Eli hoops brings Yale together

No matter what happens in the men’s basketball games this coming weekend, the Elis have done this campus a great service.

The team’s losses to Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania this past weekend were disappointing, but they do not negate the team’s 9-1 start in the Ivy League or its sweep of Penn and Princeton at home.

People sometimes — okay, often — wonder why I am such an enthusiastic sports fan, and a Yale sports fan at that. There are many reasons, but there is one with which almost everyone at Yale can identify.

With the basketball team’s success has come a heightened sense of school spirit.

Let’s start with the Penn-Princeton home weekend. The Eli faithful packed the gym well before tipoff. The John J. Lee Amphitheater was oversold. Fans sat and stood in the aisles. The noise in the gym was deafening.

The reason people were there, of course, was to cheer on the men’s basketball team, who at 5-1 were then in second place in the Ivies.

The atmosphere was magical. The gym was louder than Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium when I was there to watch the Wake Forest game.

Not only did Yale sweep the weekend, but every spectator was part of something special.

It is moments like these that enhance the college experience. The unity in that gym and the chance to share a unique experience with friends were priceless. At a school that encourages its students to learn from one another, this was yet another moment to be shared.

The positive effects of the team’s winning ways have continued. Two weekends ago, a solid group of Yale fans made the trip to Columbia to cheer on the Bulldogs. The road trip provided for more bonding and more memories.

And this past weekend, a strong contingent of Yalies made the journey to Princeton. While the fans got a raw deal on seating, there was still a positive value in going as a group and building memories together.

If you talk to people who graduated in the class of1999, you hear a common theme: “Remember when the hockey team went on that great run to capture the ECACs and go to the NCAA tournament in 1998?” It lifted the campus and brought people together during a time when the football team’s 1-9 disaster and the perennially cellar-dwelling basketball team were doing their best to dampen school spirit.

Similarly, in 2002, the brightness of Yale’s basketball success has dimmed the memory of a down year for Yale football and men’s hockey.

The success has especially heartened the seniors finishing out their Yale careers.

And in the lean months that are a New Haven winter, the team’s success has rescued many from their midyear slumps.

You can feel it in the air. People are happy, pumped, alive, and talking Yale basketball. (Did I say talking Yale basketball? Imagine that…)

That is the value of sports. They bring us together. They provide a diversion. They generate emotion. They make us a community. And a winning team magnifies these elements.

So for the seniors, we have one last home men’s basketball and men’s hockey weekend. And guess who is coming down Friday night to play us in both? Yes, Harvard, poor Harvard.

So let’s give them a Bulldog welcome and make them see Crimson.

Then Saturday night, show up en masse again and make the opposition look green.

Let’s make the Lee Amphitheater rock and roll. Don that Josh Hill ’04 jersey and play the role of sixth man once again.

Let’s thank Coach James Jones, his staff and players. They have given us something to cheer about, something to bond over, something we’ll never forget. It may be intangible, but it’s electric, and it’s real.

And there’s always hope that the ride will continue.

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