At first I was gonna title this note, "I'm so glad I went to Howard U" because the truth of the matter is that I am. There are moments where I wish that I had gone to a big(ger) school, not for the quality of education but for the quality of athletic programs. Growing up, I have always had a special place in my heart for sports. I love going to sporting events, love playing sports, love talking about sports, I love sports. Growing up in the Bay Area, I am very loyal to my Bay Area teams. I catch tons of hell for being a PROUD Oakland A's and Golden State Warriors fan. There is some confusion when I say that I am a San Francisco 49ers fan, but if you know me and/or you know the history of Bay Area football between 1982 and 1997, you understand why I am a 49ers fan. Good or bad, I love my home teams, ride or die.
I have been a member of the UC Berkeley "family" for almost 3 years and I can honestly tell you that outside of the budget BS that we're all going through and getting paid ONLY once a month, it's a great experience. It's truly amazing to me to see so many people who really love and embrace Berkeley. After all, Berkeley is the #1 public institution in the nation, so it's pretty easy to be proud of something so awesome (or at least appears awesome on the surface). So imagine my DISAPPOINTMENT when so many people who claim to love BERKELEY couldn't even come together to watch the Women's Basketball Team beat the University of Miami AT HOME, ON TV for the NIT championship. In a discussion I had with one of my co workers today about the situation. Rick made a good point talking about the planning of the NIT and I agree with that. Vince made the point that it's women's basketball and most people won't watch it anyway. Unfortunately there is also some truth to that as well.
Here's where my two points tie together. At Howard University, we are much more of an academic institution versus an athletic institution.(That could be a blog within itself) The truth of the matter is that our two biggest athletic attractions are not very good (another topic that could be a blog within itself), but people will still go to the games. I feel like I have never seen the Burr empty for a basketball game and there were times when we were not very good. There was a point in time when our team went like 3-56 over 2 years and the Burr was still packed. Our women's team at least during my time at Howard was better than our men's team but our student body supported both of them. I think the last time the football team finished above .500 might have been in 1998 but I know it was like in '96. But Greene stadium is crunk most if not all the time. We support our own. Good bad or indifferent. I know that as a swimmer I would have liked to have seen more of my friends, classmates and professors at my swim meets. But the truth of the matter is that if you don't know anything about swimming, it's a boring sport to watch. And even if you do know something about it, it can be pretty boring to watch. Much like a lot of the lesser known sports - volleyball, lacrosse, soccer, even track and field. But TRUST when I tell you, if my campus was playing host to a nationally televised, championship game, it would have been standing room only and all of the campus auxiliaries would have been there - the Band, the cheerleaders, the Ohh, La Las - er'ybody would have been there, and maybe some alumni folks tryin' to get in with them. Not because we would be so excited to be there (the chance to call home and say "Mama, Daddy - I'm finna be on TV",or even one of our teams being that good to be in a situation like that) but that is a HUGE accomplishment. That's huge for the University, it's huge for the team, it's huge for the fans. As a sports fan, there isn't much more satisfying then seeing YOUR team win a championship. As a fan, it makes you feel like you played a part in it. Part of that championship belongs to you, even though you didn't go to one practice, didn't play through an injury, didn't put in nearly as much emotion as someone actually on the team. Now if Howard and it's surrounding community would fill the Burr, you would think that Berkeley could/would do the same thing. But they didn't. And I was really disappointed in that. There were like 15 members of the band there. Really? Granted it was Easter weekend, but the students weren't on Spring Break. Granted it was on a weekend and most people who work there won't come back to campus on a NON work day (I completely understand that). BUT, for a student body that has almost 35,000 students in UNDERGRAD and an alumni base that is DEEP (according to the Alumni Association website - there are 500,000 members worldwide), ya'll can't take 2 hours out of your day and come down to Haas and support the Women's Basketball team! I know that the athletic department even made it enticing for faculty and staff to come to the games (ALL FACULTY AND STAFF TICKETS WERE $6!) and the first 200 students who showed their IDs would get in to the game for free and you guys couldn't come down and support the Women's Basketball team. Shame on you, Berkeley!
Now, I know that some people will say (and have said) "But Camille, it's the NIT. You know the Not Important Tournament or the Not Invited to the Tournament." Hell I have made some of those same statements. I went to 13 women's games this year and they went 12-1 while I was there and I think like 20-5 over all since I started going to the games. Granted, part of the reason I went to the games was to support my co workers, but the at the same, it's still a sport and I've already established that I love sports. Plus as the athletic housing coordinator, I wanna see what some of these kids look like who give me the blues or are just so sweet and awesome, I just had to see them in action. I saw a lot of growth in the team over the 13 games that I watched and the other games that I followed online. I really became a fan of Cal Women's Basketball. Lexi is vicious, but that's to be expected because Oakland only produces basketballers (and one Rickey Henderson - even though Lexi went to Tech, she still gets a pass from me). Danesha and Layshia are gonna be beasts (their game is awesome to be so young), Eliza is gonna be a defensive machine, Gennifer and Talia are double doubles waiting to happen, so much talent with the team. I can't tell it all. Plus Mooch has a pretty jumper. I think part of it is that I am envious of the women's basketball team because basketball wasn't something that I was good at and they make it look so easy. After this experience with the Women's team this year, I will think before I make anymore NIT jokes. The truth is, no team I ever played on can say they are national champions, so they're one up on me. No, the NIT is not the NCAA Tournament - but a 'ship is a 'ship. Just ask a team that doesn't have one...
But for the Berkeley Community to NOT embrace the monumental moment properly was so sad and so disappointing to me. I'm not saying that everyone should be at every single sporting event that's ever held on campus, because I know that there are some people who don't feel the same way that I do about sports and/or have no interest in sports what so ever. But look at how the Men's basketball team was celebrated after winning the Pac-10 Regular season title (it's first in 50 years) and how the Women's basketball team was celebrated after winning the WNIT Championship (first ever), the FIRST NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP ever played at Haas. In a land where they want equality and justice for all, it seems to me that it's all just talk out of the side of the neck. In a land, during a time where we know that separate is not equal, it's clear that athletics falls in line with everything else.
Now I don't want to make it sound like sports is the know all, be all. I know that we're in a recession and that people are losing jobs, homes and other things nationwide. But I think of sports as an opportunity to be a happy distraction for all the other sad things going on, break from reality.
I'm pretty sure there will be some mixed feelings on what I'm saying (or trying to say). In the end, my hope is that in the future, WE as members of the Berkeley community will do a better job of embracing and supporting our students, our student athletes and the staff members as they are pursuing something that they are passionate (and it doesn't have to be sports) about and are sharing their gifts with you. You may be surprised, seeing someone else's gifts or talents may inspire you to get in touch with your own, that you may want to share with someone. It may be the catalyst for world wide inspiration and change.