September 30, 2008

Friends May Leave You, Fellow Fans are 4Ever

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I have a very good friend, Isabel Siragusa (who will very soon be receiving a link to this in her inbox), who is currently a sophomore at Yale Uni­versity. In addition, both my parents were Bulldogs for part of their collegiate experiences. Therefore, it is with immense pleasure that I am able — nay, required — to begin my column this way: CORNELL WINS! CORNELL WINS! Please excuse my abusive use of the all caps key for one moment, it’s just that Times New Roman’s meager lowercase font didn’t seem able to convey the awesomeness of Cornell’s 17-14 upset victory over Yale this weekend. For those of you who did not attend the Homecoming game: Shame on you, it was a momentous Big Red occasion. For those of you who tailgated but then refrained from venturing into the actual stadium: Better than nothing, but still, shame. I had an amazing time splashing around in the rain, and as icing on the cake, I found a sweet Cornell foam finger, which was pretty much the highlight of the day’s festivities — that and falling into a flower bed outside CTB, a story I’ll save for another day.
Foam fingers aside, I had an interesting Homecoming weekend. One could say the experience, from Friday to Sunday, was rather enlightening. En­lightening, you say? Please, share your wisdom with the rest of us. Alright, if you insist, I will attempt to relay my newfound wisdom to you, oh, reader of the back page. (Interestingly enough, this doesn’t include my housemates, some of whom have yet to read any my columns. Thanks, guys). But I digress.
There is something very special about being part of a community of committed sports fans. Sitting in the stands at Shoelkopff, surrounded by hundreds of screaming, Cornell-clad fans, I felt a connection to rival that of any gigantic public university’s. Who says the Ivy League has no spirit. A bright red speck in the middle of a red and white mass, I high-fived the strangers on either side of me with joyous abandon. I don’t actually know who you are, fan on my right with the blonde hair and Harry Potter glasses, but for two hours I give you permission to hug me any time the defense makes a stop. And you there on the right, yes, you in the bizarre, baby blue/orange Cornell sweatshirt. We will probably never meet again (with that sense of style, I’m going to assume in the real world, you’re an enginerd). But right now, in this moment, nothing seems more important than giving you and all of your nerdy friends sopping wet foam-finger slaps.
Remember when you were in sixth grade, and your new friend Leigha gave you a hot-pink bracelet with “Best Friends 4Ever” printed on it in rhinestones? Still best friends, are you? I’ll bet you and Leigha haven’t talked in seven years, and you got rid of that bracelet in eighth grade, along with your tacky leopard-print stirrup pants and sparkly braces. Best friends forever? Don’t count on it. If I’ve learned anything at Cornell, it’s that friends come and friends go. Even the closest relationships fall apart sometimes, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
But no matter how crappy my life gets sometimes, I know that the moment I walk into the Ivy Room, Kuan over at the grilling station is going to yell some disparaging comment about my beloved Eagles, and Aaron over at cashier isn’t going to let me get through the line without pointing out how well his stupid Giants did on Monday Night Football. Enjoy your gloating while it lasts, suckers, Eli’s going to choke soon enough. And when he does, you all are never going to hear the end of it. Kuan, Aaron and I aren’t exactly what you’d call friends, and we definitely don’t have matching bracelets. Nevertheless, a unique bond connects us.
It’s the same thing that allows me to yell at strangers in the street just because we’re both sporting Philadelphia Phillies headgear. It’s the connection apparent when I vent to my English seminar about the Ford Mustang perennially parked on my street — the one that’s painted in New York Yankee pinstripes and gives me the barely-controllable urge to scratch my keys all over its disgusting exterior — and half of the classroom nods in approval.
Last night, I was sitting in the Regent lounge of the Statler, decked out in my sexy, black heels, legs crossed demurely, my purse in my lap. To my left, a knot of my “adult” friends sipped their gin and tonics and glasses of pinot grigio, discussed Cornell’s newer architecture and the “good old days” when they were undergrads, free of the weight of the world that’s now threatening to flatten them as they sit in their cubicles. Right. But while my friends were reminiscing themselves into leather-armchair oblivion, I was trying to watch the Eagles play the Bears in the reflection of a framed photo across from the bar. Every couple of minutes I got up and joined the Regent’s stolidly serious barman, Bud, in front of the bigscreen. Bud didn’t say anything, but I know we bonded.
I have always found comfort in these small interactions — the fist bumps between strangers, the knowing looks shared from across a classroom. I’m not saying you have to become a fanatic, paint your chest and never miss another Cornell sporting event in your life. But once in a while, it might do you some good to embrace the collective and tap into that Big Red spirit. Share a hug with a football fan you’ve never met, cheer for the volleyball team on a Wednesday night, grasp arms and belt the alma mater at a basketball game — make both Mariah Carey and Uncle Ezra proud.
Ben “My Hero” Eisen, Sarah “Super” Singer, Emily “DD” Cohn — I know you know what I’m talking about, and if the news editors of the Sun have tapped into the fount of fandom, I know you can, too.