Allegheny should care about its football team

By Bryan Weisgal,  

Contributing Writer

Nov. 7, 2013

Growing up in a major city, it is hard on many levels to appreciate the complexity of football culture. From a distance; football culture associates basic foods, spare time, and a general lack of anything substantive in the surrounding areas. While this may sound harsh and elitist, travel to Chicago, New York, or San Francisco, and you will have to look long and hard for a high school football game,   on a Friday night, and more people in my neighborhood tailgated Shakespeare in the Park than any form of College Football game.

My move to Western Pennsylvania has given me the opportunity to culture myself, and understand to a greater degree what football culture in America really means. Let me say that I understand full well that our student body is not interested in football. I understand that Allegheny College does not fully ingratiate football culture. Allegheny College is not a part of any culture. In fact, Allegheny College strategically middles between many cultures. I am not an expert on Allegheny College’s strategic plan, but I did serve three years as a student-parking attendant for the football team.

I was lucky to watch cars pull into the lot at Robertson Complex 6 hours before game time. Co-workers got their Saturday mornings interrupted and backsides chewed out by parents who did not like the tailgate territories they were assigned. I watched a RV raise a College of Wooster flag that waved higher than any Allegheny academic building stands.  While all of this seems absurd on the surface; the crazies were validated. My parking colleagues and I would mosey into the stadium after our job was done, and sure enough Allegheny football games were the epicenter of life in Meadville. Professors, administrators, students, frat stars, valedictorians and everyone else congregated at our humble “stadium.”

No one knows who is watching the game, and certainly fewer care about the outcome of the game, but the place is filled. For a long time I found remedy in the fact that virtually no one, save for the “tailGators”, and a few cleat chasers, cared about the quality of our football team. It took a year of absolute embarrassment to realize that maybe I had it wrong all along.

This afternoon I got an e-mail from our athletic director asking me to stop tweeting at her mocking our football team. @bryanweisgal if you’re interested. Our football team lost their homecoming game 65-0, and the club remains winless on the year. Nonetheless, as bad as our football club is, I admit that the AD is right and I should not be behaving in such a way. The point should not be lost however.

One does not have to read Friday Night Lights to understand how large of a role football plays here in rural America. Across the region, we are supposed to take a lot of pride in our football. We do not schedule our homecoming festivities around a school play or a volleyball game. There is a reason why offices are divided up in the athletic department: football coaches one side and everyone else on the other. We do not need the Hardy Boys to tell us that the outcome of the football game is a bit more relevant to the school than the outcome of a track meet or a music recital, or maybe we are just numb too it all.

In absolutely every category imaginative, Allegheny College is pretty mediocre. We are the 80 something ranked liberal arts school in the country, per News & World report, have been for years, our acceptance rate is high, and our test-scores average.  Even College Prowler awards us more bad reviews than good ones. Our sports teams save for a couple of outliers are pretty average as well. I do not know how we stand in every regard, but walk the campus and you too, will have an outstanding feel of mediocrity. This is no one’s fault, and as disappointing as it is, I have no real solution.

Not to make myself the hero here, but maybe caring about the football team is a place to start. I am not losing sleep over the quality of our football team. I am tweeting at our Athletic Director to get a laugh from my housemates. So we learn that my intentions may not be as strong as desired.

The reality of the situation is that football matters out here. Football matters to incoming students, alumni, and people at other colleges, and it is not just the people with massive flags. The administrators, professors, students, and frat stars at other colleges are surely mocking our institution when they congregate on their Saturdays.

There might be more beatings taking place around us than just the weekly one that our beloved football players subscribe to.