On Monday I wore a Sidney Crosby jersey.
That may not seem that unusual — his team, the Penguins, did just advance to second round of the NHL playoffs — until you realize that I am a diehard New York Rangers fan and Crosby’s Pens just beat up on my squad, 4-1. I lost a bet on the series with my roommate, who is from Pittsburgh, and this was my punishment.
It probably wasn’t a smart bet, given that the Penguins are a much better team, but it’s a bet I would make again. I would do it again because I believe in my team, because I am invested in my team, and because I care about my team.
Like many Penn students, I am a huge professional sports fan. I live and breathe Mets baseball, and love football, hockey and many other sports. And as a professional sports fan, it does not make sense to me why so many people who are passionate about professional sports are not passionate about Penn’s teams.
The reason that most people do not feel strongly about Penn sports is that, on the surface, they don’t attract that much attention. They’re not prestigious like other professional sports, and the level of competition is significantly lower.
The Ivy League is not known for its athletics, and I get that. However, when you look closer at the issue, Penn Athletics has many of the ingredients that make professional sports great — and then some.
The reasons that people choose favorite teams in pro sports can vary, ranging from geographical location to the familial ties, but very rarely does a person root for a team because of a preexisting personal tie to the team.
Here at Penn, we have just that, because our sports teams represent us. Each time an individual from Penn steps on the field, they represent not only themselves, but each and every student here at this university. That should mean something to us as a general student body.
The same can be said about receiving national attention. When a pro sports team makes the playoffs, people around the country can see their success, and it instills a sense of pride in that team’s fans.
Likewise, when a Penn team reaches the NCAA tournament or a Penn athlete becomes an NCAA champion, that brings acclaim to the school, just the same as someone associated with the University winning an award in academia. We should feel a sense of pride in our school when something like this happens because it reflects positively on our school and its athletics programs.
When Penn sports makes news, it should instill some sense of school spirit.
Part of the reason following a professional team is so enjoyable is that over a long season or even several years, you gather a sense of familiarity with the players and coaches. You feel like you get to know the team members, their personalities, making you feel more attached and more invested.
Student-athletes are just that — students and athletes. They are our fellow students, colleagues and friends. We see them around campus, and interact with them on a daily basis. We do have the opportunity to know and become familiar with them, and that makes rooting for them all the more enjoyable and enticing.
The stakes for Penn athletics are not the same as those for pro sports. No one here is going to have the wear the jersey of a rival team because Penn didn’t beat them. But just because this is true doesn’t mean there is any less reason to be invested.
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