Sports | Sports Columns

ANDREWS: Merits of being a diehard Lions football fan

In an alternate universe, I spent Saturday’s football game against the University of Pennsylvania sitting on the home side of Franklin Field, wastefully hurling toast onto the field in the third quarter and rooting for Billy Ragone to shred the Columbia defense.

In the fall of 2009, when I was applying to college, I eventually narrowed my choices to one front-runner: Penn. In retrospect, I’m not sure why I was so convinced that I should go there. It struck me as a perfectly nice campus with nice dorms and nice people.

But I think the thing that really appealed to me was just the fact that it was in Philadelphia,only about 45 minutes from my house—far enough away that I wouldn’t be home every other weekend but close enough that I’d still be in my comfort zone.

Anyhow, the rest is history. A mostly unexpected light blue envelope arrived from New York about an hour before I heard from Philadelphia. The Penn admissions office made a decision for which I will forever thank them, putting me on their waitlist. Within two weeks I was at Days on Campus, confident that Columbia was one of the best places in the world and glad to have been forced outside the familiar.

At basically no point in this process did I give one bit of thought to the relative strengths of the two schools’ football teams. I quickly learned about the uniquely dismal history of the Columbia football team—a 44-game losing streak, no Ivy title in 50 years, and a propensity for losing games in spectacularly painful ways. And I got sucked into this team, regardless of the fact that, more often than not, being a Lions fan is an exercise in perpetual pain.

On returning to Philadelphia on Saturday, I thought about what it would be like to be a Penn fan. The stadium is littered with banners and pennants of Ivy titles gone by. The field itself was once the home of my Philadelphia Eagles, the site of their last world championship—just one year before Columbia’s. Can you tell that I’m a masochist? The Quakers even came out wearing alternate red uniforms. What kind of FCS team, let alone Ivy team, has alternate uniforms? (Let it be known that I fully endorse a new black and light blue kit for the Lions next year.)

Columbia put together their best game of the year, playing intense defense, balancing run and pass, and putting Sean Brackett in position to make completions. Yet even as the game started to slip away from Penn at the start of the fourth quarter, I didn’t get the sense that Penn’s fans were worried. Oh, there might have been some concern. But when you’ve beaten a school for 15 straight years, I guess you just have faith that your team will win it in the end.

And that’s why I wouldn’t want to be a Penn fan—why I’d much rather be a part of the insane group of people who believe in the Lions. There’s no fun in expecting to win. Rooting for Penn is like rooting for the Yankees—I gather that’s a thing around these parts. But I don’t see the appeal of rooting for a team that you’re convinced is going to destroy everyone. How can your expectations be met if your expectations are sky-high? Even rooting for the Phillies, absolutely dominant from 2008 to 2011, became a little less thrilling when everyone expected them to win. The letdown this year, when they were merely average, actually felt like the worst season I’ve ever seen—from a team that I watched go 65-97 in 2000.

If anything, Columbia is much more of a Philly team then Penn. That’s why I feel so at home here. That’s why, when the last incredible drive yesterday came up just five yards short—a remarkable play by Brackett and Hamilton Garner as time expired, ending with a bunch of red-shirted players jubilantly sprinting onto the field—it felt so familiar to me. It’s a painful kind of fandom, the kind that makes you wonder why you’d get up before 7 a.m. on a Saturday just to get your heart ripped violently out of your chest.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Columbia hasn’t won on Homecoming since the year 2000. That streak can’t last forever, and—if they can put together the kind of game they played this weekend—it might not last past this year. So I hope to see every person affiliated with this school up at Baker on Saturday. We’re on the slow, slow path to the promised land, and it’s going to be like no other experience in college football.

Peter Andrews is a junior in Columbia College majoring in history. He is an associate copy editor for Spectator. For Pete's Sake runs alternate Mondays.

sports@columbiaspectator.com

Comments

Plain text

  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Your username will not be displayed if checked
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Anonymous posted on

How many times must we read the cutesy "we're lovable losers" mantra from Spectator staff? We have a new coach, a great defense, and a bright future, so let's dispense with the self-hating woe-is-me attitude. This column should have been wait listed and not accepted for publication.

+1
+1
-1
Anonymous posted on

Look, it's a newspaper. That means sometimes people (including sports columnists) write about what happened already, not what might happen later. I was at the game this weekend as well, and this captures how I felt watching...it's part of being a sports fan, not just a Lions fan. Someday, the mix will be right, the stars will align, and you, me, and Peter will celebrate CU's Ivy title like Sox fans in '04. 'Til then, we watch, we wait, we exult, and sometimes we get hurt. But like it says in this column, we're on our way and getting closer.

+1
0
-1
Anonymous posted on

From your mouth... I guess to properly reply to you and Rose is that we have to turn the page on self flagellation. Coach Mangurian has been outspoken in promoting a positive outlook. There's nothing noble or adorable in losing. Sorry. We'll beat Penn next year and have them on the edge of a cliff. That's what I prefer.

+1
0
-1
Anonymous posted on

I'm sorry, did you read the column? This is one of the most optimistic things I've read about Columbia football. If you were there on Saturday like I was, you might find it a bit hard to focus on anything but the getting your heart ripped out of your chest part. Don't knock one of Columbia football's biggest fans.

+1
-1
-1
Anonymous posted on

brilliant article. i, for one, am extremely excited for homecoming. it's not about the outcome - it's about the game. this guy gets it.

+1
+2
-1
Anonymous posted on

What we showed at Penn is that we can win at Homecoming.

+1
+2
-1
Anonymous posted on

Brilliant. You are a gifted writer, Peter. Bravo!

+1
0
-1