November 2, 2001

Don't Blame the Fans; Blame C.U. Part II

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It seems that my colleague Shiva Nagaraj tried to put on his thinking cap last week in an attempt to pinpoint the source of the general apathy that pervades the sports fans of this campus. Of course, what he mostly managed to do was infuriate people, (though not just with his incessant use of dangling participles) but he did touch on a topic that has plagued sports editors of all shapes and sizes since their arrival at this school.

Why the hell don’t you people care?

Shiva was, to an extent, correct. Lack of pride in this school does come from a lack of desire to be here in the first place for many people. But there are some of you out there who did apply early decision, or waited anxiously for that envelope to come from Ithaca. You wanted to be here, maybe you’ve always wanted to be here. And yet, some of you have still never seen a hockey game, attended a football game or seen the new Berman soccer/track facility.

My guess is this — the administration keeps you from loving Cornell.

Now before everyone over the age of 30 gets up in arms on this campus, hear me out. Then you can yell at me.

Sports works because it allows “us” to unite against “them.” “We are better because we say so. Now we’re going to kick your teeth in. Enjoy the taste of dirt.” And if we’re not winning, “It’s all right, it’s ok, you’re going to work for us one day.” Pure poetry.

I’m not above making fun of others because I don’t want to be. Call it juvenile, call it low-brow, but please call it sports. That’s the way I was raised. We’re good, they’re bad.

Let’s start with football. Think about our new seating situation in Schoellkopf. During the previous years that I’ve been here, the students sat on the side of the field known as the Crescent. We sat with all Cornell fans — opposite the visiting fans — who sat on a pathetic set of metal bleachers.

This was ideal. Students intermingled with “townies” and alumni, helping their pathetic lack of school spirit with a jump-starting kick in the butt (you’ll remember these are the same people who don’t stand at hockey games and have to be coaxed to cheer).

More importantly, if you wanted to heckle the other team’s fans, you simply pointed and chanted things, or went over to their side and screamed at them. Some of my most vivid memories come from sophomore year, when I would march up and down the opponent’s bleachers, chanting at those “other” fans. I screamed “Go home liberals,” at the Brown fans, laughed directly at the Harvard fans as Joe Splendorio ’01 blocked their team’s last-second field goal attempt and got food, drinks and a variety of other paraphernalia thrown at me every time. It was beautiful, it was the way it should be and now it is gone.

Upon learning that we would sit on the press box side at Homecoming, away from the alumni and without a unified enemy, I went home. I went home before the game started. I’m the freaking sports senior editor and I went home.

Who’s decision was this? Well, partially it was head football coach Tim Pendergast’s, but much of the decision (and eventually any final decision) had to come from the collective blob I will for the sake of timeliness call the “administration.”

The problem here goes deeper than sides of a stadium though. It boils down to this, the administration doesn’t want us to think of the opposing teams as the enemies. They want Cornellians to join in harmony with their Ivy brethren and sing a song of peace and joy. They want us to sit side-by-side with the Harvard kids, wishing each other the best of luck. Well, kum-bay-freakin’-ya. I don’t buy it.

Instilling this whole attitude is the ringmaster general of Cornell sports, the athletic director, Andy Noel. The man has done a number of great things for sports at this institution, including raising unreal dollars for athletics and hiring top coaches to fill positions. Sports at Cornell are in better shape than they were when he took over a few years back.

Fans, however, are not.

I watched Mr. Noel first scream at, then toss out a fan who was making comments at the Brown soccer team during the squad’s match with Cornell the Saturday night of Homecoming. Noel’s initial argument was that, “We don’t make fun of other team’s players at this school.” In other words, we aren’t to support our home team. We’re to join them in a game of kicking the little white ball while hoping the best for all involved.

It’s a soccer game, not a quilting circle. Wishing the other team luck is counter-intuitive to the whole idea of sports.

Will that ejected fan ever be back to another soccer game? Maybe, maybe not. If not, I’m sure Noel isn’t too upset. The point he and the rest of the administration misses is that one fewer fan will be there to make noise for Cornell’s soccer team. That translates into one less person at a hockey game, a softball tournament or a polo match. None of these are acceptable situations.

If you’ve been to a hockey game, you’ve dealt with it. If the administration wants to keep you from cursing, that’s its business (though I disagree), but what I think it’s trying to do is turn the students into the people sitting on the other side of the rink. The ones that are sitting down. The ones who golf clap every once in a while.

So unite, Cornell fans, and do it tonight against Alabama-Huntsville. Take back the sports that are rightfully yours from the people who want to keep you polite, quiet and kind.

Because guess what? If the people sitting in Princeton sweaters, or Harvard hats or playing for the Colgate band decided not to come to Cornell, they are wrong and dumb and ugly and their mom did call (she said…). It is their fault. Let them know it.

Archived article by Charles Persons