Occassionally we at JPDH like to look at colorful characters associated with the Penn State football program. Today we look at Penn State’s Football Communications and Branding Director Guido D’Elia. D’Elia has transformed the Penn State program since joining the University staff in 2004. We thought it important to look into the whole arc of his life to see who he is, where he draws his ideas, his strength, and his something smoething something. We begin:
1947 – Lil’ Guido D’Elia is born with a rare case of anti-colic. A major symptom includes a lack of energy when in well-communicated and well-branded locations. One day while attempting to drown the silence his mother accidentally speeds up a 33 of Perry Como’s “Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba” at 45 rpm. Baby D'Elia is energized, and a young mother joyously blares Perry-Como-on-speed. This leads to confrontations with annoyed neighbors, but a life path for a young boy is revealed.
1957 – The early years of Guido D’Elia unfold like the sepia and gray images of a Fellini movie. A ten year old Guido chases a colorful ball through the city streets of his youth only to end up at an amusement park, where a drum major dressed in blue and white grimaces, takes his ball from him and throws it into a turbulent sea. Young Guido is furious but does not shed a tear, knowing the sea is an emotional metaphor, but he vows that some day he will have his revenge.
1969 – D’Elia travels to Woodstock with his girlfriend where he discovers fellowship, natural emotion, and the communal spirit of a hundred thousand people joined together as one, without need for overtly commercial concepts like branding or market testing. Guido finds it overrated and spends most of the festival sitting in his ’67 Ford Falcon blaring Three Dog Night.
1970 – It rains. A wisecracking friend asks, “I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain?” Guido finds the comment endlessly amusing.
1992 – Flash forward to The Game, a 13-13 tie between Michigan and Ohio $tate. D’Elia blends in with reporters and listens to a post-game press conference with Ohio $tate starting quarterback Kirk Herbstreit. Herbstreit claims Columbus is "the best student section in the nation; they're crazy.” While most journalists disregard the comment Guido is consumed with jealousy, vowing to make sure HE will have Herbstreit’s blessing someday. Alas, Guido is a football communications and branding director without a football team to direct.
1996 – Winnipeg Jets move to Phoenix. The White Out fades from memory. Or does it?
1997 – D’Elia, a huge Rudy Pemberton fan, scores two tickets to Fenway Park only to find out Pemberton had gone to Japan. He is distressed at first, but his friend calms him down, and Guido settles in to his seat and dozes in the Boston summer sun.
He’s awakened by the energizing strains of a song. Blitzed South Boston twenty-somethings refrain from punching each other in the face long enough slur the phrase “so good! so good! so good!” while a man sings about a sweet woman named Caroline.
“Who is this?” he enquires to his friend.
“Neil Leslie Diamond,” he states.
As punching resumes in the stands Guido thinks to himself, “Now this is epic atmosphere!”
1999 – D'Elia travels to Europe to “find himself.” Initial intentions of writing next Great American Novel devolve into non-stop nights of pills, glow-sticks and hardcore techno in Hamburg’s Spielbudenplatz District.
He was there when Zombie Nation dropped their telltale song for the first time.
That moment is burned in D’Elias memory: the bright lights, the fog machines, the smell of PVC and patchouli oil emanating from the Hungarian woman dancing next to him. Their mutual ecstasy-fueled desire to make out overwhelms them. The crowd bounces. Good times.
2004 – D’Elia takes a job at Penn State. Guido is horrified during Akron opener when he discovers stadium audio system consists of a tannoy connected by knob and tube wiring to a hand-me-down phonograph and Jay Paterno’s walkman. Music choices consist of a dusty 33 of “Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree” and a well-worn cassette of Rod Stewart’s Camouflage album. Guido’s pre-game music routine consists of fast forwarding the walkman between “Infatuation” and “Some Guys Have All the Luck.” It works, but Jay asks for his walkman back after the game. D’Elia decides to implement changes at the stadium.
2004 – In the midst of the most dreadful October in the history of Penn State football, Guido uses a word of mouth campaign to promote a white-out for the Purdue game. It worked, and it admittedly looks pretty cool.
2005 – The fall of 2005 is the greatest season in the life of Guido D’Elia. 109,000 fans are enthralled at the prospect of attending another intense fan-powered Beaver Stadium experience. D’Elia pulls the strings in the background and lets us have our fun. Herbstreit kisses Guido’s ring. Although Nittany Nation is formed, we all know we’re living in Guido’s World. We willingly accept his benevolent leadership.
2006 – The magic is recaptured, but cracks begin to form. Even Guido can’t sustain stadium emotion and energy when fans have to sit through an offense guided by a certain QB14.
2007 – Some older fans don’t like the rap and hip-hop selections by D’Elia. The idea of STEP is formed.
2008 – D’Elia decides that football communications and branding is perfectly compatible with endless scrolling video banner advertisements. That score update you wanted? Sure thing, but first sit through thirty powerpoint slide transitions of PNC bank ads.
2009 – Two yard out pattern, pump Zombie Nation. Screen pass for no gain, pump Zombie Nation. Run off tackle, pump Zombie Nation. Adrian Clayborn special teams TD, pump Zombie Nation. For some reason, people in the crowd begin to think the Guido magic is getting stale. The solution? More Zombie Nation, less Blue Band!
2009 – Whoah oh oh oh oh, oh Whoah oh oh oh oh oh oh oh Whoah oh, ah. (repeat)
2010 – Hackers infiltrate gopsf.com and transform videos so that all images of Penn State quarterbacks are replaced with overcooked meatloaf. After a public condemnation of the perpetrators and an extensive investigation, Guido finds that the images weren’t altered and the PSU QBs were indeed meatloaf. A discouraged D’Elia heads to Borders to pick up CD’s of hot new music and comes across the Cross album by Justice.
2011 – Year seven of the Guido D’Elia era begins. His pre-season work plan for the year:
- If STEP dramatically reduces attendance, the solution is to blare more music.
- If the offense has all the intensity of beige pain, the solution is to blare more music.
- If the coaching staff has all the passion and focus of microwaveable rice, the solution is to blare more music.
- If the non-conference schedule consists of Alabama and two of the dullest teams conceiveable, the solution is… to increase banner ad powerpoints AND blare more music.
Yes, we find that Guido has had a crooked path on his way to the branding nerve center of Penn State football. Although we may have our gripes and our concerns, we must recognize that we find ourselves wrapped in the French House Music-loving embrace of Guido D’Elia. It’s Guido’s World, we are only "hear" for the ride. Jump in. Whoah oh oh oh oh.