I came from a high school that did one thing well: football.
They literally dominated their competition, going deep into the State Playoffs system and rolling up scores in the same way some of the Big 12 teams trounce their opponents. Friday night games under the lights were an obligation. Over the course of four years I believe I only missed one game, and that includes home and away.
School spirit was a way of life. Before I’d even registered for classes my freshmen year of high school, I had my spirit wear taken care of. I remember my mother’s horrified expression when she saw what I’d done to a pair of $80 jeans: Green and Gold paint covered each pant leg in sayings like Go Gators or CLSHS!
When I began my college search, I was looking to replicate the football experience. I didn’t necessarily want wild tailgates or to share the stadium with close to one hundred thousand fans. But I was hoping that people would go to the games, get a little rowdy and cheer their team on to victory. I believed that Colgate would be that kind of school.
It was not.
Despite our small size, which means pretty much everyone knows at least someone on the team, and despite our isolation, which means there isn’t a wide array of alternatives nearby, Colgate’s sporting attendance was never that high, especially for football.
Over the past three seasons, I grew to accept that. I tried to make excuses for it. Perhaps, at a demanding school like Colgate, where students are all driven toward achieving their own goals, the opportunity cost of attending a game was too much. Most students don’t start their Saturday mornings off too early and most go out Saturday night. From 1 to 5 PM was prime homework time (hey, you’ve got to work hard to play hard), or maybe Club sports and activities were running concurrently, so many students had little chance of attending a game.
Then we got lights! Games were pushed back to 6 p.m. kick-offs. It seemed like it was going to be high school all over again. Considering we were coming off of a championship season, I had great expectations for the turnout. I was disappointed. The first game typically managed to draw in the first years, but not a significant portion of other students, and fans at the second game were largely town residents.
I tried to rationalize again. Well, the first game coincided with Beta Beach, so maybe that was it? And this week it overlapped with Rush…
What I realized is that there will always be something going on that draws students in different directions. While I’m still saddened that football games aren’t a focal point of student life, I’ve learned to see Colgate school spirit in a different light.
Students do have school spirit. If they didn’t, they would not be so involved. Most people I know can rattle off a laundry list of clubs and organizations they belong to. We have a plethora of tour guides who volunteer to march around Colgate in the snow and talk about how much they love it here. We have alumni that still come back to visit 40 years after they’ve graduated, and they’re often willing to give recent graduates their first big breaks just because they love Colgate so much.
Our spirit can be found at Dancefest when we break the fire codes to pack people in. Our spirit is shown on first-year Move-In Day when we scream for 8 hours at every car that drives by “Honk if you love Colgate!” Our spirit is when we wear maroon every Friday the 13th. Colgate students do have pride in their school and we do want our peers to succeed in the classroom and on the field. Even when students don’t make it to the stadium, they’re still supportive of the Raiders. But it wouldn’t hurt to spend a little more time down at Andy Kerr, Cotterell Court or Starr Rink! Go ‘Gate!