Halftime breaks usually see fans get up and head for the concession stands, but a good deal of those at Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday chose to stand and applaud instead.
After past players were introduced and lined up on the floor for Alumni Day at Penn State’s final home game of the regular season, the BJC’s lights were dimmed and eyes were directed to the scoreboard. On it, a video celebrating the life of the late Brandon Ream played.
Ream, a former punter for the Nittany Lions’ football team, passed away after a battle with cancer in November 2013. In remembrance of the strong supporter of Penn State athletics, Sunday’s game was also the inaugural Team Ream Day, featuring the Team Ream Foundation.
The foundation’s website says its mission is to “assist ﬁnancially disadvantaged individuals in State College and surrounding areas who have been affected by serious medical and various conditions.”
Members of the Ream family were brought out to the court after the video to an extended standing ovation. They were also joined by Penn State women’s volleyball and gymnastics members, as well as football lettermen.
“Just amazing,” coach Patrick Chambers said of his feelings toward the game’s added meaning. “The Ream family’s just incredible, great to this university — great to be a part of, to honor a young man who was 29 [and] lost his life to cancer.”
“I can’t even imagine. I can’t even imagine,” Chambers continued. “That’s why we can’t take a life for granted.”
Brandon was named an honorary captain, and his family was presented a basketball commemorating the occasion by Lions basketball alums Joe Crispin, Brian Allen and Tyler Smith.
In addition to the halftime ceremony, Team Ream T-shirts were laid out around the arena’s lower bowl for the 7,807 in attendance in an alternating pattern of blue and white. Several rows directly behind Wisconsin’s bench were given red shirts for Badgers fans, too.
The Lions lost to the No. 14 Badgers, 71-66, despite a strong late-game push. But the reminder of Ream’s fighting spirit, which Chambers witnessed first-hand at a golf outing with him, appeared to make the defeat easier to deal with.
“I’ll pick myself up and move on because of guys like Brandon Ream. But for Brandon’s sake, we fought,” he said. “We showed heart. We had courage. We did that, and so did he. So there was a lot of correlation there.”
After the game, there was also a BMX performance hosted by Woodward Camp. An action sports and gymnastics camp run by the Ream family, Team Ream’s website said that Brandon “worked his way up to become VP of Operations” of Woodward Camp, “and guided the camp through both national and worldwide expansions.”
Shawn Johnson, an Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast in 2008, was expected to be in attendance for Team Ream Day. However, she tweeted minutes before the opening tip that she could not make it, alluding to flight troubles.
Eric Shultz can be reached at email@example.com or (814) 865-1828. Follow him on Twitter at @Shultz_Eric.