September 23, 2003

Take a Little Red Pride, Please

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Last Friday, pessimism led me astray when I cast my vote in the Sun football poll. I picked Bucknell to beat the Red in Saturday’s game. Today I have to eat my words, and nothing makes me happier: we won.

Given last year’s uninspiring performances, I had little confidence in our gridders coming into Saturday’s contest. The Red lost to the Bison last year, got drubbed by Yale at homecoming, and ended its campaign 4-6 overall. The lackluster fall left a bitter taste lingering on my palette. And, honestly, I didn’t expect much sweeter from this year’s squad. But with Saturday’s nail-biter, the team proved me wrong. More importantly, it showed it has the grit to win tough games down the road and the potential to give Cornellians something to cheer for on weekends this fall.

Yet, as I sit here ruminating and writing, one thing still bothers me: not many of you care.

Cornell has the largest student body in the Ivies — roughly 13,000 students strong — yet we send fewer fans to football games than nearly all of our Ancient Eight rivals. Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Penn, and Brown all have significantly smaller contingencies — and significantly higher percentages of which that actually go to games. In fact, our average turnout is so low it doesn’t even rank among the top 50 for Division I-AA schools.

At capacity, the Schoellkopf stadium holds 25,597 spectators. Less than a quarter of that number scattered loosely among the first few bleacher rows at games last fall. But don’t take too much credit, folks; locals made up roughly 80 percent of that crowd.

We should feel embarrassed. Don’t we have any pride? Why do students at so many other schools rally around their football teams while we languish in the library or spend Saturday afternoon sipping cappuccino at CTB?

Come home games, books and coffee are about the last two things on students’ minds at schools like Michigan. Two weeks ago in Ann Arbor, 111,726 people stood for over four hours to watch the U of M take on Notre Dame at the Big House. They screamed their throats raw, they clapped their hands red, and they loved every minute of it. A lucky friend of mine got to experience the ruckus firsthand. “You should have seen it,” he said after returning Sunday evening. “The crowd was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”

“I can only imagine,” I responded. “Too bad we’ll never get close to that here.”

Poor President Lehman must think the same thing. Just last year, he rooted for the Wolverines. Now, he can only experience the same electric crowd vicariously through his television. Undoubtedly, he feels a little nostalgic for the spirit which surrounded him in Ann Arbor, and a little depressed when he sees our pathetic cheering section.

Blame it on the rain. Blame it on the workload. Blame it on ourselves: when it comes to supporting our teams, we stink as fans.

The track teams had some of the fastest runners in the East and won four Heps championships between them last year. The wrestlers have a beautiful brand new arena, the best team in the Ivies, and one national champion on their roster. And the men’s lacrosse team, bolstered by an explosive offense and the MVP of the world championships, tied for first place in the Ivies and nearly made it to the NCAAs. But you probably didn’t even know that. If you did, you probably still didn’t care enough to go to a single meet, match, or game.

After the gridders’ victory at Schoellkopf Saturday, senior co-captain Kevin Rooney graciously acknowledged the fans who showed up to support their team.

“I think the crowd was great. That was huge for us — I could barely hear the snap count, so I’m sure the Bucknell guys were having trouble,” he said. “That’s what we need around here, and if we continue to be successful, I hope the support only gets better.”

So do I.

Archived article by Everett Hullverson