Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Flipping Out: Trading conferences
By Jake Trotter and Adam Rittenberg
Jake Trotter here. I cover the Big 12 for ESPN.com. But I won’t be in Big 12 Country this weekend. I’ll be in Nittany Lion Land.
It’s Flip Week at ESPN.com, where several of our conference reporters are traveling outside their areas of expertise to experience a different culture of college football.
Penn State fans cheer on the Nittany Lions.
And Thursday, I’m headed to Happy Valley for the weekend.
I’ve been to every locale in the Big 12, from Ames, Iowa, to Lubbock, Texas.
I’ve brandished The Mountaineer’s rifle. I’ve eaten countless corny dogs from the Texas State Fair. I’ve even been eye-to-eye with Bevo -- and trust me, he’s more intimidating in person than he looks on TV.
But as a native of Oklahoma City, I have never been to State College, Pa. In fact, the only game I’ve ever seen in a Big Ten stadium was at Ohio State years ago.
So what makes Penn State special?
What makes it different from Texas or Oklahoma?
Does Penn State really have the best tailgating in the country? Or the craziest student section?
This weekend, I get to find out.
But to get the true Penn State experience, I’m looking for suggestions.
I’m planning to check out Nittanyville. And I’m going to visit the Nittany Lion Shrine.
But where else should I go? What else should I see?
Adam, our Big Ten reporter, what say you?
Adam Rittenberg: Jake, you're in for a treat at Penn State. It's a unique place to see a game, probably the most unique setting in the Big Ten. Huge stadiums are common in the Big Ten, but Beaver Stadium, rising up in from the mountains in central Pennsylvania, is quite a spectacle. The tailgating scene is huge in Happy Valley, so definitely spend some time roaming the massive grounds around the stadium. Check out the RV lots south of the stadium, and give yourself a lot of time to roam around one of the best campuses in the country.
The Lion Shrine should be on your list, and definitely check out the Berkey Creamery for some of the best ice cream you'll ever have. Stroll through the historic Nittany Lion Inn, which is always buzzing on football weekends. If you have time, you could take a full campus tour -- guides often shout out, "We are!" and wait for the echoing, "Penn State!"
Nittanyville, the tent city outside Gate A is a great spectacle, especially before big games. Penn State's student section -- the S-zone -- has earned national recognition, and for good reason. It's incredibly organized, with each class assigned areas and some clever signs for players and coaches (BO'B The Builder was one of my favorites from last season). Although your game is a whiteout and not under the lights, you'll be able to envision what those scenes look like.
Save some time to walk down College Avenue, which flanks campus, and stop in The Corner Room for some food and drink. Otto's Pub & Brewery is a little farther away but not a bad place to eat, either. But the area near campus has a bunch of cool shops with Penn State memorabilia.
Make sure you're at the north end of the stadium for the team's arrival on the blue buses. Always a great moment. And the Blue Band's pregame performance at the Bryce Jordan Center, Tailgreat, is excellent, along with the drum major's flips as the band takes the field. During the game, you'll hear staple songs like "Zombie Nation" and "Sweet Caroline."
Bottom line: There's a lot to see and do, and bring your walking shoes. It's a big campus, a big stadium and a big tailgating scene. Penn State fans have a unique connection to their program, and you'll see why after this weekend.