For something that is so thoroughly defined through numbers and statistics, sports are surprisingly subjective from a fan’s perspective. The box score can never tell us the whole story, of course. Sure, we could view sports like dismal scientists and shut out any confounding factors, reaching conclusions free of the bias that comes from actually watching the games. But the context behind the data is essential. After all, sports are first and foremost a form of diversion and entertainment; as a spectator, compelling action on the field should matter more than an empirical schematic of a team on paper.
Yet the disappointing truth behind most sports fandoms is actually simpler and more problematic than a battle between subjectivity and objectivity; both provide incomplete portraits on their own, but at least they’re both trying to divine some deeper truth about the action. Most people just glance at the scoreboard in passing and maybe check the win-loss columns, if they even pay that much attention. Others still go solely on reputation, taking secondhand accounts of a team and turning them into ill-formed opinions based on no experiences of their own.
Prior to Saturday, Sept. 21, that’s why many people at Wesleyan didn’t think our football team was that good. The lights of the night game attracted otherwise ambivalent students like moths, hovering around Andrus Field wondering what all the hubbub was about. When Tufts marched down the field and scored on the first possession of the game, some rolled their eyes, implying this poor play is what they expected from Wesleyan sports; more were just being inattentive. Then the Cardinals scored. Then they scored again, and again, and again, and 52 points later, the default pessimistic outlook was in complete flux.
That offensive performance was the greatest in team history. The box score looks just as impressive as the live onslaught did. Wesleyan’s running attack gashed its way through the Tufts defense at will, while Jesse Warren ’15 gave the Cardinals a potent aerial offense, a rarity in Division III football. After the first touchdown of the game, the Cardinal defense battered around the Jumbos, consistently stonewalling them and shutting them out for the final 57 minutes of play.
Wesleyan put on a clinic in nearly every facet of the game and was too dominant for anyone to consider it a fluke, even if it was Tufts’ 24th consecutive loss; in the Jumbos’ three-year run of futility, only Amherst, a perennial powerhouse, has beaten them by more. For fans that didn’t realize Wesleyan is coming off a tie for fourth in the conference and pushed undefeated Trinity to overtime, welcome to the NESCAC elite.
For now, we have to wait a week before we can see the Cardinal and Black again. Wes is travelling to Hamilton and will likely return with a 2-0 record. Outside of another event like Homecoming, however, are the fans going to be there to cheer on the team? In all likelihood, the majority won’t, which is really a shame for the few that still will.
On paper, Wesleyan’s first drive of the second quarter reads as such: one play, 14 seconds, 85 yards, touchdown. Even in print, you can tell this is when Tufts lost all hope, but it was even more obvious from the bleachers. As Kyle Gibson ’15 broke away from the defense and sprinted into the end zone, he left behind at least three Jumbos trailing in his wake. He didn’t exactly pull away from them, either; somewhere around the 25-yard line, the life seemed to drain from them. They sagged and fell away. Gibson powered in for the score with a full head of steam, and the crowd roared all around him.
I did not see the beginning of the play. You could tell me Gibson slashed up the middle, stiff-arming a linebacker before bouncing out to the right sideline, or you could tell me he took a toss and shook off a couple of would-be tacklers before breaking into a sprint; I wouldn’t know either way. He was already blowing through the secondary by the time I caught sight of him. Before that, I was howling at the top of my lungs, jumping up and down with my section of the stands as we sang the bass line to Seven Nation Army. We had the ball up 17-7 at that point. We chanted and celebrated with neighbors and strangers. We were being fans. As Gibson ran toward us, Jumbos receding behind him, we grew even louder. Subjectively, objectively, whatever, it was the greatest feeling I’ve ever had watching Wesleyan sports.
Based on what I saw and based on what the numbers say, I believe this team will be great again. I hope the spectators’ experience under the lights brings them back to watch winning football in the sun. Either way, 52-9 will live on in the record books and in our memories, evidence that for one night, we were great, team and fans.
Cohen is a member of the class of 2014.