‘The Team Played Well’

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Nittany Valley Press’s The Reminiscences of Dr. F.J. Pond (you may recognize the last name; Pond Lab is named for Francis’ brother, George, who was nicknamed “Swampy”). With the Blue/White Game now less than a full week away, I thought it appropriate to return our attention to Dr. Pond’s recollections, specifically as they relate to one of his favorite distractions: Penn State football.

Pond loved “sports, especially football, and eagerly followed every game.” As such, it’s no surprise that he devotes a section of his Penn State memories to the football program, although the intercollegiate competition of Dr. Pond’s time would be virtually unrecognizable to the many thousands who will fill the Beav on Saturday. His opening thoughts on the topic are some of my favorite in the entire book…

“Some of the early teams had fancy scores in football. At one time Lehigh beat Penn State 106 to 0. Another memorable time Penn State thought they had a very good team. They took a trip down East in the fall of 1899. One of the teams they played was Yale, and they all felt sure of winning the game. However, they were disappointed; and when the telegram came to State announcing the results of the game, this is what it said: ‘Yale 40, State 0. The team played well.’ The telegram was sent by Kid Biller, Manager, and the words ‘The team played well’ became a slogan around Penn State.”

Basically perfect. Of course, things weren’t all “fancy scores” and sarcastic telegrams back in State’s earliest days on the gridiron…

“In the early years about 1892-1899 football was so rough even ‘kneeing’ was allowed, and the boys on the team were fed cocaine pills to give them stamina. This was a bad habit and resulted in at least one known death.”

Talk about “football culture” … good thing the NCAA wasn’t around back then.

The Pond book is chockful of revealing, and often amusing, anecdotes like these. At only 40 pages, it is a quick, but satisfying trip down Happy Valley’s memory lane that can be enjoyed even if the internet has destroyed your attention span. It’s priced to own and available in paperbackKindleNook and iBooks. Run, don’t walk.

As for our Nittany Lions, I’m sure we’ll all exit the stadium knowing almost nothing more about the team than when we arrived. That’s the way the Spring Game works. All of the hype and meticulous analysis that leads up to the game then amounting to basically nothing is a Penn State tradition in its own right (for how many years running have we been promised that the scrimmage will shed light on the team’s quarterback situation?). This week is just the appetizer. Coach O’Brien and company serve up the main course this Fall. Let’s hope the team plays well!

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