The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

On apathy, athletics, and why Macalester should care

For those of you who know me, you know that sports are a big deal to me. I probably check a dozen times a day. Every dinner, I banter with my friends about events in the sporting world. To put my sports-fandom in perspective, I even openly root for the Oakland Raiders. For as long as my arms were long enough to hold the sports section of the Oakland Tribune, I’ve always been obsessed with sports. My passion for athletics is a major reason for my disappointment in the Macalester community’s apathy regarding our sports teams. In particular, I’m frustrated by the small attendance at our athletic events by members of the student body.

Since the school competes at the Division III level, I know that our sports teams are never going to be as big of a deal here as they are at schools like Duke or Ohio State. I’m fine with this; one of the major reasons I chose Macalester was for the fact that the student body is only about 2,000 people. Without drastically increasing the size of our student body, there’s always going to be a limit to our visible support of our sports teams. I also understand that many people at Macalester simply do not enjoy sports. Obviously, this is completely acceptable; just like I don’t want to be pressured into watching things that I have no interest in watching, I have no desire to pressure non-sports fans into becoming sports fans. Finally, I understand that many students are extremely busy. Macalester is quite academically rigorous and it’s a lot to ask someone to invest an hour or two during their day to watch sports when they could be spending that time studying.

However, I do want to point out one phenomenon that I’ve observed during my four years at Macalester. While I’d categorize the majority of the Mac community as apathetic towards our sports teams, I’d say that our student-athletes do a great job supporting one another. At any sporting event, many (often most) of the Macalester students in the stands are current student-athletes. On a related note, if 80 percent of the campus consists of non-student-athletes, far fewer than 80 percent of the Macalester students attending the event are non-student athletes.

I think this can be attributed to two major factors. The obvious one is that people who play sports are more likely to be sports fans, which in turn increases the likelihood of their attending a sporting event. But the less obvious reason (to me) is something that I feel is responsible for our apathy regarding our athletic teams: the student-athlete/non-student-athlete division at Macalester.

This is a touchy issue for many. I remember an op-ed from last semester where a former student stepped on many toes by lamenting the “cliques” at Macalester. I actually have no problem with the existence of these types of social groups, since students who have similar interests are more likely to befriend one another. It’s not a coincidence that most of my friends are at least conversant in the language of sports.

For those of you who claim that no divide exists, look no further than the tables at Café Mac to see it in action. The baseball, soccer and football tables are visible as soon as you step foot on the north side. I’m not attacking these tables at all, far from it. I’m just trying to account for their existence.

While I fully support a student’s right to choose to socialize with like-minded people, I believe this divide helps account for the lack of support that our athletic teams receive by the student body. The concept of a significant portion of the student body receiving less-than-optimal support may seem a bit surprising, since Macalester is probably the most supportive place I’ve ever been. However, I think that a lot of this support is largely contained within friends, since it’s hard to openly cheer for a group of people with which one has limited contact.

While student groups at Macalester almost always put on exceptional shows, many students choose to attend these events based solely on the fact that they have a friend or two that is participating. Indeed, I attended my first ever Fresh Concepts show based solely on the fact that a newfound friend was performing. I ended up loving my time there, and have consequently been to almost every show since. It took having a friend that was a part of Fresh Concepts to get me in a seat.

I believe this dynamic extends to sporting events. What easier way is there to show your support to a friend who happens to be a student-athlete than to watch them playing the sport they love? It comes as no surprise, then, that most students at sporting events are student-athletes, as a significant percentage of their friends are likely on a sports team. Conversely, a non-student-athlete without friends on a sports team lacks this key incentive to watch a Macalester sports team in action. This lack of incentive could account for some of the disappointing attendance figures at sporting events and Macalester’s relative indifference towards athletics.

I suppose an easy question to focus on is why your average non-student-athlete, non-sports fan should care about the Macalester community’s relative indifference towards its athletic teams. Ostensibly, there’s no real difference between the football team going 11-0 and 0-11 to someone who is apathetic to our athletics. I think this objection can be addressed by understanding the impact that athletics have on creating an idea of school spirit and the way in which outsiders view the college.

While I certainly agree that school spirit comes from a variety of areas, a sports team’s success is often parlayed into school pride. It’s no secret that communities often bond around an individual team’s success, both those professional and intercollegiate. If we’re apathetic towards our sports teams, we lose this opportunity to bond around the success of a group of our peers. Macalester athletics mean a lot to a significant portion of the community. Shouldn’t their awards and triumphs be something that we make an effort to support? It’s a pity to treat the accomplishments of some of our most talented classmates with indifference.

There’s also a certain association that the greater community has with a college or university and its athletics program. The athletics webpage is the second hit when one googles Macalester College. Like it or not, even if the campus holds an apathetic attitude towards athletics, a significant portion of the outside world doesn’t hold a similar view. If one accepts that we’re indifferent, by extension, one acknowledges a certain level of apathy towards our reputation.

In short, if you have no interest in sports, it’s completely fine to never watch a Macalester team in action. But the next time you’re on the fence about attending an event, I urge you to consider the larger implications of not attending and the chance that you might end up really enjoying yourself.

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