Imagining a new era of Wash. U. pride
Imagine, for a moment, that you are sitting in the upper deck of Washington University’s brand new Danforth Stadium. The Bears have just won their first Division I football game in school history, and thousands of students have decided to rush the field. A few are lying face-down in the end zones. Flasks litter the field. The pandemic has long since subsided, and as a proud Bears alum, you’ve done your part in packing the stadium every Saturday.
I’ll be frank: I feel like a fraud writing this article. For one, our athletes are extremely talented. While they may not get the schoolwide recognition they deserve, Wash. U players and coaches pour their blood, sweat and tears into every single season.
As someone who willingly committed to Wash. U. knowing that our university had little semblance of school spirit, I have no claim to credibility in my yearning for Division I sports. I also think that continuing college sports the way Division I schools have been operating during this pandemic is probably a recipe for more public health disasters. Athletes without masks and fans cramming into undersized stadium bathrooms doesn’t inspire much confidence or enthusiasm.
But I’ve reached my breaking point. I’m tired of starting at Zoom screens all day. I’m exhausted by the idea of yet another virtual birthday party. And I’m out of good ideas: it turns out that binging Netflix doesn’t alleviate my screen time overdose and that long, directionless walks in the park don’t translate well to zero-degree weather.
For months, I’ve been getting by watching professional sports teams that quite honestly stink. My prized New York Mets missed the playoffs. And the Daniel Jones-led New York Giants were rebuffed by a stubborn Philadelphian who gambled and lost his head coaching job betting on Nate Sudfeld. Freaking Nate Sudfeld.
Something has still been missing though. Despite my teams’ ups and downs, I’ve felt more disconnected than ever from my fellow sports fans. Walking up and down my block, there are no 7 Line Army yard signs, nor are there very many friendly strangers donning Giants caps (and masks).
You can feel the lethargy on a stroll through the icy cold Danforth campus. Students traveling alone with their backs hunched and bags tucked in, waiting for the arrival of what we all so desperately yearn for: a united cause to get behind. As much as everyone enjoys the university-wide emails we get from Andrew Martin and Beverly Wendland (except when it’s a tuition increase), I think we can do better.
I want to stroll down Skinker Boulevard wearing jerseys with the names of my favorite Bears athletes. I want the privilege of watching a world-class marching band morph into all sorts of letters and shapes during the halftime show. I want to high-five random classmates when Wash U. waltzes into the endzone for touchdowns. I want to jeer and boo loudly when opponent squads dare enter our beloved stadium. And yes, I want to storm the field when we win. I know it is dumb, even beyond stupid. I’ll let you pick your own choice of venomous descriptors. But I don’t care. All I want right now is to be a fan among many at Wash. U. sporting events. To have something to care about, and other people to share it with.