Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Football Plus Family Equals Everlasting Memories

From the messy desk of Paul Levine...

You gotta kiss a lot of frogs to see a prince of a game like this.

You gotta sit through rain and snow and fog and an occasional abomination  like the infamous 6-4 loss to Iowa in 2004.

But last Saturday night was warm and clear in Beaver Stadium as Penn State won a MIRACLE come-from-behind, quadruple overtime game against Michigan, 43-40.

Here, tailback Bill Belton scores the winning touchdown in the fourth overtime, and the players celebrate.
There were four of us who traveled from Miami. My lady Marcia, son Mike, and his wife, Aja, who happens to be seven months pregnant. (I have lobbied unsuccessfully that the child be named "Nittany" or at least "Lion").  Yes, we watched the Homecoming Parade, had dinner at the Tavern, ate grilled stickies at the Diner, and hit the Creamery for bittersweet mint ice cream, vanilla/peanut butter, Danish apple-pecan, and various derivations of chocolate. 

Here we are having breakfast before the game with long-time comedy writer and Penn State pal Carmen Finestra, one of the creators of ABC’s "Home Improvement."
Nineteen years ago, Carmen,  Mike, and I attended the Rose Bowl together, watching Penn State paste Oregon, 38-20, to complete an undefeated season. But this year is different. The Nittany Lions are on probation as a result of the Sandusky child abuse scandal. The team’s record coming into the game with undefeated Michigan was a modest 3-2, and there will be no conference championship or bowl games. 

A boost in morale is what the doctor ordered, and the team delivered. It started as a rainy, chilly weekend. Here’s Marcia in the mist at the University Arboretum two days before the game. (We get our football weekends started early).
Seeing all the students in their "whiteout" togs, Marcia delivered deadpan a statement with which no one could disagree. "They have a lot of school spirit here, don’t they?"
What a weekend it was. The new $100 million hockey arena, paid for by  generous alumnus Terry Pegula, opened with a sellout crowd and a 4-1 victory over Army.
The perennially terrific women’s volleyball team defeated Minnesota 3-2.

And, the football team kept us on the edge of our seats for 4 ½ hours before delivering us from cardiac danger. 

It all got me to thinking.

I attended my first game at Beaver Stadium as a high school student in November 1964, a 28-20 shutout of Pitt. The wind chill was zero, and oldtimers – hey, I’m one – regard it as the coldest game every played there. I’ve been at many memorable games since.  In 1967 – Joe Paterno’s second season as head coach – there was the 13-8 upset of number three ranked North Carolina State, with future Grammy-winning musician Mike Reid providing the defensive firepower.

The next year, I watched Ted Kwalick return an onside kick for a touchdown in a 28-24 win over Army to help preserve what would be a undefeated season. Let’s not forget the Todd Blackledge engineered 27-24 come-from-behind victory over Nebraska played under temporary lights in 1982...leading to the national championship victory over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Yep, I was at both of those games.

I was at the Fiesta Bowl following the 1986 season when the two-touchdown underdog Nittany Lions upset powerful Miami 14-10 for Paterno’s second national championship. And I was there, way back on January 1, 1969 when Kansas had 12 men on the field at the Orange Bowl, allowing Penn State a second shot at a two-point conversion and a 15-14 victory.

But of all the games – and I include that horrific 6-4 loss to Iowa – none was as memorable as the Miracle Over Michigan. Why? Family, of course. Three generations of Levines in attendance, if you include the one carried by Aja. There, too, was Marcia, who brings infinite joy to my life, and will defend me if I am ever charged with a felony. Lifetime memories are made of weekends like this. And I intend to savor this one forever and a day.

Paul Levine


  1. Sounds like a magical weekend. Here's to many more.

  2. Hi Paul:

    Every day a new memory, every year as well. So glad it was such a memorable weekend for you and your family. And Marcia...what a sweetheart she is and so glad you have each other. Such an upbeat entry...you're the best!

  3. Sounds like a tradition in the making...if it isn't one already!

  4. from Jacqueline

    Paul, even I was swept along with the tale of your weekend - and I know nothing about Football (football is soccer, where I come from) - it's sort of rugby with padding, and more breaks. What a great time was had by all - and I have to confess, I was a great fan of Home Improvement!

  5. Yes, memorable and magical! You're all right! Paul