In old Western movies, they'd say "the pass is open" when the snow melted and the road was cleared to-and-from the nearest town. At that point in the film, a posse would be rounded up to go after a bad guy that had been hiding out in the woods through the winter, or a family would climb into the horse-drawn wagon for a trip to town to pick up much-needed supplies.
Blair County sports fans could fire their pistols into the air and load up the wagon now that I-99 has been completed between Altoona and State College: it's all highway, cutting about ten minutes off the now-more-convenient trip.
The pass is open, and for Nittany Lion fans, that means easier access to Penn State athletics. For all of the excitement and fan support that football generates, there are 26 other blue-and-white-wearing teams worth rooting for.
Basketball, for example would love to harness some of the energy from a sold-out Beaver Stadium white-out to make the Bryce Jordan Center the toughest place for visitors to play in the Big Ten. Imagine the arena filled to the rafters, fans shaking their pom-poms and singing "Living on a Prayer," just like they do on football Saturdays in Happy Valley.
The basketball team could use a sixth man in the stands, but getting to that point has been a chicken-or-the-egg dilemma. Fans fill the seats to support a winning team; a team needs fans to help them win.
Barring another major injury, this could be the year when it all comes together for Ed DeChellis and company. The Nittany Lion basketball team is off to its best start in years, and they are playing exciting basketball: shots from downtown to dunks. All they're missing is a rocking place to play, and that means putting fans in the stands.
The Lady Lions, settling into their second season under Coquese Washington, are loaded with experience and potential.
Gymnastics season is just around the corner, bringing more Olympic-sport excitement to Rec Hall. The renovated facility features a cozy but electric atmosphere, the perfect home for the defending national champion men's volleyball team, which opens its season in January.
If the movie industry is recession-proof, then college athletics should be as well. Many Olympic sports come with free or nominal admission, and Penn State basketball offers affordable flex packs of tickets (10 vouchers to be used for any combination of available men's and women's basketball seats), as well as special deals for groups. And it's wholesome family entertainment, stressing "Success with Honor".
The pass is open, and it's a new opportunity to take advantage of a variety of athletic entertainment. Penn State fans should celebrate; the Nittany Lions welcome you with open arms.
Kellie Goodman can be reached at email@example.com. Her column appears on Tuesdays.