Thursday, September 28, 2006

Enough Davidson Sports To Go Around

As evidenced by the expansive number of pseudo-professional sports blogs that are out there right now, a lot of people think that they know a lot about sports. For many years, I have understood there to be an expanding culture of sports "laymen" (those that invest a lot of time and thought in sports without a professional link) that take themselves very seriously when it comes to their opinions about their favorite sports and favorite teams.

This dynamic has progressed from the days of call-in radio shows (which still exist, I think) to internet chatrooms to blogs to reality shows that take ordinary people and make them sports anchors. For many reasons, this reality can be very intimidating to a young amateur who thinks that he has the gumption to try to make this stuff into a living.

I bring up my own personal immersion into the world of sports dialogues to connect to a growing reality surrounding Davidson sports. Although Davidson sports, basketball in particular, are thoroughly behind the curve in terms of media saturation and auxiliary fan involvement, there are some growing trends that I believe that, although they might be common, are not good for Davidson.

As one who is presently involved in the proliferation of Davidson sports media as well as connected to the voices of leadership that are claiming to speak for students and local alumni, I believe that Davidson has become a monolithic entity in many people's minds.

In this light, I look at the Davidson basketball program and the way in which different people and groups tend to see it. There are different groups of students on campus that want to claim ultimate fandom of this "unheralded" team. Last year, student groups attempted to outdo each other with cheers from different parts of the stadium, often refusing to join in with a cheer started by a different group. Different figures of local alumni are often in disagreement over what their team needs to get to the next level. Even the athletic department itself has a particular agenda over how fandom should progress and who should know about Davidson.

Everyone thinks they know what's best for "their" team. They all claim ownership in different ways, whether it's owning season tickets, or starting student fan groups with T-shirts, or riding to so many away games, or even being paid by the school to make the season function. Just like callers on a weekly radio shows, Davidson fans can express different opinions on the message board in everything from "Night with the Cats" to starting lineups to fan conduct.

Usually, I would end this by saying that this is all OK because a plurality of opinions are good for us, and it's helpful to hear everyone else, once in a while. But there is "something in the water" at Davidson. We don't like to think that there is a differing opinion about something we so dearly cherish in a unique way.

Well, perhaps we aren't all that unique after all. Maybe Davidson can get some things wrong sometimes, and maybe we aren't the coolest little school that is so perfect at everything. Maybe there never was a "secret" because it wasn't that important if we told someone.

Davidson basketball and Davidson sports in general will help provide me with distinctive and unforgettable memories of my college life. It is special in that sense. But we need to be careful of making our understanding and opinions be about something so special that we don't accept its differing importance in others. We should all be a little more supportive of that this year, and if we are, we might actually become as special and unique as we have already imagined.

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