Two seasons ago, I was warming up for our game against Albany and I snuck a peak over at the (nonexistent) student section in the west bleachers of the Palestra. Of the 15 or so members of the Red and Blue Crew who showed up, at least five were equipped with brown paper bags over their heads.
It was simply embarrassing. Were we a bad basketball team? For sure. Was the feeling of having no support from our peers worse? Definitely.
When you’re recruited here to play basketball, you’re made aware of the tradition, the history and the success of the Penn basketball program.
They tell you about the numerous Ivy League championships, about how people genuinely care here and about how, when the Palestra is packed, it’s the most magical place to play college basketball.
When they sell you on all of these things and they don’t happen, you feel insignificant. As a player, you feel like you’ve let the place down and discontinued the tradition.
Fast forward two years.
This past November, our first home game and Big 5 matchup versus Temple was packed. The student section was filled, and the atmosphere was raucous. The Princeton and Harvard games at home were even livelier. The St. Joe’s game this season was the loudest I can recall the Palestra ever being, and that sentiment was echoed by many frequent Palestra-goers.
The commotion that existed this year in the historical gym on 33rd Street was a mirror image of what I saw when I came to see Penn battle Villanova as a junior in high school, and what caused me to fall in love with my future second home.
For this, the entire program, as well as myself, would like to genuinely say thanks. Your support throughout the entire season was amazing. Through ups and downs, you — the student body — never wavered in your faith and continued to cheer for us no matter what.
There was a real connection this year between fan and player, student and fellow student, and above all, that’s a special thing.
We even managed to pack the house on Senior Night, despite many students having already vacated for spring break.
Did we come up an ounce short of our goal? We did, but even at 34-31 in the second half at Jadwin, I could hear the roar of the Red and Blue urging their Quakers to get over the hump.
I understand that this is Penn and trust me, after four years, I realize everyone here has something to do that they believe is bigger and better than going to a basketball game. However, life isn’t always about what you’re doing; life involves sacrifice and supporting those around you. The support that you provided this year was inspiring and you should know it made a significant difference.
I can only hope that the Palestra will remain packed next year and for years to come, re-establishing the norm that is Penn basketball and the greatest place to play a college game.
ZACK ROSEN is a senior management major from Colonia, N.J., and is a three-year captain of the men’s basketball team. His e-mail address is email@example.com.