Penn State

A Roller Coaster Week Facing A Trip to Champaign Illinois

“It’s only a football game”, I told people on Wednesday when I stated matter-of-factly that I was going to stay home this weekend.  I had taken two days off from teaching on Monday and Tuesday – cancelled 3 classes on Monday, found coverage for 3 classes on Tuesday, and cancelled a Tuesday night class.  The crud in my chest wasn’t getting any better despite medication, and I’m sure last Saturday’s Iowa game in the relentless rain didn’t help either.  Nor did the loss.


First thing Monday morning I had an emergency call with my physician’s assistant at the medical center, who knows of my streak and my football passion.  She changed my medication to a much more aggressive treatment, and it seemed to be working, but still, I wasn’t 100% on Wednesday. 


“What???” my colleagues said.  “It’s your 100th game in a row!  You CAN’T miss that!  This isn’t just a football game.  It’s an important event in your life! A significant milestone!” 


“No,” I said, “It really IS only a football game.  I can’t afford to expend my limited energy going to Champaign, get a relapse of this crud, and cancel more classes.  My job’s more important than the football game, and so is my health.  Besides, I don’t want to be thought of as someone who frivolously flies to a football game on a weekend and then calls in sick for classes.”  I’m not tenured.  My contract with Penn State gets signed one year at a time.


I was also thinking of the cost of cancelling one class (about $80-100 per class hour per student), and the fact that if I cancelled any more, I wouldn’t be able to stay on schedule.  I was okay so far in the semester because I had actually built in some flexibility this fall due to the flu epidemic, but any more cancellations would be disruptive.


“No your job is NOT more important this weekend!” my colleagues argued.  “It’s NOT just a game.  Your entire life – what you live for - is Penn State football.  You can’t do this.”


So then they asked me what was going on in class on Monday.  “An exam,” I said.  “We’ll cover you!” they proclaimed.  “We’re both free. You don’t need to be there to proctor an exam.” These two colleagues – both tenured professors with loads on their plate – were giving me a day of rest if I truly needed to recover from the strenuous weekend trip to Illinois and had a relapse.  And the exam would go on.  Tuesday and Wednesday classes had guest speakers, so there was already coverage there.  That was also comforting.


“Well, let’s see how it goes,” I said.  “I might just take you up on your offer.”  It was a glimmer of hope that perhaps if I felt better by Thursday, I could in fact go to Illinois.  I was very grateful and told them so.  Even more grateful because one of these colleagues will soon be my boss.  He’s about to take over as chair of the department.  It was good to know that he understands and supports this crazy passion.


Then, I got home that night.  Terry had a fever and was just coming down with a lot of crud.  So now I had another worry. He had told me earlier that day he would tough it out if I could go, but the fever was a show-stopper.  He might have the flu.


Ran out to the drugstore, bought a new thermometer and some Tylenol, and said “First thing in the morning, you’re going to the doctor.  Whether or not the fever is still there.”  His temp was 99.8.  Terry usually deals with colds by toughing it out.  He’s on other medication that makes most cold medicine dangerous for him, but I said, “Perhaps there is something that would work with your current medication.”  But I wasn’t optimistic.  Our long attendance streaks would be over this weekend.


“It’s only a game,” I reminded my colleagues in an email Wednesday night.  “I can’t abandon Terry if his condition worsens. It doesn’t look good.  I’m really okay with this.  99 games in a row is good enough.  Terry’s streak was bound to end sooner or later.  It doesn’t diminish what we’ve accomplished or what we will do in the future.  There are MUCH worse things in life than breaking an attendance streak at football games.”


On Thursday morning I felt quite good.  Terry was miserable, but I asked, “Terry, would it be okay if I went to the game, even if you stay home?”  I guess I realized that perhaps 100 games in a row IS important to me. More importantly, Illinois is the first away game trip for which I am posting blogs.  I wanted to be there to take pictures, to truly reflect the “view from the stands” rather than from my TV set. 


Terry of course agreed.  So on Wednesday morning he was going and I wasn’t.  On Thursday morning it was the reverse.  The doctor visit resulted in some medication to relieve Terry of his crud, and a “pass” to fly to the game as long as his fever was below 100 degrees.  So hope for him.  His fever is down as well.


One final setback today.  On the way to class today about noon, experienced something that sounded an awful lot like a side effect of one of the meds I’m taking.  Looked it up online and sure enough the message was “call your doctor right away if…”  So a tense few hours waiting for a callback, reassuring me that it didn’t sound that way to them, and have fun at the game – please bring home a win.


So here I am, writing this at midnight on Thursday night.  Pardon me if I haven’t even thought about Saturday’s battle at Illinois.  It’s been too much of an emotional roller coaster – like plucking petals from a daisy – I’m going – I’m not going – I’m going.


Many thanks to Leanne, Pat, Julie, Bill, Meg, Steph, Terra, and all my students who rode this roller coaster with me in the last few days!


On to Champaign…as long as something else doesn’t get in our way!