Redefining a spectator sport
October 7, 2009, 12:53 am · Updated October 7, 2009, 12:00 am·
This is supposed to be Jack Eggleston’s scene: Friday night at the Palestra, with the crowd getting into it and the ball pounding on the hardwood.
Eggleston’s even got teammate Tyler Bernardini in tow, as usual, in addition to an arena full of ladies to remind him of home — you know, that off-campus dwelling that shelters four females, a feline, and the luckiest S.O.B. on campus.
So, what’s that athletic department official doing stifling the Quakers’ power forward on his turf?
Just reminding him of a few inconvenient truths: the sport of the moment is volleyball, Eggleston and Bernardini are the crowd and apparently there’s a rule against the brand of encouragement the guys were introducing to the opponent’s server.
“Girls,” Eggleston reflected, “can get kind of sensitive.”
But Penn’s foes (and administrators) will have to get used to the sight of Eggleston, if they haven’t already.
The junior, known for cheering on his roommates from the women’s basketball and soccer teams, plans to attend a game for every 2009-10 varsity sport at Penn.
“I know everybody’s out there working hard,” Eggleston said. “Those rowing kids? Up at stupid hours — like 5:30 or 6 a.m. practice. They deserve a little support for all the work they put in.”
Eggleston, who also heads the University’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, traces the origins of the idea to last year’s creation of the Red and Blue Rewards program, which doles out prizes to fans for their attendance. His demands: “Hopefully, I’ll get a little Penn jersey or something.”
Having already made easy work of football, volleyball, and both soccer teams, Eggleston must now take on more weighty tasks — sports like golf and cross-country that don’t necessarily compete in nearby venues.
Women’s soccer junior Kristin Kaiser, in her third semester as Eggleston’s housemate, thinks Penn’s most ambitious fan may be up against it.
“There are so many different sports at Penn, and he is so busy,” Kaiser said. “He doesn’t have much more time with the fall sports.”
Stacking the deck even further, Eggleston will have to continue his quest without Bernardini by his side.
The Penn swingman and Eggleston wingman insists that, as a diligent Whartonite, he studies “entirely way too much to make it to all of these events” — and he almost holds a straight face through the delivery.
Indeed, on those rare occasions when Bernardini can tear himself away from the marketing textbook, he does lend a certain panache to the proceedings.
“Sometimes, we do a picnic,” he said. “We bring a basket. Grapes, cheese, fine wines, little finger sandwiches — things of that nature.”
While there’s no replacing a good Chardonnay and Gruyere among friends, Eggleston’s greatest concern is understanding the intricacies of some of the lesser-known sports.
Even after a seven-year lacrosse career in his youth, for instance, he still can’t make sense of the women’s game. And despite his living situation, Eggleston “still doesn’t know that much about the whole soccer thing,” according to Kaiser.
“Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to look up some basic rules before,” Eggleston said. “I just really want to get out and support all the teams, especially those that don’t typically get it.”
To be sure, both Kaiser and Bernardini believe that if anyone can pull off this act of selfless seated-ness, it’s Eggleston, who according to Bernardini is the kind of man who doesn’t just help an old lady cross the street, he “picks her up, throws her on his back and carries her fireman-style.”
“If I had kids, I’d want them to be just like Jack,” Bernardini said, gazing intently at the Palestra’s titan of towel-waving. “Even the illegitimate ones.”