Take advantage of the Golden Age of athletics

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Alright, let’s take a look here. This year, the following Mustang teams either won â€" or medaled at â€" an Ontario University Athletics championship and/or national championship. Football, men’s hockey, men’s basketball, men’s and women’s curling, men’s and women’s swimming, men’s and women’s squash, women’s golf, rowing, men’s and women’s rugby, badminton, fencing and track and field.

With a peek at this exhaustive list one can draw a few conclusions. First, there is indeed athletic talent here at Western ... a lot of it. Second, Western students have yet another reason to be proud of our school.

Our teams’ recent success, particularly in the higher profile sports like football, basketball and hockey brought out more fans than usual to home games, but it’s nowhere near where it should be.

One explanation I constantly hear is that the calibre of athletics at the Canadian university level is not comparable to that of the NCAA. While this is certainly debatable for many sports, I don’t see how it should prevent students from supporting our school. How many students in the crowd of a Notre Dame football game are there for the calibre of play? Some, but certainly not most. I’d hazard a guess that they’re there to be a part of the “student experience.”

Regardless, it’s called school spirit and for whatever reason, Western is severely lacking, with the exceptions of course being the few die-hard’s that attend nearly every home event.

Sports editor Emily Panetta recently wrote about the raucous Dalhousie Tigers fans that attended the national basketball championship in Ottawa. What the hell do they have to be proud about? Dal sucks. Alright, take it easy, I’m just making a point. All I’m wondering is if a school like Dal can make such an obvious effort to support its teams, why can’t Western?

I’m going to speak some truths here about the current fan experience at Western. Intercollegiate Athletics might not publicly affirm what I’ll have to say here, but if they’re honest, they’ll probably love that I said it.

First and foremost, next year all home games (except Homecoming and playoffs) will be FREE. This is definitely a step in the right direction. It eliminates one of the barriers to attendance and hopefully will get some more student butts in the seats.

Now for the facets of home games IA won’t advertise as heavily.

First, tailgating is allowed at Mustangs football games. For whatever reason, people think you’re not allowed to. That’s wrong. You are. It’s essentially the same rules as NCAA or the NFL, that being, drink your beer, but don’t wave it in a cop’s face. And for Godsake, put it in a cup or something. The tailgating experience at the Yates Cup and Mitchell Bowl games was good, but it can be much better. Next year, with free admission established, there’s no reason not be out there having a good time.

Second, you can drink at home games. Yes, you will be relegated to the beer garden at either TD Waterhouse or Thompson Arena, but the booze is available. I understand that paying $5.25 for a can of Bud Light may not exactly be in everyone’s wheelhouse. To that I say, sneak it in. There it is, whether it’s a single beer or two, or your water bottle filled with Jack and Coke, if it means you’re going to support the team, just bring it.

I don’t want to give the impression that I correlate drinking with having a good time at a sporting event, but if it means getting more students into Western athletics, then I’m certainly in favour.

Anyway, between the free admission and Western’s dominance on the athletic stage this year, students have the unique opportunity to add another element to their university experience.

Take advantage of it while you can, you’ll be happy you did.

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