Sentimentality Grips Soccer Fans

Rose Stoloff, Sports Editor

I originally wrote my editorial this week on the New York City Marathon. But here I am in a cramped car driving through the cornfields of Ohio typing away on my iPhone.

Today I spent four hours traveling in a car to watch a 90 minute soccer game. Not a professional game – I went to watch the Oberlin men’s soccer team take on the Kenyon College Lords. And this isn’t the first time I’ve followed the team to Gambier, Ohio. Am I crazy? No. For the first time in my life I’m a devoted fan of a sports team that is not my own.

I’ve always been an athlete, but never have I been excited by watching another team play. I don’t watch professional sports often; I don’t feel any allegiance to a particular team. In fact, I came to Oberlin thinking I’d never attend a football game. Even when my home team, the San Francisco Giants, won the World Series and all my friends skipped class to parade in the streets, I couldn’t bring myself to join the bandwagon. I didn’t see the point.
But today I realized what it’s like to truly love a team you aren’t a part of. Our cheering section at the game was small but strong: three former team members, a few players on the women’s team, a handful of parents and me. I also knew of at least a dozen devoted fans who were watching the game remotely on their computers in class, in Mudd and in Slow Train.

We didn’t don crimson and gold, we didn’t wear war paint, we didn’t make signs, or tailgate before hand. The spectacle was nothing compared to a Duke University basketball game or an Ohio State University football game. But, we were all there because of a genuine loyalty to the men on the field. Watching your friends play, watching them put their heart into a game and focus in ways they never do off the field is quite honestly inspiring. Please excuse my sentimentality. It was a rough game.

Oberlin isn’t known for its school spirit. To put it bluntly, we probably have negative spirit. We are a bit of a self-deprecating campus. I’m no exception. To watch the game today I put on my one piece of clothing with an Oberlin logo, an Oberlin Athletics sweatshirt I got for free from the Athletic Department.

But watching the game today our Oberlin pride came out. As we drove up the hill to Kenyon the five of us in the car jokingly listed off reasons why we were glad we went to Oberlin over Kenyon: we have lights on our soccer field, our students are hipper, and we have a separate Creative Writing department. As we drove by an admissions tour, we almost rolled down the window and yelled, “Oberlin’s better!” We were all proud to be Oberlin students.

With five minutes left in the game, it started raining. Oberlin was down 1–0 and the weather seemed to mirror our dwindling hope. When the clock ran out, the men in purple and black exclaimed with joy while the men in crimson and gold stripes fell to their knees in sadness and anger. The players came to the fence along which we stood. We hugged them and they thanked us for making the trek. All were visibly upset, angry or some combination of the two. Some were holding back tears.

I was sad as well, a feeling I’ve never really felt after watching others play sports. It wasn’t simply because we had lost the game but because the season was over. One of the friends in the car with me graduated from Oberlin last year, yet he still lives here and is still the soccer team’s biggest fan. On the way home from the game he mentioned how bummed he was that he wouldn’t get to see the Yeomen complete another season. Jokingly, or perhaps seriously, he pondered staying another year just to watch them play. At least I’m not alone in my love. Until next year, boys.