Athletics: Beauty or Beast?

By Jessica Baier

An opinion piece [“How we treat our athletes: firing back.” 2/27/09] in last week’s edition of the Mac Weekly, also a response to a previous piece [“Macalester’s Achilles’ Heel: How we treat our athletes,” 2/20/2009] that pointed out Macalester’s lack-luster attendance at athletic events, blatantly attacked the athletic teams of Macalester, stating that the school’s sports teams do not deserve support from the community and that the “fatal flaw in this assuming that the majority of the student body is even willing to be invested in Macalester athletics.” The article’s author went on a stereotypical rant–which included unrelated allusions to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Elijah Wood as a penguin–stereotyping athletes as the classic drunk, aggressive cliques, and Macalester, as an institution founded on internationalism and diversity, has no time for such trivial matters as sporting events.

The fatal flaw in her argument, however, is the assumption that members of Macalester’s athletic teams do not belong to other campus groups as well. Personally, I know athletes who are members of knitting club (MacYarn), improvisation performance group (Fresh Concepts), and anti-genocide group (Stand), to mention a few. To say that students that participate in athletics are automatically drunk, rude and cliquey is to further a stereotype that is not only unfounded, but just plain wrong.

Admittedly, athletes do tend to associate with other athletes, but that is not grounds for persecution. It is simply people interacting and relating to others with similar interests. Is this so wrong? That is not to say that these are the only people athletes associate with, or that they are so one-dimensional that athletics are the center of a testosterone-driven environment around which they revolve.

Before accusing athletes of being hostile to others, maybe one should sit with a team at dinner or attend a Kilt Krew meeting and see that Macalester attracts athletes who offer more than “plots.and cheap shots like Gaston.” Additionally, to say “books, internationalism, round tables, and diversity talks are the things that drew most students to Macalester” is a stereotype in itself.

Yes, these are all definite strong points that make Macalester appealing, but more than anything, it is the atmosphere of openness that allows for all of these aspects to be an option. Macalester is about acceptance, trying new things, and learning about yourself and others, and athletics is just one of the many arenas through which students can experience these ideals.

Macalester athletes do not blame the rest of the student body for their win-loss records. To say that they do would imply that they care more about your presence than their performance, and this is simply not the case. Macalester athletes understand the community has other commitments, be they academic, social or organizational, so any crowd is always appreciated. Attendance at an athletic event shows that members of the Macalester community are proud of their school, and are willing to support the athletes that take the time and effort to represent the school with Macalester printed on their jerseys.