Through talk-backs and light posts in the Union there has been feedback and discussion about the toxic nature of anonymous social media. Posting about bodies, about bowel movements and bedraggled college students continue to build this context where trash talk and insults are the norm.
As an athlete it seems I am at the center of a war of words taking place on this platform. There are students who are not a member of Division I athletics on one side and Division I student-athletes on the other. One of the most notable conflicts comes to light when certain teams do not perform as highly as our expectations of them would have us believe. This is especially pertinent when talking about football.
The symbol of masculine excellence, American football was at the heart of U.S. households Sunday, February 7. Taking sides, eating dip, and the occasional brew are what seem to take place all across this country during the Super Bowl. The amount of money spent on advertisements, on paying the athletes, and on having a seat at the world championships of the NFL is justified by the sheer cultural weight that this sport holds across this nation. The same is true on campus with apartments, halls, and the student union holding viewing parties for this secular but sacred event. America loves football and Davidson loves football.
Well, Davidson loves other football. We show up in mass to watch basketball and volleyball (especially when there is food and shirts). We follow our teams when they travel and have viewing parties here at home. The Davidson student body shows soccer and lacrosse some love.
However, when it comes to what amounts to a national sport we expect and say only the worst. Our football team has not done so hot these past few years, there is no denying that fact, but berating our largest athletic team is not the answer. Speaking to friends and peers, I know that there is a general respect for the members of the football team, but that same respect is not afforded to our struggling team. If we as an audience and student body hate to see a loss, then that very loss weighs on the athletes whose team we are ragging on.
There is something strange about expecting our team to earn our respect but not allowing that respect to be won through other means.
The football team has had massive recruiting classes the past few years. Bigger teams mean more depth, and more depth means a stronger team.
Psychology studies at length the effects and benefits of resilience, and our team ought to be a textbook example. Even through loss, our football team carries on. Even without the support of the student body, our football team carries on. To come back from a hard loss and look at harsher words coming from your peers, it is a wonder we continue to see, experience, and know happy people on the team at all. Those men face opponents to their success all week long and then are expected to overcome bigger bodies on bigger teams that have bigger audiences.
I am not a football player, nor is my sport one that garnishes attention from the student body at large, but I understand that the environment we have built around loss is not a healthy one for our team. I also acknowledge the situation by which other sports (mentioned and not) also experience neglect or disdain through our student body. However, I am responding to Super Bowl Sunday, and how winning or losing does not have to define one’s allegiance to a team.