Valentine’s Day cometh … woe be to the sportswriter who gets stuck with coming up with a Valentine’s Day-themed article. Sports and romance, an unlikely pairing, differ on almost all levels: At the base level, sports are rough; love is tender. But Valentine’s Day isn’t about picking on each other’s flaws. So prepare yourself for an unending stream of cliches, because here come the top eight reasons I love Yale athletics.

— Thomas Hsieh

Thirty-five varsity teams

For sports lovers out there, Yale provides something for everyone. With 35 men’s and women’s varsity teams, Yale has more squads than larger state schools like Penn State (29), the University of Southern California (19) and the University of Florida (18).

Yale football defensive lineman Stephen Schmalhofer ’08

He’s big, he’s a walking Under Armour catalog, and he kept the memory of my short-lived football career alive with a shout-out at this year’s football banquet. Most important, though, he’s a loyal and devout reader of my articles, and thus single-handedly keeps my average audience count above zero. Mr. Schmalhofer, here’s to you.

Academics and Athletics

Being a Yale student is hard enough. Going for that Yale degree as an athlete? Don’t get me started. While most Yalies complain about trudging off to 9:00 a.m. classes, off-season teams are waking up for 7 or 8 a.m. workouts and meetings. Athletes have to juggle long hours of practice and homework. Unlike those at schools such as Florida State University, Yale athletes don’t get the benefit of having professors call out the answers to questions during an exam.

Handsome Dan

The history of Handsome Dan began in 1889, when Yale wanted to have a mascot to compete with Princeton’s live tiger cub and Harvard’s “Orange Man.” For $5, the first Handsome Dan was purchased from a New Haven blacksmith and paraded across the field before the beginning of every home football game. Although Handsome Dan I has long since passed away, he remains an eternally stuffed guardian of Payne Whitney Gymnasium’s trophy rooms. Nowadays, Sherman the bulldog holds the Handsome Dan title after surreptitiously replacing Mugsy, a.k.a Handsome Dan XVI. Yale may not be willing to fire its coaches, but it’s ready to replace its Handsome Dans when they aren’t performing up to snuff.

Women’s ice hockey captain Ann-Renée Guillemette ’08

Simply put, she was my first … interview. I love you. Interview with me again? I ne-[Editor’s note: moving on now …]

Cole Porter

Bulldog! Bulldog! Bow, wow, wow, Eli Yale! This iconic song marks the beginning and end of every sports match, heralding the athletes on the field. Unlike other songs such as “Down the Field,” “Boola” and “Bingo, That’s the Lingo,” Porter’s rousing and spirited anthem has remained relevant over the years. “Bulldog” is THE Yale Fight Song, and nothing else can replace it.

The tradition

As history buffs know, Yale is plump with history. The forward pass in football originated at Yale. In fact, the modern game of football can be attributed to Walter Camp 1880. The New York Giants once played at the Yale Bowl, which was the first natural bowl stadium. Established in 1881, the Yale Corinthian Yacht Club is the oldest collegiate boating club in the world. Yalies have starred in numerous Olympics. The list goes on and on. Yale might not garner the national championships and wins as it once did, but that doesn’t mean that they never happened. It’s an athletic tradition to be proud of and one to always remember.

The unexpected

When I did my interview with Chris Andrews ’09 last week, I believed that even though he was practicing with the team, he wasn’t going to play in any game situations this year. But in the Saturday night home game against Dartmouth, Andrews not only defied my expectations but many others’ as well. With 4:15 left in the game, Andrews entered the line-up to a standing ovation from the crowd. He finished the night with two points and one assist, thus capping off his inspiring recovery from two ACL injuries. That’s what great stories are made of.