Forget for the moment our frustration with the grade-F weight room and the rundown fieldhouse because there is a more concerning issue plaguing Oberlin athletics: game attendance. Too often I have seen the bleachers filled with a populace only large enough to overcrowd the Burton elevator, or away fans and parents sadly outnumbering our own. Not only is this a slap in the face to athletes, but it reflects a considerable lack of school pride.
It is not a mystery that athletics are not held in high esteem at this small liberal arts college. This is ironic, seeing how the famous John Heisman, namesake for only the most prestigious annual college award given to the best collegiate football player in the country, began his coaching career at Oberlin in 1892.
This attendance issue can be traced to poor advertising by the athletic department and an anti-sport mindset at this school.
As I walk through the Science Center hallway, up the stairs in Stevie or King, through the dorms or even around the gym, it is highly unlikely to see any flyers or postings regarding future games and events. Our best source of information, the Oberlin athletic website, is probably viewed more by parents than by students (www.oberlin.edu/athletic).
The first step that needs to be taken is to improve ways of publicizing and notifying the entire campus about upcoming sports events. An occasional poster here and there would be nice, because whereas people may not even glance at the weekly schedule in the sports section of the Review (pg. 17), a poster could catch their attention.
So what’s the point of me blabbering about no one showing up to games? Athletes perform better and have more fun when there are crowds watching them. Yes, under the layers of uniforms and dri-fit gear, under the muscles and the ego, lies an artist perfecting his or her skills. Athletes are artists, and artists need audiences with which to engage.
Athletes, just like musicians, writers, painters, speakers, sculptors and actors, practice in order to perform at a high level. Some people feel that athletes believe they are above the rest, but truly, being an athlete is no bigger a status symbol than being a musician. Although both need to work hard to achieve greatness, they do so in very different ways.
What if no one attended your recital in the Conservatory? What if people decided not to go to the Cat in the Cream to see your concert? What if no one saw your senior exhibit at Fisher Hall? The point of showing off your talent would diminish.
The composition of artists at this school is unbelievable. While I catch my fair share of non-athletic events, basking in the awe of the recent performance of The Heidi Chronicles, for example, I wonder, what is so repelling about coming to watch sports? Are competitive events just not Oberlin’s cup of tea?
I understand that many students are disinterested in athletics. I mean, who would want to bask in the sun on a warm, spring day, munching on a few bratwursts with friends at the baseball game, or go cheer on your lab partner, first-year roommate or last week’s ’Sco hook-up who has now become a close friend? Yeah, that sure sounds horrific.
There is a definite social divide between athletes and nonathletes. This is evident in all campuses, but because we are not a big university that is filled with tail-gating, cheerleaders, body-painting and thousands of people attending games, it is a little more obvious. Some examples of this “divide” include the segregated tables in Stevie, which apparently finds students placed awkwardly in between a crowd of “jocks,” the 90 percent of participants who were athletes at Oberlin’s first ever Relay for Life cancer event, or even title references to house parties (i.e. soccer house, Frisbee house, etc.).
The athletic department is aware of this division and has tried to take steps to better unite the two. This is not to try to improve some sort of tarnished image, but to show that we are all together here, supporting each other in all of our endeavors. One such effort was when athletes helped move first-years into their dorms in late August, but little good it did. I have a math class with a girl whose bags I helped lug up the stairs, but she has never mentioned the favor. Some impact we had.
The aim at getting people to come watch games is to help create an atmosphere that is fun and exciting to play in. Games can become difficult, teams can struggle, but one thing that never falters is the encouragement from the fans. There is no feeling more thrilling than knowing that 50 people are screaming, cheering, clapping and urging you on.
No one can make you head to North Fields and to catch a game. You might read this editorial and still never set foot on an inch of the athletic complex. But the next time you’re sitting in your room on a Saturday afternoon, watching an episode of Entourage, Lost or 24 instead of enjoying the fruits of the spring weather, remember: an Oberlin athlete’s heart is crushed because he or she saw five whole people in the stands, a sight that will haunt his or her college career for the rest of their lives.