Tales of Bittersweet Loyalty

College is Where I Lose Myself

July 6, 2011

UConn wins its third NCAA basketball championship in twelve years: I kind of remember watching that game. Ohio State loses its iconic head coach, and then its starting quarterback bolts for the NFL: Sounds interesting, maybe I’ll read up about it. South Carolina captures back-to-back baseball championships: Did you know they’re good at baseball?

I’m a sports fan, but I’m a man without a team—A college team that is. How does someone find a college team? I’m still searching and haven’t made any progress. Without a team, I’ve never been able to completely engage in the college game. I’ll always follow the big bowl games and fill out my annual bracket, but it wouldn’t change a thing for me if the scores were reversed and the losers and winners flipped.

I grew up in the Florida Bay Area where the large populations of Seminole, Hurricane and Gator fans never came up with a clear winner for my heart. Other kids had parents who were alumni at their favorite college team or went with the school with recent successes—but the Baruch Bearcats don’t strike fear in many hearts, and the last thing I wanted to be was a fair-weather fan. I couldn’t go the regional route either. The local school—South Florida—didn’t have any resemblance of a competitive team in football or basketball until I was well out of town. So, I focused on the Tampa pro teams and figured I’d find my college team eventually. Even though I bled creamsicle orange and white and then pewter and red for the Bucs, I had no passion to follow the amateurs. And without the passion, I barely followed at all. For the longest time, I had no idea how the bowl games figured out its participants, the rule differences between college and pros (who needs the extra 11 seconds on a shot clock?) or even know about the collegiate commercials that ran on repeat. To me the pros were the only game, and I figured I was all the better.

For school, I went to Cornell for my discovery years, and that didn’t help me out much on finding a college team. While I was there, the football and basketball teams didn’t exactly light the fire in me to follow the Ivy League. I didn’t care for hockey, lacrosse or women’s polo, so Cornell’s top teams were out. As much as I love Cornell and stay loyal to their athletics, I didn’t have a reason to get excited about football Saturdays on ESPN’s College Gameday, or get to learn the NCAA basketball divisions—Maybe I need to gamble more? There were the magical years of Cornell basketball during Steve Donahue’s tenure, but that was more once in a lifetime, and I went to the heartbreaking sweet sixteen game against the semi-pro Kentucky team. There’s enough for me follow up on Cornell basketball but they’re not consistent enough to be on television so I can watch at a bar or even online—is that too much to ask? I tried to piggy back on the brothers and friends that went crazy for the Gators, but I felt more like a poser than anything else. What was next?

I now live in New York City. While it may never sleep, there’s still not much time nor island space for a college team. At the very least, here was where I found a girl who’s crazy about Mizzou sports. After I turned in my man-card, I followed her home to MU and was lucky enough to go to my first college football game at their homecoming against Oklahoma, then the #1 ranked team. Game day was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. From the crack of dawn to game time, the whole town was psyched about the upcoming battle. The only sad face I saw was the clerk at the supermarket who didn’t have the foresight to call in sick that day. From tail-gating to the game and to the incredible dominance Mizzou threw down on Oklahoma, I was a part of the community of crazies going rabid in the stands, outside the stadium and all over town. What was I thinking missing out on this greatest of American pastimes known as college athletics? Despite having this eye-opening experience, I couldn’t just jump on the Mizzou bandwagon. I was still just a visitor.

So here I am now, still without a college team to follow and with only in-the-moment interest in the games going on. The personalities help: Melo, Reggie, KD or Tebow for an amazing run, but after they leave, my interest fizzles. Contributing to my friends’ unhealthy obsessions with their teams gets me by, but after those games end,  I’m still stuck on the other side. But one day I’ll get my own team. Maybe I’ve got to go back to school just to live up the life as a Tiger or a Wildcat or a Horned Frog. Maybe I’ve got to find an academic job working as a Hoya or an Orange or a Trojan. Or maybe I’ve got to wait much longer until my non-existent kid goes to Ohio State… And when the following year, the next kid goes to Michigan, I’ll be stuck all over again… a man without a team.

  • David

    MIZ

  • Tim J.

    Only 21 schools have won more national football championships than Cornell.  You just need to figure out how to get them to win a couple more….

  • Paul from Poland

    Now I understand why you were always so bad at beerpong in college.  A man without a team…