November 21, 2001

On Road Trips and School Spirit

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I wasn’t exactly sure where the Dillon Fieldhouse was located. As night fall descended on Cambridge, I could hardly contain my excitement as I walked past the venerable Harvard Stadium. Prior to donning my journalistic hat this year, I had made this same trip twice so naturally I knew exactly where my ultimate destination — Bright Hockey Center — would be. Nonetheless, I wondered just where Dillon was located.

Once I heard the unmistakable sound of “Davy” echoing from a building ahead of me I knew my navigation difficulties were over.

I headed upstairs to the pregame alumni reception that I had been anxiously awaiting for the last week. I went to the event to distribute copies of the Sun’s most recent hockey pullout and I expected to politely introduce myself, diseminate the copies of the paper I had brought along and be on my way.

But before I could even get through the formalities, I was immediately made to feel like a welcomed guest at the event. And thankfully so, for it would be one of the most memorable occasions I have been part of since becoming an editor in the Sun’s sports department. A self-professed Cornell sports aficionado, I was in all my glory surrounded by others who shared my passions. I could not have asked for a better atmosphere as the sounds of fans exchanging stories from decades past mixed with the timeless songs of the Big Red marching band.

The impressive variety of culinary offerings was matched only by the diversity among the attendees of the function that night. Young and old, men and women from an assortment of ethnic groups and backgrounds had found their way in the room and to my delight, they all sported carnelian and white garb.

How each came to be part of the Cornell athletic family was equally fascinating.

I met a recent graduate of the School of Hotel Management who was particularly effervescent when I showed her the Sun’s hockey supplement. Her excitement that night was contagious and I soon learned she had almost missed all opportunity to see a game at Lynah during her years on the hill. She relayed to me that were it not for the prodding of a certain friend of hers that she would not have made it to the final game of the season in her final semester. Not surprisingly it took only one experience in the sanctuary of Cornell sports to make an addict of her. The next night at Brown, as I headed toward the press box in the concrete mass that is Meehan Auditorium, she was one of the first Cornell fans I spotted. A graduate of the law school, deemed the most zealous fan in attendance that night recounted how he drew his parents into the excitement of Cornell hockey — so much so that they now winter in Ithaca. He has seen the team play in virtually every ECAC arena, listing last year’s overtime victory at Vermont and the Red’s saluting of the Cornell contingent at Harvard as his favorite memories.

I have neither the desire nor the energy to make yet another futile attempt to implore the student body to support athletics more. I would, however, suggest that a road trip to take in a Red sporting event might prove to be a cure for even some of the most apathetic Cornellian.

As many critics have argued, attendance at sporting events is not the sole, nor perhaps even a significant indicator of school spirit. What the road trip offers is the opportunity to combines the excitement of an athletic competition with the added element of the company of an enthusiastic, unified cadre of alumni. Surrounded by graduates from recent years and decades past can serve to instill the type of pride for the alma matter that the folks in Day Hall have spent hours of meetings and reams of paper trying to do. Relating alumni’s nostalgia to one’s own current college experience seems to foster a palpable connection to Cornell. Not to mention the added benefits of potential networking and the pleasure that comes from traveling to parts of the country that have remained unexplored to all but the most intrepid fan.

The upcoming winter season offers many opportunities to try the experience. The men’s hockey team attracts fans no matter where it travels in the country. From the possibility of a winter break excursion to the Sunshine state to the always alluring trip to the vast expanse that is the North Country the options are endless. The icers aren’t the only squad to follow on the road. Men’s basketball head coach Steve Donahue has injected a new sense of pride and optimism into the program. The team’s schedule reflects this. While its too late to join the team in South Bend for its showdown with Notre Dame, attractive options still remain. A short jaunt to the always lively Carrier Dome and a trip to Georgia Tech headline the opportunities.

Afterall, who would want to endure for a full winter in bleak Ithaca without any getaways. Just don’t forget to pack your jersey.

Archived article by Gary Schueller