October 20, 2014

Editorial - Do you really know the truth about those Widener Pride football fans?

My Widener Friends - Lee Hall (Second from left), Maureen Gebhard (Fourth from left), Dick Gebhard, Noelle Hall, plus in random order, Hunter Hall, Conner Hall, Caleb Moretz, Carol Moretz, Donna Ewing
(Image: John Green - Click to download photo)
Chester, PA - It was a cool Saturday morning for the Widener homecoming game between the Pride and the Wilkes Colonels. My goal for the day was to rise early and procure a good parking spot as close to the stadium as I could. So I was very lucky to be directed to an excellent parking area. I backed my car between the lines as best I can do, went to the back of the car and opened the tailgate. I pulled out my comfortable collapsible chair and popped open my drink of the day, iced tea.

#89 So TE Tyler Hall, Son of Lee and Noelle Hall
and Grandson of Maureen and Dick Gebhard
(Image: John Green - Click to download photo)
Soon, there was a car backing up about eight stalls away from me. I watched as they pulled out a bag, unzipped it and erected the popup pavilion designed for tailgating with a blue top (Widener colors of course). Folding tables and chairs emerged from their vehicle, food magically appeared and the inauguration of a miniature gas grill was in progress. I could tell it was the first lighting of the grill because of the instruction booklet in hand and the fussing that was going on for some length of time. I assumed that they did finally get it lit, but am still not really sure.

A few minutes later, walking towards me was a delightful lady, who when close enough, introduced herself to me as Maureen Gebhard. She asked if I was a Widener fan here for homecoming. Flashing through my mind was how I was going to break it to her that I was actually a Lycoming College graduate who loves MAC football. I have followed Lycoming College football, home and away games since 1996 and Lycoming had a bye week, so I came to this game to take pictures and video.

Having managed to construct a cautious verbal paragraph explaining my football history and the reason I was in Chester, PA, I waited for the "Oh know, a Lycoming Fan!" But probably I should not have been surprised at Maureen's reaction, but truthfully was surprised. Instead of "Oh no ...," Maureen invited me to come over and have some food and drink with them. She also seemed very interested in me. Why was I surprised so much by their offerings of their abundance of food and drink for this event? It must have been one of those preconceived notions that wells up in me from time to time.

I thanked her and explained that I just ate breakfast but appreciated her offer. I did walk over to their party say hello to the others gathered. I felt at home with the kindness they showed to this old "Warrior." I felt warm in this cool morning. And I felt that this is one of the joys in life that come along unexpectedly. People getting along with people even though their backgrounds and goals for the day may be different.

This is what I love about the Middle Atlantic Conference football season.  Even though there is parity in the football teams in this conference and anyone can win the conference in any give year, there can be fellowship off the field between fans. Each year, there will be a conference champion. Each year there can be a different conference champion. But each year that I am able to visit the different teams fans, I believe I will find people like Maureen, Dick, Lee and Noelle, who are champions at hospitality, friendship and respect. That is the hidden beauty of MAC football

So I thank you Maureen for taking that first step, for taking the time to come over to my car and introduce yourself to me. I will always remember your kindness and the kindness of your extended family. You are a reflection of the name of this great football team, "Widener Pride." You all should be proud.