For love of the game

Graphic by Joseph Valdez

This past Mon., Apr. 3, was one of the biggest days in the sporting world’s year. First, most Major League Baseball teams opened up their regular seasons and began their 162-game grind after a long off-season. Second, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and the Gonzaga University Bulldogs squared off in the NCAA men’s basketball championship game. Depending on who you hang out with on Yale’s campus, you might have known this and been looking forward to this day for weeks. As a huge college basketball fan, I was particularly excited to see Tar Heels attempt redemption after losing on a buzzer-beater in last year’s national title game. While this day had been on my calendar for months, many Yalies probably had no idea of its significance until they saw a braggadocious Facebook post on their newsfeed from some high school friend who attends UNC, the champions. In some social groups at Yale, there is an incredibly vibrant sports fan culture; others are totally oblivious to even the most significant sporting events.

Some members of the Yale community turn to Greek life to best experience fan culture. Spencer Marks, DC ’19, watched the NCAA title game at the Sig Ep fraternity house with many of his brothers. Marks said that he “really enjoyed it because [even though] there were a select few who had personal stakes in the outcome—rooting hard for their home team or their bracket was on the line—the vast majority of guys shouted at the TV and bit their nails because they loved watching a close game.” In Marks’ case, the fraternity house provided sports fans with a sanctuary where they can watch big games with other similarly passionate fans.

While some Yalies get their sports fill through Greek life, other Yalies use residential college events and funds to create their own campus sports fan culture. The sports culture of these residential college gatherings is not too different from that in the fraternities (minus the booze, of course). Yalies from across the country are still huddled together around the television, intensely watching the big game, and the atmosphere is just as passionate. In Davenport College, people gathered in the Dive to watch the National Championship game. Often the Davenport College Council organizes events for big games like this, but Monday night’s watch party was completely organic. Grant Richardson, DC ’19, attended the gathering and enjoyed the break from academic routine:  “It was refreshing to watch the championship game in the Dive, where fellow Yalies set aside their studies to hoot and holler for their favorite teams.” Although the event was a positive experience, Richardson does believe that Yale has a dearth of a sports fan culture. He described Yale as a “campus with sports fans few and far in between.” Richardson hit on a point that resonates with me and with many of my friends on campus. Sports serves as our daily dose of cultural consumption. Many of these athletes, who perform daily at levels we could only dream of attaining, inspired us as kids and continue to amaze us now. Furthermore, sports brings its consumers a strong sense of social inclusivity. Sports fans often refer to their favorite teams as “we,”  since they view the fanbase as an extension of the team itself. Even for someone with little vested rooting interest, just bearing witness to an incredible sporting accomplishment is enough to make you feel includedsoon, sports fans will talk about where they were when they watched the Patriots complete the most epic comeback in Super Bowl history.

It makes sense that sports have brought me and my suitemates closer together. Almost every night, there is someone watching a game on our common room couch. I enjoy sitting down with them (or being joined by one of my suitemates) as we decompress from a long day by watching one of our favorite teams. While this campus may not have the largest number of sports fans and may not even be surrounded by great sports bars to watch games at, for people like Grant, Spencer, and me, there are still outlets to share our sports passion with other Yalies—even if a good portion of the campus may be oblivious to it.

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