As my high school friends wrap up their first semesters at colleges around the country, I think about how different our experiences have been — some have 200 other students in their class, some have 7,000. Some have their campus buildings spread across New York City, some trek over rolling hills to remote rural locations. Some haven’t dipped below 60 degrees, others saw snow in October. And while there are many reasons I’m happy to be at Yale rather than 3,000 other colleges, the most important one has to do with a strange phenomenon that began appearing on my newsfeed in September.
Every Saturday, on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, I saw a brand new side of my friends from high school. People who never went to football games or followed football nationally were dressing up in their college colors, painting their faces and standing in stadiums for hours on end. And every Saturday, as I gaped at their precarious cheerleader crop tops, poses with mascots and weekly tailgates, I had only one thought: Thank God I go to a school that only cares about football once a year.
Think about it — how many of your suitemates have been to a football game so far this season? At USC or Michigan, it would be social suicide not to have been to at least one game by November. At Yale, it’s news when someone does want to grab a pack of friends and head over to the Yale Bowl for a game. My English professor likes to ironically say that he lives next to the Yale Bowl, and he can hear all the cheers on Saturdays — not (cue laughter).
Thankfully, though, we have this one beautiful day — this year, Nov. 18 — to pretend we’re not all athletically apathetic. For one brief weekend, we get to live the life of USC Trojans and Texas A&M students — but without the commitment of weekly showdowns, investment into college gear and tailgate food and hours of staring blankly at a 100-yard stretch of turf. We don’t have to pretend.
If we’re being honest, football is a lot of effort. Hosting friends, planning events with groups from the other school, buying Yale gear, bundling up, taking shuttles to the stadium, waiting in lines, jockeying for seats, asking the person behind you what’s going on and partaking in the rest of the parties and festivities will all be wonderful and exhilarating, I’m sure. But every weekend, or even two weekends per month? No, thank you.
At my high school, I always felt a little guilty when an athletic event was advertised and I didn’t go. Here, a choice to forgo a football game is beautifully shameless — not going is accepted as a legitimate choice, and going is an impressive show of loyalty. When someone says they’re going to a game that’s not The Game, it’s usually met with a double-take and a tilt of the head. Then a long, slow nod to mark their awestruck approval.
I’m actually not as clueless as I sound about football. I know most of the rules, and I respect the impressive number of strategic options involved in it all. But I still think my suitemate explains it best: “You run past the people, and then the farther you run the more points you get.” Football doesn’t have to be so inaccessible, really.
Caring about football on a regular basis is admirable but not for everyone. This Saturday, I will gear up in my brightest shades of blue, destroy my vocal chords, try to ignore all of the concussions occurring in quick succession before me and sing every praise of Yale — and then I will go home and make my next appearance at the Yale Bowl on Nov. 17, 2018, for the next Yale-Harvard game.
Above all, though, I will join the Yale Precision Marching Band when they cheer: “Do the thing, score the points! Do the thing, score the points! Goooooo sportsball!”
Lauren Chan | firstname.lastname@example.org