This weekend, I met up with a friend — a Yale alumna, planning to go back to New Haven for The Game (Harvard vs. Yale). I never knew her to be a dedicated football fan, and asked why she was so excited to go. She replied that all the students, and most alumni only one or two years out, go to The Game, partly to see friends and support their team, but also for the giant tailgate. That got me thinking: We’re the Party Ivy! How is it that we don’t have a proper school tailgate?
It’s not that Penn students don’t tailgate. It does happen on a small level, among groups of friends, and occasionally through the collaboration of a few fraternities. But there’s nothing like Yale’s tailgate for The Game, and certainly nothing close to what one might see at Penn State.
It’s partly a matter of location. Franklin Field doesn’t exactly have a huge parking lot, and without much parking in the nearby vicinity, the space for lines of U-Hauls and trucks is seriously limited.
However, the lack of wide-open concrete space doesn’t have to be a showstopper. The quintessential tailgate might require vehicles, but who’s to say we couldn’t make do with tents and folding chairs on Hill Field, College Green or even in the Quad?
Obviously, the problem is deeper than that. Football games, and Penn sports in general, simply aren’t well attended, and that’s the biggest reason Penn doesn’t tailgate.
We do have some athletic traditions that could be capitalized upon to build momentum for better game attendance. This year, attendance at The Line, a decades-old Penn tradition to get season basketball tickets, definitely improved. “There weren’t as many people as my freshman year, just coming off the championship season, but there were a lot more than last year,” said Wharton junior Justin Chang, a leader of the Red and Blue Crew. More activities for the 240-plus Line participants, combined with better outreach from the players, made for a successful night.
Unfortunately, most upperclassmen are jaded and cynical about Penn sports. It’s true that we aren’t as athletic as a lot of state schools, but within the Ivy League we’re fairly competitive. This year, our football team has a shot at the Ivy title.
And while this probably won’t be enough to get upperclassmen to come to games, it could be incentive for younger classes. The key to better school spirit? The class of 2013.
Chang noted that attendance dropped significantly between the first and second home football games this year. A large part of that initial surge is freshmen coming out for the first game. But as work piles up and classes get harder, the enthusiasm wanes.
“We’re trying to bring freshmen in [to the Red and Blue Crew] as much as possible, and get them involved,” said Chang, adding that they made up the majority of the Line, as well as a substantial part of the student section at home football games this year.
For any real tailgate tradition to begin, more people need to come to football games. And a tailgate, in turn, would hopefully increase enthusiasm for Penn football.
Considering most upperclassmen are a lost cause, it’s up to freshmen to break the cycle of school spirit apathy. If the class of 2013 builds a solid fan base, the possibility of a tailgate isn’t so farfetched.
And we can help it along. Earlier this month, SPEC’s first-ever Fall Festival drew thousands, and definitely has potential for becoming an annual tradition. If SPEC and the Red and Blue Crew collaborated in the future, a tailgate could be incorporated into the Fall Festival, and OFSA could even get involved to coordinate registered parties.
We have three more home football games this year, and it all starts with the fans. Maybe we have enough traditions and parties at Penn already. But why settle when we could have more?Comments powered by Disqus
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