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Time to Own Lavietes

By Keith H. Bender

The box score of the men’s basketball 79-37 drubbing of MIT on Tuesday shows Harvard’s dominance in every statistical category, but fails to represent the single stat our Cambridge rivals led in: student attendance.

No matter that its team coughed the ball up for 29 turnovers and managed to go eight minutes without scoring one point. The MIT student faithful arrived early, packed a sizeable section of bleachers, and looked across the court for their Harvard counterparts to begin the type of chanted banter that has come to define student spectating at college basketball contests.

But none came. While Harvard students huddled over textbooks in preparation for Wednesday’s Ec 10 midterm, MIT’s crowd took open shots at our players. “Take home test,” they incanted as Kyle Casey stood on the free throw line.

No response from the Harvard student section. No retributive song of “Scoreboard” to get even. Just a ringing silence in the bleachers that should be home to the wittiest student section in the nation.

Lavietes Pavilion (that’s where our basketball teams play, in case you weren’t aware) seats 2,195 people. It’s what you might call an intimate venue. It’s what others might call smaller than their high school gymnasium. But it’s what an Ivy-League juggernaut of a men’s basketball team calls home, and there’s no reason why our students shouldn’t make it feel that way when they play.

In recent years, student interest and excitement around basketball has grown tremendously, and on select nights in Lavietes, the allotted student seating area will hit capacity. Sometimes, there are hints of genius, the crowd comes alive, and everyone forgets they ever wished that they had gone to a school with a big time athletic program.

But all too often the Harvard crowd forgets that precisely the minds whose wit got them here can also be applied to SportsCenter-worthy vocal support, or worse, they don’t even show up. Why?

Busyness and its resulting stress are probably the two biggest factors. Some would also suggest that students don’t care about sports. But even if you don’t, you likely care about Harvard. Someone might not care about a cappella groups, but still will attend a jam because they recognize the activity’s place inour school’s institutional culture.

Stressed or busy? There’s no better stress reliever than standing alongside several hundred classmates and screaming, or at least that’s what the Bureau of Study Counsel told me.

There are precious few opportunities to come together as a Harvard community and express a collective pride about where we go to school, but every basketball home game is one.

When else can you wear all of the Harvard apparel you bought at the COOP but prefer not to don at home because you don’t want to draw attention to yourself? When else can you chant the name of the school you try to avoid saying when someone asks you where you go? With Harvard’s point guard making as many headlines as its professors, you now have a long-awaited excuse to take ownership of your college.

Own Lavietes Pavillion, and own Harvard. Prove to the people who play with Harvard’s billions that we need a bigger basketball arena. Shatter stereotypes that all we do is study.

Tonight, Harvard’s athletics department wants to set a record for student attendance, allocating 800 tickets to undergraduates. Coach Amaker knows well that 800 students show up to camp out in K-Ville at Duke in the first few hours of its opening alone, hoping to gain entry to the school’s famed student section.

Wouldn’t it be great to give him, for one night, the feeling of being back at Cameron Indoor? More importantly, wouldn’t it be great to give yourself the feeling of being at a “basketball school,” whatever that may mean to you? We have a team of that caliber, and now we need you.

Keith H. Bender ’15, a Crimson sports writer, is an English concentrator in Leverett House.

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