“What’s a ‘Nittany'”?
So much for the nice, quiet Saturday afternoon of college football. The last day of meteorological summer. The first full day of the new season. Just sitting there switching back and forth between the Syracuse – Penn State game and the Temple – Notre Dame contest. Even if it was still warm and muggy outside, Fall was upon us. Or soon would be. Life is good.
And then she asks, “What’s a ‘Nittany'”?
My wife was asking, of course, about the Penn State football team. They’re called the Nittany Lions. Always have been, I think. Like the Syracuse Orange or the Temple Owls or the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Or any other team. It’s their name. I’ve been watching college football since I was a kid and they’ve always been the Nittany Lions. I’ve never been a Penn State fan, but I kind of liked the name. It has a sense of nobility to it. Or at least it did before the big scandal hit.
“But what’s a ‘Nittany'”?
So I had to admit it. Big fan that I am of college football, I had no idea. Not a clue. And after all these years the question had never occurred to me. What the hell is a “Nittany”?
Off to the computer and Google I went. I type in “Nittany Lions” and hit the Return key. Thank heaven for Wikipedia. Seems there’s a small mountain near Happy Valley called – you guessed it – Mount Nittany. And way back when there were mountain lions that lived on this little mountain (at least according to Wikipedia). So when Penn State came along (1855) someone decided that the sports teams should be dubbed the Nittany Lions (although that was probably a bit later than 1855).
No more mystery. I now have another piece of data to stuff into my memory cells. “Nittany” is the name of a hill near State College, Pa. A place where lions (or more precisely, cougars) used to roam around.
Most likely, a useless bit of trivia. A piece of information that, at best, you can use to stump a friend over a glass of beer. Yet it’s still troubling. Why did I never wonder the same thing? How many times have I heard an announcer on TV use the term “Nittany Lions”? And never once ask what it meant.
It makes me wonder what else I’m missing. Come to think of it, what the heck is a “Crimson Tide”?