Yesterday, as I passed by the mounds of team schedule cards on the checker's desk in the Murr Center, I realized something.
I play a cardless sport.
The Ides of March seems to bring an influx of these ID-sized scheduling cards--the new editions for the spring sports.
It is as seasonal as the smell of fresh-cut grass, the sound of the cleats pattering on Dillon's linoleum floor.
Being cardless, I am feeling a little left out.
I play golf, a sport that many under-grads and the gods of the schedule card do not know exist at Harvard.
During the early spring and fall, I disappear. My roommates become orphans as I escape to afternoon practices and weekend-long tournaments in far-off places. As spring break nears, I say a temporary farewell to the Harvard social life.
I am one of the many Harvard athletes who play a sport that does not draw throngs of spectators. In fact, I have had only a small following of loyal fans--I call them Mom and Dad.
Granted, golf, whenever Tiger Woods isn't playing at least, is not the most conducive sport to large, rowdy crowds. Indeed, I do not expect fans at all.
I play for my teammates, my coaches, my parents, and for myself. Because no one else is watching does not diminish what golf has meant to me.
Having played on other teams in other sports, I have enjoyed the experience of playing in front of cheering spectators. It is indeed glorious, but I feel that it is an aspect of the game that separates why I play from whom I play.
When pondering the existence of schedule cards, I am loosely associating them with the courting of spectators. The powers-that-be across the river (the Athletic Department) churn out these cards picturing smiley captains in hopes that they will serve as handy ways for fans to keep track of their favorite team's schedule.
Also, they make nice wall-hangings in Pinocchio's.
Along the same lines as schedule cards, I applaud the efforts of groups that aim to bring more undergrads to the stands. The Harvard-Radcliffe Foundation for Women's Athletics (HRFWA) and the Varsity Club, being two such organizations with which I am affiliated, have added spice to many basketball games, as well as attracted fans to smaller sports.
With emails galore, free t-shirts, and cans of Red Bull, they bring spunk to home-and-home ice hockey weekends.
But I balk at the notion of bullying students into coming to games. Imposing guilt trips or making comparisons to other schools (Ivy or otherwise) seems to be the wrong way of getting undergrads to fill the stands.
Students should attend, because going is fun. From haplessly creating near-obscene posters, to orchestrating "Hey number 25, you suck" cheers, to watching some of our world-class athletes in awe--these all make for super early-Saturday night activities.
To a certain degree, this campus is in love with having the same conversations over and over again: how the Core is as screwy as a Kennedy family reunion; how blocking groups ought to approach the size of small European nations.
Sound familiar? Discussions over that sparse attendance at athletic competition fall into this lofty category.
And although I would like to see more rowdy fans at a variety of home games (or sometimes fans at all), I think that sometimes it is easy to lose sight of why athletes play their respective sports in the first place.
As a schedule cardless athlete, I feel the need to remind those teams who don't draw the largest crowds that ultimately crowd-size shouldn't matter.
All of us, athletes and non-athletes alike, engage in activities for the pure enjoyment of them, not because people are cheering in the background. Of all the sporting events that I have witnessed as a Harvard student, some of the most impassioned have been those of inter-mural sports. These athletes, and yes they are athletes despite their lack of a major H, battle it out for themselves and their team/housemates. An empty MAC or QRAC does not hinder their enthusiasm.
But this is not to say that cheering crowds at Harvard games are not important or that the Athletic Department should supply all teams with schedule cards. Indeed, fans can influence the outcome of a game. They also make an athlete feel pretty darn good.
However, fans should never be the reason why an athlete plays. Teams who don't draw large crowds shouldn't feel slighted or that their sports are any less important.
Crowd size should not be the most pressing concern of the Harvard athletic community.
Because pictures of the golf team don't sit over the cash registrar at Pinocchio's, doesn't mean that my teammates and I are any less of athletes.
Because no one chants crude remarks at my opponents, does not make my varsity sport experience any less important to me.
It is just different from that of a starting quarterback or a celebrated hockey goalie.
And in many ways, I like the feeling of the empty golf course better than a packed school gym or a neighborhood ice rink. I like disappearing from Cambridge for a few months, spending time with my team away from the hubbub of campus life. It is an existence until itself, complete with the joys and downfalls of sport.
A wonderfully cardless existence.
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