BY SEAN FRAZZETTE
College athletics, their purpose, and why Harvard should care more.
From the age of 0 to about 17, I wanted nothing more than to attend University of California Los Angeles after I graduated from high school. The reason for that was not based on their prestigious academics, gorgeous campus, or beautiful weather. No, the reason I wanted to go to UCLA was solely rooted in the fact that I wanted to be a Bruin. I wanted to wear white, gold, and powder blue to every possible sporting event, stay standing for the whole game, and cheer and chant my team to victory. I wanted to end my songs with FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT. I wanted to wear a Jordan Farmar jersey without getting weird looks. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than me.
This dream of mine started from my consumption of UCLA football and basketball games. I saw the fans (almost literally) live and die by the fluctuations of a game. I joined in, but within the confines of my family room couch. I have distinct memories of tears for three straight seasons when UCLA’s men’s basketball team made it to the Final Four before losing (badly) every year. My heart bled blue and gold, and my mind was set on being a part of that tradition.
Fast forward to the end of my high school career. I had fallen in love with a school only forty-five minutes from my house, rather than six hours on a plane. Harvard brought together what I wanted in terms of academics, location, and opportunity. The school — as an academic institution — fit exactly what I yearned for. And despite loving this place as much as I had hoped I would, I find myself missing what was once the sole qualifier for the college of my choice: the athletic passion. But what I want to convey to my readers is not some song of sorrow about the lack of athletic concern at Harvard. What I want everyone to understand is why I care about sports and why I believe a school is at its best when the student body also cares.
First, think about Harvard-Yale weekend, arguably (inarguably in my opinion, but I’d rather not start controversy until the Controversy Issue) the best weekend of Harvard’s school year. No matter whether the game is in Cambridge or New Haven, almost all of both school’s populations show up, party like it’s the last weekend ever, celebrate one of the greatest sports traditions in the schools’ histories, and bond over a mutual dislike in the other school.
Now imagine if almost every weekend of the football season were like that. Or if most of the basketball games were like that. Or if many of the baseball games or lacrosse games or even volleyball games were like that.
That is life at a school with sports prowess. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll stick to football for now. Even when schools like Virginia Tech or Miami have bad seasons, their football stadiums are filled with college students being college students. Sounds fun, right?
Why couldn’t Harvard be like this? Sure, we aren’t the most talented football team in the country. But why should that stop the students from bonding together on the weekends and supporting the student-athletes that wear our school’s colors and compete for our school’s name? The reason I see sports as so crucial for a college has little to do with the actual practice of playing a game. As a sports fan, I love watching, analyzing, and understanding the intricacies of a game and its strategies. But I would never ask someone who finds sports boring or pointless to pretend to love watching a game. But the act of supporting your school and bonding with fellow Harvard students is something I think most people would agree is an important and entertaining aspect of college life.
So, on Saturday mornings, why don’t we always tailgate outside Harvard Stadium and watch the game? Why don’t we always celebrate big victories with bigger parties? Why don’t we always chant our school’s alma mater at every score?
After the last few seasons, we have begun to show some signs of sports interest with basketball. As the team has become vastly more successful under Coach Amaker, the crowds have become larger, louder, and less languid. And guess what? Those games are fun, intense, and a part of student life most people look forward to.
But it’s not just the student bonding on the fans side that makes a college sports culture so valuable: there’s also the connection that we can have with the athletes. In professional sports, there is a disconnect between the fans and players. The fans are typical people from every socioeconomic class one could think of. The players are (often) multimillionaires who have multimillionaire friends. The fans will never know or understand their favorite players’ lives. But in college, the quarterback of the football team, the outside hitter of the volleyball team, and the point guard of the basketball team could all have been in your pset group for Ec10. The athletes are student-athletes. They’re part of your daily activities in class. A major part of any game should be the interaction between the fans and students in a game.
Many people say places like Michigan’s Big House or Florida’s Swamp are the hardest places to play a college football game, due to the massive fan sections that generate momentum and a visible edge to the home team. While Harvard could not offer their teams the crowd size, we could at least try. Support the guy you met in CS50. Cheer on the girl that sat next to you in Gov20. We’re all part of the Harvard community. Sports are a way to show that community what it means to you.
In conclusion, I would like to throw out some profound statement about sports and why Harvard needs to become more of a sports school. But I don’t necessarily think there is one or that the previous statement is even true. I truly believe in the unity sports can provide, the school spirit it can produce, and the general excitement it can portray. So let’s go Crimson. See you all on Gameday.
Sean Frazzette ’16 (sfrazzette@college) wants to make YOHYO a thing.