Even during an abysmal offensive performance that led the Penn men’s basketball team to a 56-50 loss at the hands of Harvard Friday, there were encouraging signs from the crowd.
The student section was completely packed; so much so that I was uncomfortably intimate with my fellow Quakers.
For three of my senior TEP fraternity brothers, it was their first time in four years attending a Penn basketball game.
No doubt, credit for improved attendance must be awarded to many sources: the student body’s increasing passion for Red and Blue basketball, the athletic department’s decision to give out student tickets for free and most importantly, the squad’s inspired play.
Indeed, standing high up in the Cathedral with the rest of the congregation reminded me of how the place got the nickname in the first place.
But one area of fandom has taken a decisive turn for the worse, and has continued to assail my eardrums and retinae from before the game to the final buzzer.
Heckling, jeering and yelling at opposing teams is at an all-time low in terms of ingenuity and taste.
My personal revelation began at the Quakers’ 84-80 victory over St. Joseph’s, where the Red and Blue Crew had a banner proclaiming, “Jesus loves NOVA better.”
As good Quakers, they certainly should have known that the Religious Society of Friends believes everyone has the light in them.
These are students at the vaunted University of Pennsylvania — students proclaiming their intellectual superiority over their opponents — and that’s the best they could come up with?
I wrote the banner off as unimaginative and completely irrelevant to basketball.
That is, until I saw the successive ‘Puck Frinceton’ and ‘Huck Farvard’ mottos plastered around campus on T-shirts and signs and adorning emails from the Senior Class Board.
I wasn’t disappointed by the crude efforts to promote student solidarity, but rather at how cookie-cutter those efforts were.
My disappointment turned fully into surprise Friday night, when I spent the entirety of two halves listening to a female student next to me screech, “You suck,” every time the Crimson got the ball.
After a while, I came to expect the shrill declarations of enmity like they were death or taxes.
The expletives were so profuse, I couldn’t hear myself think.
Not only was I surprised the young woman could not recognize that everyone in her immediate vicinity was extremely annoyed by her antics, but even more so that she couldn’t think of anything else to yell.
As a fellow Penn student, I was embarrassed that her writing seminar had so evidently failed her.
But she’s not alone. Now that students are starting to return to the Palestra, this has become the norm.
Penn fans have stayed away in droves until the Quakers picked up their game on the court.
Now it’s the spectators’ turn to pick up their game — in the stands.
ELI COHEN is a senior philosophy major from Washington, D.C. He can be reached at dpsports@theDP.com.
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