School spirit is a strange phenomenon. Generally speaking, it is most prominent at large state schools, where thousands of students who have never met gather to cheer on their respective teams. Face-paint, flags and school sweatshirts are out in force, as the undergraduates shout their support for players who are complete strangers to them. It is a chance for the entire community to come together and reaffirm their sense of self. For students at larger institutions, their school is often more than just a four-year education; it is a sense of identity. At colleges like Lafayette, however, the student attitude toward the school is oftentimes one of mild indifference.
The average Lafayette student doesn’t seem to be possessed of much Pard pride. Around campus people wear shirts from other colleges as often as their own, and at sporting events the gym is rarely more than half full. We are a close community; after two years of living here I have met more people than middle school and high school combined, and I count many of them amongst my friends.
The privilege of a small college is the chance to know the different types of people around you. The starting linebacker, the Fraternity brother and the head of the outdoors club can all know one another without violating social norms. This has always puzzled me; we are a tighter community than most, yet we rarely celebrate it. After Saturday, however, I’m starting to think I wasn’t looking in the right places.
Last Saturday, I went to my third Lafayette football game. It sounds like a surprisingly low number, but for most students games at Fischer stadium lose their appeal after freshman year. Still, I decided to give opening day another shot, expecting to watch with detached interest for a quarter or two then leave. What I got, to my surprise, was what I perceived the typical college football experience to be. The bleachers were more full than I had ever seen them, while all around me the fans stood up and cheered. As a student body we groaned at every fumble and roared our approval with every touchdown, and it felt fantastic. I had never felt more in touch with the community. It didn’t matter whether or not I knew the people next to me. We were all united in our identity as members of Lafayette College.
School spirit is a powerful thing. It is how we express our love for our time here, what moves the alumni to give back and what binds us together as a community. For a long time I thought Lafayette didn’t have it, but last Saturday’s game proved me wrong.