Last Saturday the Penn State football team did something that has not happened since 1941 – they lost a game to Temple. Temple? Really?
I did not watch it, we took the kids to visit my dad and is wife at a campground they were staying at. Hiking around the woods with the little ones was much more fun than watching that game.
But I checked Twitter and was surprised to see Penn State lose. Of course, people were shocked. People were angry. Other, non-Penn State people thought it was funny.
What very few people mentioned, when talking about Penn State, was that same night the women’s volleyball team began their national title defense. The women’s volleyball team is a juggernaut; their title last year was their seventh and a few years ago they had a 109 game winning streak.
Of course, the audience for women’s volleyball is quite small. Football dominates our culture. College football is basically a minor league for the NFL and the only thing most people know about most universities is in relation to their football teams. So if a friend of mine from seminary out in Illinois, or a pastor friend who grew up in Columbus, or any local person who just has an irrational hatred for Penn State, gives me a hard time for the loss to Temple, my bringing up our excellence in women’s volleyball does not score me many points. But as a Penn State alum, I am proud of those ladies and their successes in the name of our school.
I imagine we’re all like this when we think about our roots, where we have come from. We are all proud of things in ways that outsiders do not care about and may even laugh at. When I was in Detroit over the summer with a group of students we got a tour from a lifelong resident of the city. According to her the best pizza place, donut place AND coffee place are all in Detroit. Her pride for her city was clear, even if we outsiders did not see it.
I attended Penn State for four years then, a few years later, returned to lead the Christian ministry at the Berks campus. I’ve been hanging around here, talking to students, for a decade now. That means that fourteen years of my life (2/5) has been spent focusing on Penn State campuses. Holy cow!
When I think of Penn State then, my first thought does not go to Beaver Stadium and football. My thoughts go to the students I’ve gotten to know over the years.
I think of students who led worship for the first time at CSF and now lead regularly at churches.
I think of students who met at CSF and went on to get married.
I think of students who made faith commitments for the first time, or renewed their commitment as the faith of their parents truly became theirs.
I think of groups of Penn State students traveling throughout the country to bring blessing to places destroyed by hurricanes, tornadoes and floods.
I think of playing games and praying, of eating and arguing, of laughing and encouraging.
So yeah, going to a football game is a fun way to spend a Saturday in the fall. But it is a tiny part of what is going on at Penn State. Much more is going on on our campus, on all campuses. The Holy Spirit is working, and will continue to work, not just on this campus but all over the country. What the football teams do may make the headlines, but what really matters happens every day where there are no cameras and little glamour, but the most long-term affects.