Beaver Stadium pregame crowd. Photo by Paul Burdick
This past weekend the Penn State football team went down south and defeated an SEC team. Almost 40 years ago many of us witnessed a different Penn State football team go down south to play an SEC school and come away with a similar result.
It was the early evening hours of Saturday, Jan. 1, 1983, when my future wife, several close friends and I presented our tickets to the ushers at the New Orleans Superdome and were admitted to watch the Sugar Bowl game that would decide the national football champions of the 1982 season (continued apologies to SMU).
Upon entering the cavernous indoor space, we were shocked to be inside something that large with no visible means of support holding up the roof. As we walked around the concourse of the Superdome looking for the section with our seats, staring out over the field in awe at the opposite side of the building which seemed as if it could be a mile away, one really interesting, exciting, inspiring and mind-altering thing stood out among everything.
They sold alcohol in the Superdome.
Beer, wine and mixed drinks. There were beverage stations seemingly every 20 yards around the concourse. I’m sure it was much further than that, but to a young, impressionable mind every time I took a few steps a new selection of adult-beverage options was offered to me. Keep in mind that this was 1983, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 had not yet passed, and many states had drinking ages lower than 21, including Louisiana. As another reminder of where the game was played, Louisiana was the last state in the country with a legal drinking age of 18. Their state Supreme Court ruled that the 1984 federal law was age-discrimination, so 18-year-olds were able to buy alcohol until 1987 and consume alcohol until 1995.
But as a young adult growing up and living in central Pennsylvania, my college football viewing experience was almost exclusively Penn State and Beaver Stadium, with perhaps a Bucknell and Lycoming College game at one time or another. Which meant the alcohol was always out in the parking lot, never in the stadium.
Now fast forward 40 years.
Here we are in the third full week of September 2022, which means three September Saturdays have passed and I have now attended three college football games this fall – in three different stadiums. None of which were Beaver Stadium. Such is the life of a football parent. I’m looking forward to seeing the Nittany Lions live and in-person for the first time this year on Oct. 29 when the despised Ohio State Buckeyes come to town. And, in an effort to make my inaugural 2022 visit to Beaver Stadium the best experience it can be, I’m confident Penn State will be 7-0 when I arrive at my seat.
And when I arrive at that seat, it is entirely possible that I will be able to purchase alcohol. Now those alcoholic choices may be limited to beer and hard seltzer (ugh!), but it looks as if Penn State is finally ready to join the 20th century (we’ll talk about this century in 2050!). Sure, it’s behind the times, but better late than never, right?
I should mention that the three different stadiums I have watched games in so far this fall, one of which was a Big Ten school, are all D1 FBS stadiums, and each one sold alcohol. One stadium sold only canned beer and hard seltzers, the other two sold those beverages plus draft beers and wines. One stadium cut off sales with eight minutes left in the third quarter, the other two at the end of the third quarter. One had a 40-ounces-per-sale limit, but you just swiped your credit card two, three or however many times you needed and walked off with your beverages.
And it has been this way for years now. All without the earth coming to an end. Imagine that.
Here’s an interesting thought: I’ve been legally considered an adult for more than four decades. I’ve accomplished all sorts of things during that time both personally and professionally, and you know what I like? I like it when I’m treated like an adult and able to buy alcohol when I want.
According to the global research company IBISWorld, there are 71,634 bars and nightclubs in this country that sell alcohol. Then there are the thousands upon thousands of restaurants that also serve alcoholic beverages. All of which has been going on since sometime after Dec. 5, 1933, when the 21st Amendment was ratified. Almost 90 years ago. And again, the earth has not come to an end over this.
Since the beginning of time there have always been people who want to scare you with predictions of what could happen. The Burgermeister Meisterburgers of the world. People who, with apologies to the writing of Aaron Sorkin, are interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of things and telling you who’s to blame for them. And their ultimate ace in the hole is this: We can’t do that because people will get hurt or die.
But there are plenty of examples in recent and not-so-recent history that show the worst doesn’t happen. Remember when selling beer and wine in convenience and grocery stores would result in a rampage of drunkards? When increasing highway speed limits above 55 mph would result in untold deaths? When legalizing marijuana would turn millions into drug addicts? When switching auto inspections from every six months to once a year would have faulty brakes causing a pandemic of accidents? When allowing 18 year-olds to vote would signal the end of democracy?
Selling alcohol in Beaver Stadium won’t change how Penn State does business. It won’t change the gameday experience. It won’t make the stadium less safe. It will however, start to treat as adults the hardworking people who donate millions of dollars to the Nittany Lion Club and spend millions more buying football tickets.
So I applaud Penn State for taking this step forward. In fact, I would suggest that they consider adding wine to their list of alcohol choices. And when I arrive at Beaver Stadium on Oct. 29 I look forward to this new and improved customer experience.
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Beaver Stadium pregame crowd. Photo by Paul Burdick