During the year and a half I’ve spent at Ithaca College so far, I’ve taken advantage of the fairly strong athletics program we have here by attending my fair share of sports events. Football, basketball, crew, soccer, diving: they’ve all been pretty fun to watch. But I have to admit I’m fairly excited about tonight’s men’s basketball NCAA Tournament game against MIT because it’s something I’ve never seen in person at a Bombers game before: a postseason game.
As much fun as I’ve had going to Bombers football games, like everyone else here, I couldn’t help but be disappointed the past two years when the Bombers couldn’t give us a couple more games after the regular season and the same was true for men’s basketball last March.
Mind you, I’m actually OK with the fact that IC’s a Division III school. As a sports studies minor, I’ve learned enough about the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of Division I athletics to appreciate not having to pay even more tuition than I already do just to have to worry about a larger school snatching up our best coaches every time Ithaca has a good team. There’s nothing wrong with a school choosing to do that if they can support a program like that but I think IC still has some pretty exciting athletes as is.
But even though I enjoy IC sports regardless of the division it’s in, you have to admit making the NCAA tournament is still pretty cool, even if it’s the Division III version. I think that for better and for worse, one of the main reasons people like myself root for sports teams is because it allows them to identify with their communities and take pride in them.
It’s fairly irrational because we the fans aren’t actually the ones competing on the field or in the arena but it’s still the case. When I was in my freshman year of high school in 2006 and the Buffalo Sabres came out of nowhere to come to within one game away from playing in the Stanley Cup Finals, it felt like validation, proof that much-maligned, freezing old Buffalo could actually make a difference in something, even if that something was just professional ice hockey.
Likewise, I feel irrationally proud of the men’s basketball team for making the Big Dance (or in this case, the Little Dance I guess). I’m no basketball player and I don’t really know any of the players very well personally. But they’re from my school, they’ve had a great season and they’re playing MIT tonight because they’ve been deemed worthy enough to play on their division’s biggest stage, at home no less. Besides, now we’ve got basketball bragging rights over Cornell.