The closing of the calendar year entails a lot of things. The weather gets colder, the family holidays come hard and fast, and luxury auto brands start trying to sell us cars with big ass bows on top. Also, college football works toward its dramatic conclusion, and that can only mean one thing: People rooting for schools they didn’t attend. With violence.
This time is similar in atmosphere to the Olympics, a time when you get to hear people explain to you, in very strained terms, which of their family relations is loosely tied to a country. Only instead of allegiance to a tropical island nation they’ve never personally set foot on before, it’s a school they’ve never personally set foot on before. And in much the same way, the further you are away in bloodline from a person who attended that school, the harder your defense is to tolerate.
Now, I understand that college is expensive, a privilege many people don’t have the means to attend unless given a full ride, but here in Orange County, you rooting for a school you didn’t attend can usually be chalked up to two main things:
1.You failed to achieve your goal of going to that school: Congratulations, failing is the easiest thing to do.
2.You went to a better school that provided greater opportunities: You’ve made your bed and refuse to lie in it.
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have pride in your school years or decades after attending it. If I see you accusing a running back of being a set of female genitalia from well across a bar while wearing your class ring, more power to you. You attended. You achieved something for yourself. Either you worked your ass off while others slept or your parents threw a grotesque quantity of money at the situation. Either way is the American way. I just find it infuriating that I can ask the loudest, most abusive fan in the bar “When were you there?”, only to get get “Oh, my dad went there, I went to Chico State” in return. Absolutely nothing against Chico State, but if you answer my question in a similar fashion,you sir, are a ten ton fucktruck. I hope your forget your Netflix password.
Being raised in Orange County, the flag I see Junior College dillholes hoisting like the battered flag on Iwo Jima is the USC flag. But this kind of behavior is not a localized phenomenon. If you’re from a different area of the United States your bottomless wellspring of fandom may have some different colors. Participation may vary depending on what region you live in, but you might consider: ASU, U of A, Notre Dame, Alabama, FSU, Ohio State, etc.
All that said, I’d like to give a more thorough illustration of the two points that I listed above.
You’d think a simple fact like not being good enough to be invited into the school would be a thorough reason to stop somebody from claiming it as their own, but you’d be wrong. Exceedingly so. On paper it’s not a difficult concept: If you are in love with a person and they don’t love you back, you are not “dating”. But if you apply a similar logic to schools it doesn’t work that way. Apparently, if you associate yourself with a school and it doesn’t associate itself with you, your “parents went there”. And much like the real world relationship short cut, if you pay the entity enough money, they will associate with you.
Does nobody else find it odd that in this capacity you can take credit for the things your parents accomplished and I’m supposed to nod my head in muted admiration? When did resting on the laurels of others become acceptable? But, you might be thinking, the past three generations of my family went to that school, in which case you’re excused in my book. You can wear the sweaters, pajamas, beanies, pins, sunglasses, socks, scarves, bracelets, lanyards, and t shirts of someone else’s alma mater. Up until the age of eighteen, when you’re old enough to have determined a college path for yourself. Hope you studied hard for your SATs. But odds are you didn’t study hard for your SATs, because you smoked bowls in your Buddy’s Cayenne during every other period and then asked me to quit being a dick so you could copy my study guide six minutes before our stats class started. Fuck you.
Even within the gates of other schools you can see people sharing a sense of pride in something they didn’t do. I remember walking across campus at Chapman noting with a silent rage the people in other schools’ gear patting each other on the back and slapping fives, shooting catch phrases at each other. I listened as they told each other to ‘Bear Down’ or ‘Fight On” while eating tater tots in the cafeteria of the school they were currently attending. I wondered where they thought they were and what percentage of their mental exertion went into denying their current reality.
When you confront these cafeteria caterwaulers about this kind of hypocrisy you’ll often be met with a comment like “They hate us because they ain’t us”. That’s a fair point, I suppose. It’s very possible that someone attacking you for your fandom could be doing it from a place of jealousy. But I’d like to point something out: You are not part of the ‘us’ in that sentence. You are some asshole with the monetary resources to purchase a branded sweatshirt. Congratulations, you now have the same amount of respect and acknowledgement from that school as a homeless person who struck gold in the clothing racks of the Goodwill.
Granted, some of these people did discuss their plans of eventually transferring out of our school and into their first choice. They claimed multiple semesters in a row that they were outta there first chance they got. But very rarely did those kids disappear the next semester. Meanwhile some kids I knew from high school were back at home, biding their time at junior colleges just so that they could eventually go to the school of their dreams. And eventually, while these other jackoffs were watching college football instead of working on group presentations, those JC kids ended up getting into those colleges. So what, then is the excuse?
But every coin has two sides, and on the reverse of this concept are those who so exceeded in their studies or were so precise in their goals that they decided they needed to attend elsewhere to achieve their dreams.
So what if you got that joyful letter from your team’s school, but it didn’t glimmer nearly as brightly as that Ivy League letter on top of your illustrious admissions pile? You’d be insane not to attend the school with the best scholarship. You’d be wrongheaded to deny yourself the opportunity to study at the school with the best program for your esoteric interest, say, Mesoamerican archaeology. You shouldn’t limit your future, even if that means forgoing attendance at a school with better football.
Such a tough choice is a rarer one, as failing is much easier than succeeding, but you tend to see this conflict of interest when school colors run in families. The reason you may have to leverage excellent academics versus DI sports is twofold: 1. Upper echelon/esoteric schools often have dogshit football programs because 2. They funnel their alumni donations into things other than C-students repeatedly giving each other head trauma.
This makes the whole situation a little cloudier. On the one hand I certainly can’t fault you for taking off in the direction that will most certainly bring you a fulfilling life. On the other hand, you had the opportunity to go to the school you root for, but you fucked it. You fucked it long, you fucked it raw, you fucked it left and right and on every surface in your apartment that can support weight. You have made your bed and refuse to pull the covers over yourself and go to sleep.
Instead of accepting the decision they’ve made and binding themselves to the fate of their shitty team, such a person chooses to boldly deny reality. They fall back on the ancient Hindu saying, “my parents went there”, sometimes even having the audacity to juggle the seasons of two teams as if they were their own. Supporting a sports team is like an irrational and unhealthy relationship in many ways, but even a relationship so senseless is predicated on a simple thing: You’re associated with one entity and one entity only. Wanna change that fact? Great! Transfer. Go to graduate school. Otherwise, it’s only acceptable to publically wear the emblem of the school you attended, everything else is a form of fraud.
You can’t have it both ways.
This may seem unduly harsh to those with longstanding family traditions, but keep in mind I don’t care. I went to a DIII school, and had little difficulty coming to terms with the fact that I will never have a football team to watch on Saturday for as long as I live. I won’t cry for you. If you were raised a fan of Ohio State, then proceeded to vastly overshoot that goal and land at Princeton I suppose that’s a damn shame for your family’s gameday tradition, but when you ride that fancy degree to a Cocaine-huffing internship on Wall Street you’ll eventually be able to pay somebody to weep for you. Problem solved.
Look, I don’t oppose rooting for your Alma Mater with tenacity nor do I think you should be barred from rooting for the school of your parents or the school of your zip code whenever they pop up on the TV. You’re allowed to watch college sports for amusement, I just have a problem when you mix the tenacity of an alum with the tenuous connections of a prospective student. There’s checking in on that school’s team every once in a while, then there’s taking each loss by that team as if your wife just miscarried a child. One is arbitrary while the other is acceptable only if you have some kind of stake in their success. If you did not attend, you have no stake, if you have no stake, you have zero trash talk privileges.
There’s only one time I’ll ever accept this strident level of howling and groaning from people who did not attend the schools for which they howl and groan. This is when a great deal of money is on the line. Call me a softie if you must, but whether it’s for March Madness or the BCS national championship, that kind of school spirit really speaks to me. Somehow, the likelihood of your kneecaps being busted by a bookie in West Covina is the kind of thing that brings out my sympathetic side.
As for my allegiances, yes, you can catch me at the occasional college game if somebody has spare tickets, but that’s because I love drinking and violence. I am an American. And I assure you that when I do put my ass down in the seat of a stadium belonging to a school I did not attend, I don’t act like my ass rightfully belongs there. I’ll also assume at least a third of the adults wearing gear and drinking flat Coors in the sun did not attend that school. This is what I’ve come to learn from the world.
So what should you do, then? For one thing, stop getting into verbal arguments defending the school you didn’t attend when they don’t even know who you are. Maybe, god forbid, root for the school you actually attended, though I know that’s hard when your best team is field hockey. And perhaps start taking credit for the accomplishments that you’ve made instead of tethering your identity to a set of colors and an animals. Just a thought.
But if you didn’t go to college, root for whoever the fuck you want, you need all the help you can get.