I do appreciate what Chris Shattuck is trying to sell the Georgia State community, telling students not to wear other university’s apparel on our campus. But as a lifelong sports fan and realist he will find no buyer in me.
Fandom does not come from ramming school spirit down students’ throats in articles. It comes from a culture of winning and sharing those winning moments with the people you love.
John F. Kennedy’s mother, Rose Kennedy, once said, “Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.” Being a sports fan is no different.
Fandom comes from early Saturday alarms to meet up with “the boys” to pregame, alarms that never need a snooze. It comes from hanging on every play for seasons, knowing any misstep is the difference between a monumental victory and crushing defeat.
School pride is not born in classrooms or derived from athletic fees. It comes from sitting at the bar with said boys and suddenly and inexplicably finding yourself celebrating a miraculous touchdown with the most beautiful stranger your 21-year-old eyes have ever seen. It is spending the rest of that game cheering with her, the pressure to win now dialed up a notch with the looming misery of defeat threatening to suffocate the mood. It comes from a huge win, rounds of shots, and hours of starry-eyed dialogue that give way to a Sunday sunrise and the words “let’s do this again next week.”
True spirit is not found on shirts. It is found on faces, the faces of “the boys” when the scoreboard indicates you are down by seven with a minute to play. The faces you have seen every Saturday for nine years who watch as you lower to one knee to pop a question to the most important face in the room. It is her look of joyous delight you first saw in that exact spot 312 Saturdays earlier. It comes from her saying yes, a round of hugs while celebrating the engagement and the most improbable overtime win in school history.
Support cannot be won by cursing someone for wearing rival colors. Support is gained by offering an escape from an increasingly stressful and monotonous eight-to five-life. Giving you Saturdays to unwind and wear that lucky tattered hoodie you have had since your sophomore year. No matter how turbulent the seas, loved ones will always be sanctuary. Support is to know exactly where these loved ones will be on Saturdays, together supporting the team and each other.
Heart does not come from looking around a class and getting upset at the lack of shared enthusiasm. It comes from naming your first two dogs for the cross streets where you met your bride then naming your son after the establishment sitting upon that corner – the establishment that has been your chapel for half your life. Its parishioners, people you have laughed with, shared the depths of your soul with, shed unabashed tears with people you would die for.
Some years go by and a recession hits. A pink slip gives way to a job search, relocation and a new life. The dream of sending your son to your alma mater as your father did has been dashed. The school he’s been raised to bleed for, which family reunions center around, will not be in his future. When the stress of financial woes was tearing a family apart, the team was the common bond between a husband, wife and son.
Are you going to tell this kid to take off the team cap his grandmother gave to him a week before her passing because he needs to “show some respect”?
The logo is a lifestyle, a family, a culture passed down from generation to generation. When some kid wears another college’s apparel, it’s got nothing to do with us. They are not “pissing on everyone else that pays to go to school here.” These people have their own story, ambition and pride.
There is no amount of anger or revolt that can ever be spewed upon them for wearing their heart on their sleeve that will change their minds. There is no article that can reverse the sands of time bringing them back to the beginning of journey which led them to a classroom wearing an opposing team’s colors.
Fandom is experienced, lived, touching your soul for all your waking days.
School pride isn’t about tuition checks or money falling from the roof. It’s about moments. It’s about hugging the stranger next to you because you are so overcome with emotion and them hugging you right back. True spirit is looking back at your life’s greatest days realizing they are all Saturdays with your loved ones. Support is built by having that excuse to call your son each week knowing football will be the first five minutes of what will turn into an hour long conversation about life.
What Shattuck wants here at Georgia State comes with time, a culture of winning and a storied history that dates back further than the horizon allows us to see. Someday it will arrive but pretending that day is today does not make it come any sooner. Even if Shattuck’s goal of getting other teams apparel off our property were realized, it is an inconsequential milestone on the path to true school spirit. If you ask me, I am just in it for the moments.