There is a long-standing tradition at Yale when it comes to athletics. No, it’s not the fact that our football team still has the most national championships of any Division I school. No, it’s not Handsome Dan, who unfortunately has seemed to be replaced lately by an overly muscular, costumed human counterpart. No, it’s definitely not the fight songs. (Did you know there are six?)
My friends, this tradition is none other than the utter lack of attendance at athletic events.
Now, I know what you are thinking: This is another column complaining about how no one at Yale supports our teams, and this girl is going to go on for 500 words about how we should be better fans, and I can’t believe I’m even reading this because I only pick up the paper to do the crossword, anyway.
Nay, I tell you. Stick with me! This is something completely different.
During a recent lunch at which I was complaining about column writer’s block — again — I quickly shot down a friend’s idea to write about gaining support for Yale athletics — again. I told her everyone hates those columns that accuse readers (you’re welcome) of not being true Yale fans just because they choose not to sit in the snow to watch a four-hour softball doubleheader (which the team would love but totally understands — it’s cold).
Then, I got to reminiscing about those games in March that saw maybe five thick-blooded local parents in attendance. I remember wondering why I hadn’t taken the weather in the Northeast into account in my college decision (Stanford, or even UNC, would have been better), or why I had played an outdoor sport to begin with (should have stuck with volleyball).
In a series of thoughts, I started wondering how people choose their sport and why. Did I really just play softball because I like sunshine and the fact that my friends could watch the games? Would I have played this long if there were no fans, no supporters, no one watching my awesomeness? I’m not sure.
There are sports at Yale that no one watches or would even enjoy watching. I mean, sports you literally cannot go see because of location or venue — not because they happen to be out near the IM fields and it seems too difficult to deal with the bus. Some sports simply aren’t fan-friendly, and the athletes admit that themselves.
These sports, which include crew, cross-country and sailing, call for a different kind of athlete. These athletes don’t necessarily grow up imagining living in the spotlight, chatting on late-nights with Scott Van Pelt or finding immortality in a hall of fame. Instead, these athletes found an activity they love, or at least are good at, and decided to dedicate themselves to it long enough to make it to the level of a Division I college athlete.
I concede that these are not mutually exclusive ideas. There are athletes who play high-profile sports because they love them, and there are athletes who compete in lesser-known sports because that is where they dominate. But overall, participants in sports less appreciated than football must truly enjoy their activities just for the sake of doing them, since stardom seems to come very sparsely, if at all.
What’s the solution to this problem, you ask? Talk to your athletically inclined classmates! Let them know that while their sport might not be crawling with spectators, you know how hard they work.
I guarantee you that even if your friend on the sailing team told you it was too boring for you to watch, they would be more happy telling you about her amazing victory afterward.
That’s it, friends. Not your everyday column about supporting our teams. Instead, support the individual in his passion and then listen for how many more crew championships we win this year.
Tracy Timm is a senior in Pierson College.