Apparently, 85% of the class of 2019 lives outside of New England, and 15% lives outside of the United States. When I was a freshman, the numbers were probably similar, but I just felt for some reason like everyone in my new world at school would be Boston sports fans, as they had been in all of my previous worlds (family, high school, hometown, etc.).
The realization that you are no longer living among and associating nearly exclusively with a secure, sometimes fanatical and sometimes indifferent, fan base for me elicited slight loneliness in my first days of college.
Maybe it’s because I’m from such a professional sports-infused area, where fandom knows no bounds, but I’d imagine that this phenomenon affects anyone leaving their local teams behind.
I think this strange brand of uncertainty arises because inclusion in a fan base is unthinking. It’s one of those “you don’t know what you got ‘til its gone” deals. Most often you are born into a fan base and brought up within it. Where you’re from dictates whom you support (or would support, if you cared), and you have little choice in the matter. As you grow up, the only world you can imagine is one where the home team reigns supreme.
For some, fandom approaches religion, with pennants and posters crowning mantels and lining bedroom walls. For others, it’s like the sun: ever-present and maybe comforting, but distant and taken for granted. Others entirely resist the pull of the fan base, sneering at those those stupid, irrational, meaningless games that kids at school won’t stop talking about. But even they sneak a smile when “the team” wins the World Series or the Super Bowl.
There’s something special about fandom. No matter what is happening, the team is playing, there for you if you need an escape; in a small way, it can lift you up from your defeats and compound your victories.
Indeed, casual fans and even conscious sports abstainers feel the warmth of the fan base. If nothing else, they’re reassured that there’s some common thread tying everyone they see together.
Surely, home teams—by dint of being the home teams—are an extension of our conception of the place that we’ve just left behind. And so no matter how much you care about sports, when you think of your team at school, you think of home. While small, this absence is something you may feel at school, and it’s weirdly destabilizing.
Yes, coming to college will suit passionate, pugilistic fans who debate with a chip on their shoulder. Those folks should start prepping their defenses now, especially if they’re Patriots fans.
But for many, the “us against the world” mentality that continued fandom at college seems to require is exactly the opposite of what sports were about in childhood.
It has been about about the blissful pettiness of shared commiseration after a loss and the inexplicable electricity of school the day after a playoff win.
Luckily, and obviously, Wesleyan athletics can help fill the void for those starting to perceive a fan base-sized hole in their lives. It’s a new place to which you belong, an institution whose athletics you have a right to support, a new club of which you are a member.
So keep yourself apprised of Cardinal teams’ hot streaks, get yourself to a sporting event (they’re all free!), and get caught up in the skill and extraordinary power of your peers (maybe they sit next to you in psych).
Let’s be clear. Wesleyan isn’t a sports-obsessed place like the University of Michigan, the University of Alabama, or the University of Southern California, where your fandom would fully recreate itself with your new identity. So don’t expect to completely replace the orb of fanatic energy that surrounds your hometown. It just won’t happen.
So as you settle into the Wesleyan community, keep your home team in the back of your mind and adjust your expectations, but don’t despair. There’s a new mascot to waste your time cheering for and a new slate of teams to keep your racing mind at bay.