This past week was "Homecoming Week" at my alma mater. Ahhhh, homecoming. A time of competitions, decorations, friends, fun and most of all, school pride. Now, homecoming at a college is a little different than high school- gone are the days of "Pajama Day," "backwards day," or my personal favorite, "Rock the 80's" day. Its too bad, because I could sport some huge bangs like an eighties hairband and black stirrup pants with the best of 'em. But, alas, college kids on any campus are too committed to sweatpants and hoodies to bother with altering their attire. Rather, they catch the spirit of the week by competing in things like skits, street painting, olympics, bonfires and pep rallies. At my alma mater, the main event is Yell Like Hell, a competition with lots of chanting, clapping, stomping and rhythm-with campus groups performing original routines- it's awesome in a very Stomp the Yard kind of way!
The week concludes with a football game on Saturday. So yesterday I threw on my favorite sweatshirt, grabbed a thermos of hot cocoa and went to mingle with lots of students and alumni to watch the team take the field. Ok, who am I kidding, I was slathered in sunscreen, squinting in the harsh sun and dripping with sweat- but that doesn't sound as picturesque does it? Since when is it 85 degrees in October anyway? Like most spectators, I knew my team faced a big challenge- our biggest rival who also happened to be ranked in the top 10 teams in the nation. But I cheered my heart out- I teamed with the pep band, the cheerleaders and seas of fans, parents and alumni wearing red and gold to cheer for my team. We opened scoring with an 80 yard run and the crowd went crazy. The crowd was so into it and at one point, one of the Storm football players jumped off the field, grabbed the huge college flag and ran up and down the side of the field, with that huge flag billowing behind him. Everyone in those stands could taste the victory and imagine the headlines after we, the underdogs, knocked off our rival on such an important day. The tension took us all of the way through the 4th quarter when the final horn sounded. But in the end, despite the crowd, the band, the excitement- we lost the game. It was so close, and we lost by just 1 touchdown. I just felt devastated- we could have won that game. The players and coaches deserved that win and the fans wanted it so badly.
But I did learn something about pride. Pride isn't something that comes and goes. It's something special when an entire stadium aches with disappointment after a tough loss. It means we all have a connection to this place- we cheer when we're up and we sigh when we're down- but in the end- we all love it. Any team can gather fans and paint their faces when national championships are on the line but the pride I saw in that stadium is something I wouldn't trade for anything. (But I'm not sayin' a national championship wouldn't be nice as well!)