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It’s a rule that seems so simple.

If you win, they will come.

But it means a whole lot less — and sounds a whole lot sillier — to venture the reverse.

If they come, you will win.

Obvious as it may seem, it became clear after Penn dropped another heartbreaker this weekend before a nearly packed Palestra that those large crowds ultimately mean very little.

Case in point: Saturday night’s loss to Cornell. Between Feb Club, Greeks at the Palestra and a three-game winning streak, campus was a-buzz about the sequel to Penn’s epic upset of the then-No. 22 Big Red last year.

The turnout was certainly there — an above-average 6,874 — and the Quakers certainly thrived on it as they erased a 15-point hole in the second half.

But even freshman Miles Cartwright, the near-hero of the night, acknowledged that despite the electric atmosphere, the team was flat.

“Even though it was packed in here, there was no energy, especially from us,” he said. “I just know that one drive, one three, from any of us could get us going.”

It was Cartwright’s play, rather than the raucous Red and Blue Crew, that swung the momentum for the Quakers.

“Usually we don’t play in front of big crowds like this,” Cartwright said, “but we have to bring our own energy.”

In other words, the Quakers are going to win or lose on their own merits, no matter how plentiful or passionate their crowds.

Loyal followers and fans of Penn athletics discuss attendance because it’s viewed as a measure of the success of the programs.

From a student perspective, turnout reflects quite literally the level of commitment to supporting the Quakers. From an administrative perspective, marketing efforts reflect the University’s level of commitment to building that student community.

Fans care about attendance because they care strongly about their teams and feel better when more people join in that support.

They believe in strength in numbers. They think a bigger crowd means a better chance to win. They think they can yell and scream and will the­ team to victory.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m certainly not saying that fans don’t matter, or that players don’t want and appreciate them. This doesn’t mean fans should feel discouraged from attending — their presence, great or small, is always felt.

“That gets me excited,” coach Jerome Allen said of the crowd’s enthusiasm on Saturday. “It lets you know people care.”

“Of course you’ve got to hope that there are fans,” Cartwright added, “but it doesn’t really matter. We just want to get a win.”

There’s a silver lining to this whole fans-don’t-really-matter hypothesis. When there are no fans, such as this Friday at Harvard or next Tuesday against Princeton when spring break will leave the Palestra barren of students, the Quakers still have just as good a shot to win.

They just need to bring their own energy.

So, hypocritical as it may be to say this in yet another column about attendance, let’s drop the whole discussion. Let the real diehard fans show their spirit, and let the rest of the Penn students come as they may.

The Quakers will rise or fall regardless. And once they start winning again, then more will come.

NOAH ROSENSTEIN is a senior political science major from Hollywood, Fla., and is former Online Managing Editor and Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. His e-mail address is

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