It's about 2 a.m. during the last night of N.S.O., and I'm walking home with my roommate. As we pass the dueling tampons on Locust, these two freshman ruffians cross our path and call us names. Nothing particularly insulting, like "ass-hat," though. Generic names -- "Tom Smith," "David Jones." My roommate and I want to go to McDonald's. I flip the belligerents off and walk towards my favorite Golden Arches.
They follow us, shouting the whole time, "talk to us." We skip McDonald's and settle into our eminent domain instead. As we stand on our porch, they ask why I had to be such a jerk. I ask why they called me David Jones and Tom Smith.
"You look like a Nittany lion," one of them says. The two leave, presumably back to Planet Earth.
I'm sobbing. I go online and Google "nittany lion pics." The internet tells me they are a form of cougar --"Felis concolor"-- that inhabited Nittany Mountain, near State College, PA. The last known Nittany lion died in 1856, but I am still alive.
I can't be a Nittany lion.
The next day I hold a vote. I ask five friends to look at a picture of a Nittany lion I find on Penn State's Web site. For those of you who never watch ESPN, Penn State's mascot is the "Nittany Lion." Joe Paterno is a "Nittany Lion." I can't be a Nittany lion. The creature is covered with tan fur, wears an unassuming snout and walks like something that knows where it's going. I have red hair and look like a carrot. My friends vote 3-2 that I do not look like a Nittany lion.
It occurs to me afterwards that maybe this was an elitist act. By likening me to a Penn State student, by calling me a "Nittany Lion," they say I'm not good enough to go to Penn. I sob again and hate myself for being so stupid. I eat Ben and Jerry's ice cream, drink Mountain Dew and watch Fresh Prince reruns on TV Land before crying myself to sleep. Although I don't look like a Nittany lion, as the vote narrowly secured, I may be a "Nittany Lion," which I'm led to believe is worse.
The next morning, I'm ready to drink my liver to cirrhosis out of depression. I open my dresser drawer and the shirt in front of me reads "Not Penn State" and has a Penn logo on it. I remember that I bought this on Penn's campus, where I thought I was a student until the night before when the guy told me I wasn't. I find my proof and am elated; the fan almost chops off my head as I jump on my bed.
The vote and the shirt confirm, respectively, that I am neither a Nittany lion nor a "Nittany Lion." I'm your average Penn student and those two guys are full of shit.