I’ve been watching collegiate athletics for a long time. Since I was 10 years old, I spent nearly every Saturday in autumn watching college football with my dad. In middle school, during the month of March, my friends and I would frantically open our phones in the three minutes between classes, eager to watch even a few moments of March Madness while we had the chance.
What amazed me the most about the college sports I watched was the passion on display at all of these games. People would pack into stadiums built for 80,000 or more fans to watch a team of amateur players in Tuscaloosa, Alabama or Eugene, Oregon play football. Oftentimes, the fans would cheer and scream with more gusto than you would find at most NFL games. At that young age, when I thought of my future college experience, that was what I imagined. The experience of investing myself in the fortunes of a big, influential athletics program was what I wanted my college experience to be.
It’s safe to say that that isn’t the college experience I ended up with. Until I arrived at Binghamton, I had no idea that it was a Division I school. The school obviously did not have a football team, and its men’s basketball team wasn’t even one of the small programs that I knew about from March Madness. As for the rest of BU’s athletics programs, I didn’t even think they were worth thinking about when I first arrived. I knew all of this going in, and I resigned myself to the reality that I wasn’t going to get to be a part of a big athletics tradition like one would find at Florida, Duke or USC.
But when I joined Pipe Dream Sports as a contributor, I got a more inside look at many of the BU athletics programs and I got to attend hundreds of athletics events as a journalist. I was surprised to find that the sports being played at Binghamton and those being played at the big-name schools were not all that different. It turns out, basketball is basketball, no matter what school name is emblazoned on the front of the jersey, no matter if it’s a man or a woman who is on the court. Parents still traveled to cheer on their children playing soccer or softball. And the local community still turned out to BU games, just like locals in Lexington, Kentucky turn out to support the Wildcats. Everything was on a much smaller scale, but it was the same in many respects.
And the athletes? They worked just as hard as athletes at big schools, whether they were on the men’s basketball team or the golf team. They, like any other student-athlete, had to figure out how to balance their time between their academic commitments and their duties to their teams. They all put in incredible effort into the success of the Binghamton Bearcats. They all deserved enthusiastic support from the student body.
Looking back, I didn’t give them the support they deserved during my time at BU. I attended many events as a sports journalist, covering the games from the neutral, unbiased perspective that my job required. But I regret that I didn’t attend more games as a fan. At most of the games I went to, the student section was nearly empty. I had plenty of opportunities to do my small part in filling those seats. I didn’t take them.
About a month ago, I started law school. The workload makes undergraduate school look like kindergarten. I don’t have nearly the amount of free time that I had in college. The athletics programs at my current school aren’t in Division I, but in Division III. When I first started at Binghamton, I didn’t think I had much in the way of quality athletics, but it’s evident now that I had more than enough.
On its face, taking time to watch the Bearcats play may seem like a waste, but these events are fun, especially with friends, and going to them is a great way to let the student-athletes know that the student body appreciates the work they put into representing Binghamton on the athletics stage. These opportunities won’t be around forever. Take them while they still are.