truly most nervous about was the inevitable Sandusky, child molestation and “Ped State” jokes I was sure would be coming my way. And they did — but not as much as I was expecting, so thank you to all the Rutgers fans I encountered who welcomed me with a mere “You suck!” and a wave, or a “F--- You!” and a finger. Those things I can deal with and have dealt with at several other Big Ten schools where I’ve attended away games. Those kinds of statements go along with sports and drinking. It happens. I think it’s hard for non-Penn Staters to understand how hearing the name Sandusky kills our soul every time someone says it. If you all think it’s bad that the scandal happened at Penn State, imagine how we feel. We’re horrified. That’s the place where we met our best friends, drank an innumerable number of cheap beers, ate pizza at 4 a.m. sitting on a stranger’s lawn, and, of course, went to class and were star students. That’s the place where we have our best memories. And when people cheapen the school and the community by letting the abhorrent actions and decisions of a few people define it, it kills us.

Now, I’ve seen several articles where people are saying that Rutgers fans are classless and they need to learn how to be “real” football fans. I disagree. I’m not going to let the actions of a few Rutgers fans define the entire school. To be honest, I think Penn State fans are being a little dramatic. We’ve taken years of criticism about how all we care about is football and how we don’t care about the victims at all. So when someone makes a joke, we immediately want to say, “You just made that joke so you’re a monster! You’re a horrible person who doesn’t care about the victims!” I’m not at all condoning these jokes. I mean, after all, they hurt me as much as they hurt all the other PSU fans. But if we’re all honest with ourselves, we know that these inappropriate jokes, T-shirts and signs are likely used at almost every other school Penn State plays. That still doesn’t make it right, but let’s not call out Rutgers and pin it all on them when this is happening everywhere.

Now looking at their other alleged actions: Should they have spit on people? Obviously not. But when I attended a Penn State-Michigan State game in East Lansing, Michigan, when I was 20 years old, I was walking into the stadium when an MSU student jumped on my back, took my hat off and threw it on the ground. Less than 5 minutes later, some 50-something year old men were screaming at me and my three female, 20-year-old roommates, telling us to “F--- off” and “Get the f--- out of our town.” Is this right? No. Should these things happen? It would be nice if they didn’t. But when people’s emotions are high for a big game and they’ve been tailgating all day, stuff like this happens. I don’t know if there is ever going to be a time when small incidents like that never occur.

Every school has a handful of classless fans that can take sports rivalry a little bit too far. I’ve seen it in Michigan, I’ve seen it in Ohio, and I may have even seen it at good old Penn State. So based on this weekend, I think Rutgers fit right in.

Corina White is a class of 2010 Penn State alumna and a current biomedical engineering graduate student at Rutgers University. 

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