Sports | Sports Columns

TIGISTU: Columbia Athletics needs home-field advantage

Something strange took place during the Mets’ recent run to the World Series.

For the first time as a student at Columbia, I noticed that a professional sports team captured the attention of a sizeable portion of people on campus—no small feat considering Columbia’s well-known apathy toward athletics. At first glance, this might seem inconsequential or fleeting. Life at Columbia continued, and the Mets eventually lost, quelling any and all excitement held by those cheering for the local underdogs.

But the broader support for the Mets reminded us that New York is still a baseball city. Moreover, the camaraderie and excitement fostered is encouraging for any fan of New York sports.

What’s important for the Columbia community is the very existence of fandom on this campus. Although Columbia is firmly rooted in Yankees’ history (see: Lou Gehrig), the Mets’ run reveals that the New York experience can have a serious effect on its inhabitants. In other words, proximity and connectedness influenced many non-New York natives on campus to support the Mets.

Yet Columbia suffers from what most refer to as ‘the bubble.’ It’s a sort of insularity that prevents students from interacting with the city in a meaningful way outside of Columbia. Sports are no different within this context, as the Columbia community is largely isolated from the world of the Yankees, Mets, Giants, and Jets.

In short: there was a palpable energy within the student body from the Mets’ title chase, but the Columbia community doesn’t support America’s pastime the way the rest of the city does.

The Columbia men’s baseball team can attest to that. Rarely in the same conversation as basketball and football on campus, baseball has long languished behind in both promotion and attendance. In my own experience, students attend Columbia football and/or basketball games because these events are, at the very least, a social outing. I have rarely seen this same mentality in relation to our baseball team. Maybe it’s the big-money aspect of the two major collegiate sports, but neither team here has come close to the success of Columbia’s baseball.

After three consecutive titles, and with eyes on a fourth one this year, there’s a strong possibility that the class of 2016 will have known nothing but hardware. That sort of dominance, one would think, would beget some sort of fan following, but even by Columbia’s standards, attendance has been subpar, save for the Ivy Championship series in which the stands were packed.

Students are undoubtedly busy with school and extracurricular activities, but dominance so close to us at an institution that prides itself on excellence ought not to be taken for granted. In fact, if students are truly committed to inclusiveness and a healthier environment—ideals so highly revered in campus rhetoric—then does it not make sense to support those representing the community the best way they know how? This is not limited to the baseball team. Rather, it extends to the greater athletic program here, including basketball and football.

Consider that the monumental victory against Wagner, which ended years of footballing futility, saw minimal turnout. The fact is, we cannot separate fan support and results. It’s clear that greater attendance would be a massive boost to the football team—or any Columbia squad. It would truly give them a home-field advantage.

It's an ongoing struggle or better yet, a work in progress. The coming basketball season will be a good litmus test. The Lions are the likely preseason favorite for the Ivy League title, and should garner national attention with a loaded roster. Past seasons have seen erratic attendance ranging from crickets to packed houses. But with expectations so high, this is the year that Columbia must perform both on the court and in the stands.

sports@columbiaspectator.com | @CUSpecSports

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