Ethan Sturm | Rules of the Game
A day in the life
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 02:02
This weekend, I went to my first Tufts athletics event on the road. Saturday afternoon, I hopped into a car full of students and alumni and made the two-hour trek to Amherst, Mass. to see the women’s basketball team take on the undefeated-for-basically-ever Lord Jeffs.
We arrived in time for the end of the men’s game, and we could barely get into the gym. It was standing room only. As people cleared out, we were able to make our way in and get into the Tufts fan section, directly across from a packed, loud, Amherst student cheering section.
Then, as the game began, something weird started happening to me. I was jumping out of my seat on every Tufts bucket. I was screaming incoherent things at the top of my lungs towards the Amherst fans, who were constantly rotating through a set of unoriginal but loud chants, from “Safety school!” to “Airrrball! Airrrball! At one point, I yelled “bulls—t” five times in a row at a referee that couldn’t have been more than five feet away from me.
For one day in my life, I was a sports fan.
Now, let me explain. I’m as about as obsessed with sports as you can get. But it’s always been in a cold, calculating way. I was raised a Yankees fan by a perpetual pessimist, and New Yorkers have gorged so much on success that they can barely get out of their seats for a playoff game. While I’ll occasionally feel a jolt of excitement after a touchdown or goal, it’s not nearly enough to sustain me for more than a minute.
Then there’s the Tufts fan environment—or, to be honest, the lack thereof. I may have been apt to act the way I did Saturday afternoon earlier in my collegiate career if I weren’t always scared to break the perpetual silence that befalls most sporting events on campus. The easiest way to define Tufts sports fandom, with the exception of player’s parents, is to call it non-existent.
Is it our school culture that breeds a lack of Tufts sports fans, or a lack of sports fans that breeds our school culture? The commonly-used arguments to explain away a lack of a fan base are weak at best. Sure we are a Div. III school, but places like Amherst draw crowds every weekend. Sure we are near a city with a ton of things to do, but in all honesty, most of us spend our weekends in frats and off-campus houses. Sure we aren’t a sports hub, but Sol Gittleman’s baseball class and Andy Andres’ sabermetrics class are packed year after year.
The worst part about the lack of fans is that many of our teams are among the Div. III elite. Our field hockey team just won an NCAA title, our men’s lacrosse team has made three straight Final Fours, and softball and women’s basketball are both perpetually competitive. Sure, most people don’t follow any of those three sports ― unless you’re from Maryland but they are just as legitimate as any other.
I’m not trying to make the argument that you need to all drop what you are doing and rush to a game, that’s unrealistic and has been tried before. But as I sat at that women’s basketball game, completely immersed in an incredible sports atmosphere at a school in many ways similar to ours, I couldn’t help but think that there is a way to fix the culture at Tufts.
I have three months left here, and I would love nothing more than to get to feel like a fan again.
Ethan Sturm is a senior who is majoring in biopsychology. He can be reached at Ethan.Sturm@tufts.edu or on Twitter @esturm90.