Lying alone in bed at night as a kid, listening to the radio, I learned the importance of believing in something bigger than yourself – even if that something was a below average college basketball team. I wasn’t a fan of basketball at the time, I simply tuned my radio to the most talkative station to drown out the voices in my head. No matter how low I got, listening to the broadcast of the Penn State Basketball games would always comfort me. It didn’t matter if they won, the post-game conversations alone were enough to distract my thoughts. Slowly, I began to feel for the team and its fans – and became one myself.

FlamingBusFor those unfamiliar with the Penn State Men’s Basketball program, this is not a team you choose to follow based on their success on the court. To many fans online, the unofficial emblem of the team is the flaming bus that you see below. Since 1990, they have only made it into the NCAA Tournament four times. Which means that most sane people choose another Basketball team to cheer for. While Penn State’s football team routinely attracts a crowd of over 100,000 to attend its games, the basketball team averaged a lackluster 6,257 in the 2013-14 season. The dearth of success on the court makes fandom more of a curse than a blessing – for most. In spite of their record and support, becoming a fan of the Penn State Men’s Basketball team was a blessing for me.

There I found hope: hope that they would win, that they would play well, that they would do better next time. And I remembered I could hope the same for myself, in life. There was also belief: belief that they could win, that they would play with their hearts, and that they would try to do better next time. And I remembered that I could believe the same things about myself. And this formed a strong bond, one that seems irrational at first when I consider my faith in this team, but when I remember where I was, where I am now, and how strong my hope faith and beliefs have become. I am so thankful that I tuned the radio to those games on nights when all I needed was the comfort of hearing conversation, and passion, and knowing that it’s not all about being the best. Sometimes it’s about acknowledging defeat, and doing whatever you can to move forward towards future success.

Because the losses in life may sting, but the wins stick with you much longer.

Once more, as post-graduate unemployment wore on me, and I kept working hard to find the right job and continue to establish who I was as an adult; Penn State basketball offered me support. I found solace and motivation in the way the team never gives up, fighting for every rebound and lose ball even when the season seemed lost to the casual observer. I am, at times, overwhelmed by the efforts of DJ Newbill – who lead the team on and off the court, even through the loss of his mother. When DJ broke down after losing to Purdue in the B1G Tournament, I nearly broke down myself. But seeing the way that he fought through all of the adversity, I was inspired to fight in the same way. The adjectives that were constantly used to describe the team (#relentless #attitude) were as valuable off the court as they are on the court. You can’t watch a Penn State basketball game without either of these characteristics being alluded to by an announcer or opposing teams coach. And while that’s not something I can use to argue that Penn State basketball is nationally relevant, it’s something that keeps the team relevant for me despite countless seasons of disappointment, almosts, and what-ifs.

I would love nothing more to see the team’s hard work payoff. I’d love to watch the team play in March, and have the opportunity to pencil them in to my bracket rather than writing this diatribe – but that’s just not the case.

In a few weeks, I’ll start getting my hopes up once again. And whether the team wins or loses, I will cheer for them. Because, in a College Basketball world where 40-0 is the ultimate achievement, I know that trying is what truly counts. Giving it your all when the odds are against you and even your biggest fans don’t expect you to win. Facing defeat and knowing that not all is lost, and there is progress to be made. And I know that no matter the results, this team will give its all – they’re a bunch of fighters –and each time I watch them play, I am motivate to fight as well.

About The Author

Ross Owen
Co-Founding Editor

Ross Owen's background changes with each step he takes. Ross is constantly looking at stories from new angles - offering a fresh take on issues you might overlook at first glance. A graduate of Boston University, his site-design of in 2012 garnered him an induction into the CS103 Hall of Fame.

One Response

  1. Aunt Marilyn

    Wow, Ross! I never read this before! You are such a great writer & inspirational as well! I am printing this one!


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