Monday, November 3, 2014

Joy in Happy Valley - for the Terps

Joy in Happy Valley – for the Terps
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
November 3, 2014

To paraphrase former President Gerald Ford after taking office on August 9, 1974, our long gridiron nightmare is over. (Seems appropriate as Ford played center at the University of Michigan.)

For the first time in my lifetime our University of Maryland Terrapins defeated Penn State University in football – vanquishing the Nittany Lions 20-19 on the strength of Brad Craddock’s 43-yard field goal with but 51 seconds remaining in the game Saturday – and they did it on the road in Happy Valley.

Fifty-three years. Not since 1961, when the Terps earned their heretofore only other victory versus Penn State, could they muster another win.

In 1961, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as the first, and to date, only, Roman Catholic president – 48 years removed from the inauguration of the nation’s first black president – Barack Obama, born that very year – 1961. This was three years prior to the Civil Rights Act being signed and four years before the Voting Rights Act would be signed.

Vietnam was, for the most part, and unheard of far off Asian locale, not a hot spot for a Cold War era conflagration. The Peace Corps was established in 1961 and the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution was ratified that year, allowing the District of Columbia the right to choose electors for president and vice president. The Bay of Pigs invasion was an abject failure in 1961, and the Berlin Wall was erected that year. On April 12 the Soviets put the first man in space.

In 1961 Roger Maris of the New York Yankees set the standard for his 61 home runs that season, breaking the record of 60 held by Babe Ruth since 1927, on the way to winning the World Series in five games against the Cincinnati Reds. Cost of a ticket to the series was between $10 and $11.

Zip codes did not yet exist in 1961 and cost of a postage stamp was a mere four cents. Eggs cost 30 cents a dozen and a gallon of gasoline cost 27 cents. The average automobile cost $2,850, but that was a hefty price considering the average income that year was $5,315.

Our University of Maryland, still one year from integrating the football team, was a founding member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), which included Clemson, Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wake Forest.

Other football information from 1961 included two leagues – the NFL and the AFL, and a sport six years removed from the first Super Bowl, sans Roman Numerals – which expected such poor ratings it was televised on two networks! The NFL was composed of 14 teams and did not yet include the Boston Patriots (now New England), Buffalo Bills, Dallas Texans (now Kansas City Chiefs), Denver Broncos, Houston Oilers (now Tennessee Titans), Los Angeles Chargers (now San Diego), New York Titans (now NY Jets), and the Oakland Raiders – all born in 1960.

While this was a very good victory for the University of Maryland, and made the team bowl eligible in the first season in the Big Ten, the team marred the effort with its pre-game unsportsmanlike antics. Nobody dislikes Penn State as much as my generation of Terps. During my four years in College Park, Maryland lost those four games by a combined 10 points.

This victory was, to say the least, satisfying; accomplishing something Randy White, Boomer Esiason, Frank Reich, EJ and Erin Henderson, Lamont Jordan, Bruce Perry, Vernon Davis, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and hundreds of others did not. But to shun the pre-game handshake is inexcusable. These are fellow collegiate athletes – not Nazis or ISIS. The penalty received was a penalty deserved.

Actions speak louder than words. Shake hands, then go out and defeat them on the field. Be the bigger players. More importantly, be the bigger men. Learn the lesson, move on, and best wishes for the remainder of the season.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN. He is a Class of 1988 graduate of the University of Maryland, a member of the Alumni Association, the Terrapin Club, and the Rebounders.

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