At an institution as massive as Penn, it’s hard to think of a single moment when the entire campus united for a common cause.
The closest example in recent memory is perhaps the momentous night of the Philadelphia Eagles' Super Bowl victory last month, when masses of Penn students threw down their books and flooded into Center City to join thousands of Philadelphians in their celebrations. For many at Penn, that night was the first time they felt like Philadelphians; like they were part of this city.
Now it's time for Penn students to act like they're part of Penn, too.
This past weekend, Penn men’s basketball beat Harvard in the final of the Ivy League Tournament, earning an automatic bid to the annual NCAA Tournament. Their last appearance was 11 years ago, in 2007, at a time when most of the current team's players were just in elementary school. The Quakers are ranked as a No. 16 seed, and are set to play basketball powerhouse University of Kansas on Thursday afternoon in Wichita, Kan.
This is the moment for everyone on this campus — sports fans and otherwise — to rally behind a team that truly represents this institution.
A 2017 study from the data analytics group Nielsen found that almost one-third of the United States television audience watched at least six minutes of the NCAA Tournament last year. Collectively, the 23 telecasts in 2016 reached 97 million people.
These numbers show that what sets this tournament apart is just how much it means to communities across the country. At the heart of March Madness are the fans who watch from the stands and from their living rooms, holding their breath as their friends, brothers, and sons lay down months of hard work on the court.
The game in Wichita is an opportunity for Penn to partake in that experience. It's an opportunity to feel — like we did after the Super Bowl — as though we are a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Despite the team's outstanding season, Penn students have not been present. The average attendance at Penn men’s basketball games in the 2017-2018 season was 2,960 people, which is less than 35 percent of the total seating capacity at the Palestra.
While this number is higher than the average attendance for any other Ivy team, we're also the best team in the Ivy League. We could do better.
It's unreasonable to expect students to stow away on the next flight to Wichita, but if ever there were a time to call for some Penn pride, this would be it.
Wear some red and blue as you walk down Locust Walk. Host watch parties for the game, or go to the watch party in Houston Hall which starts at 1:30 p.m. Consider picking the Quakers in your bracket to pull off the first-ever upset of a No. 1 seed by a No. 16 seed.
And when the tournament ends, keep up the Quaker pride. The women’s basketball team is moving on to the National Invitational Tournament; the men’s lacrosse team made headlines by beating the No. 1 ranked team in the nation last month and the squash team is home to a player with an undefeated season. There are little ways we can all support any one of the 30-plus varsity teams that compete at Penn.
When the men's basketball team beat Harvard on Sunday, they did not just win a chance to play on a national level; they also earned an opportunity for their school — for us — to join them on their journey and to experience some of the anticipation, faith, and pride that they worked so hard for.
Regardless of what happens, the team will have made Penn history. Whether we want to join them is up to us.
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