Homecoming/Family Weekend is chock-full of events. The University is welcoming back parents and alumni in droves, and there is not an hour of the waking day without some event to remind everyone that This Is Why. There are campus tours, open houses, lectures by professors and visiting experts, art showings, theatrical performances, concerts, fraternity reunions. Skull & Serpent is holding a reception at The Tomb, which is in keeping with the weekend’s festivities, but seems like a strange thing for a secret society to advertise in the official schedule.
Oh, and there’s also this football thing happening.
Saturday, Nov. 3 will be the most important home game for Wesleyan since at least 1969. That was the last time the Cardinals went undefeated in football, a fact every Wesleyan student surely knows offhand. Similarly, everyone knows of the fabled run from 1945 to 1948, when Wes ripped off 25 consecutive victories under the tutelage of immortal coach Norm Daniels. With the Little Three and NESCAC championships both on the line, history will be made when Wesleyan hosts Williams.
Now, here are the questions: As members of the Wesleyan community, are we aware of how momentous this occasion is? Do we care? And should we?
Very rarely do we collectively have any clue what’s going on with Wes sports at any given time. When I talked to friends and neighbors before the season-opening night game against Tufts, many assumed our football team wasn’t that good and that we would probably lose. Fifty-two unanswered points later, no one was making that mistake anymore, though many students also learned that the Jumbos last won a game back in 2010 and have experienced their fair share of drubbings. Per the recorded attendance, 5,048 people learned a couple of things about NESCAC football that night. Fans then proceeded to show up in much smaller numbers for the next two home games, both emphatic wins as well.
The night game was so popular because it was an event. Thousands of people showed up for novelty and community experience; great Cardinal football was an added bonus, not a draw. Maybe that will be different on Saturday, but the Homecoming vibe, the liveliness of the communal experience, is the main draw. Friends and tailgates first, football second. The game is another rallying point for Cardinals past, present, and future, but I don’t imagine the current students being too torn up if Williams ruins our perfect season. Students aren’t planning Homecoming parties for Saturday night; they’re planning Halloween parties.
I’m generalizing, of course. There are people, including myself, who would be pissed to have six weeks of incredible play ruined by our Little Three rival at freaking Homecoming. But I recognize that we are in the minority and that even the most passionate among us are still fairly casual fans. The Argus considered profiling a Wesleyan football superfan in the lead-up to the Homecoming game; we could not think of any.
There’s nothing wrong with casual fandom. Anyone committed to being a diehard fan of one’s college football team, the type of fan whose quality of life directly correlates to the team’s place in the standings, probably was never looking at Wes, or any other Division III school for that matter. Wesleyan football is 6-0, Jesse Warren ’15 has thrown 14 touchdowns and no interceptions, LaDarius Drew ’15 leads the NESCAC in rushing, and that all makes me happy. But when I leave the game or close the box score, nothing is particularly easier or more fulfilling because the Cardinals are undefeated.
I’m here because Wesleyan sports aren’t everything to me. They are something, though. Supporting your classmates and peers is something. Taking pride in them and appreciating how they represent Wesleyan is part of that communal experience. It extends past the tailgates and the stands and onto the field.
You don’t have to live and die with the football team, but appreciate this game. Wesleyan hasn’t beaten Williams since 1999. It hasn’t won the Little Three since 1970. Last time the Cardinals went undefeated, the NESCAC did not exist; Wesleyan football has never won a conference championship. All three can happen Saturday, though the Cardinals would need a Trinity loss in order to clinch the outright title rather than a share. Just as preposterously, Wesleyan is undefeated, leading the conference in points scored and points allowed, and is actually favored against the Ephs.
Homecoming isn’t just to show the older generation what Wesleyan is up to now, but to celebrate the returning alums for their successes and contributions. If we win these championships, Warren, Drew, Coach Whalen, and the rest will be the Cardinals we celebrate, not just on Saturday but for years after. Saturday isn’t only an opportunity to bond together around a football field; it’s also an opportunity to watch the people on it secure a place in our collective history, in Wesleyan’s history. If there is one time to do away with casualness and invest, this is it.
Cohen is a member of the class of 2014.