Haverford is pretty damn awesome, as you all probably know. I’ve been told by many sources that Swarthmore sucks, and I was able to witness this suckiness first-hand during my four years at the ‘Ford. Basketball games between Swat and Haverford provide the perfect contrast between badness (them) and brilliance (us). One might even say they are like battles between good and evil, a theory enforced by the fact that their (former) coach somewhat resembled Darth Vader. But I digress. Haverford and Swat games are especially wonderful not because Swat sucks, which is undoubtedly true, but because they provide us Fords with an opportunity to show why we’re so special; community.
There’s all the pre-game hype. This starts with the planning of Swat Sucks shirts (usually takes place on the way home from a long road game, instead of doing homework). There’s the good luck wishes from the professors, from Leon in the DC, from students around campus, constant reminders that people are excited about the game. There’s the Facebook event, the GoBoards post, the Drinker organized pre-party (or halftime party, whenever you want to fill up). Then there’s getting ready for the game itself, which almost seems less important than getting everyone at the game. I confess to thinking more about the crowd than my opposing match-up in the hours leading up to the game.
There’s the game. Our student section, decked out in red, spilling over three sections of the bleachers, loud and proud. The baseball guys, standing up in the front and running near the court for the big plays. The roar after a basket. Any lull in action quickly filled with “Swat Sucks” chants. I always felt like our team played together against Swarthmore, unselfishly, because to give our school anything less would make us unworthy of such intense support.
In the Swat game last year, which ended up being my last home game, there’s one play that stands out. I caught a rebound, took one dribble, and launched an ill-advised cross-court pass to Adrian. If you don’t know Adrian (where have you been?) he was a four-year member of the team who didn’t play a lot, but always was there for his teammates and his friends, and was an exemplary Havercitizen. He caught my pass, running full speed, and in one motion, flipped the ball up and into the hoop. Noise, noise, noise. The crowd went nuts, and it wasn’t just for the basket; to me, it was in recognition of Adrian’s efforts over his entire time at school. An acknowledgment by the Haverford community that they understood and loved us for our contributions. Maybe it was just cheering, just appreciation of a pretty play. But for me, I have rarely felt more connected to my school than at that moment.
There’s the post-game. Thankful for my teammates, for the crowd, for the wonderful win that we just earned, I felt that incredible combination of pride, satisfaction, and physical exhaustion that every athlete knows well. Games like that are why people love playing sports.
My favorite post-game moment, though, came a couple weeks later. As I was walking down the path to the apartments, an acquaintance from my economics class called out from behind me. She caught up to me with the sole purpose of telling me she had been at the game and loved it. She had read my GoBoard post and decided to come to her first basketball game ever, even though she wasn’t expecting to enjoy it. She loved being a part of the crowd (and even noted that it was very un-Haverford-like) and watching us play. They say that Haverfordians are afraid of little “awkward” interactions like this on the apartment path, which only made this exchange more meaningful. I felt like my basketball game had added to her Haverford experience, in a small and unexpected way, and she had the generosity to let me know that I mattered.
So if you usually think sports are foolish, you should come to the game. If you don’t have a clue what a three-second violation is, or what it means when the refs aggressively pound on their hips (it’s a blocking foul, for the record), you should come to the game. If you’ve ever had any positive moment with a member of the team, you should come to the game. Basketball was the activity I took the most seriously during my time at Haverford (don’t tell my teachers) and it meant the world to me to have the whole school’s support. I felt it on that pass to Adrian in my last home game, and I’ll never forget that feeling.
Swat sucks, yes, but we are Haverford. We are rarely disrespectful or rude, nearly always considerate. We don’t normally belittle those who are weaker than us, yell lustily for the total domination of an opponent. We are logical enough to know that Swat is a pretty good school, and that their students are not so different than us in some ways. But forget logic for two hours, and embrace your Haverford community in a more primitive, boisterous manner than usual. Hearing your cheers, feeling your love, your players will know that there is no other school in the world they would rather be representing. Say it with me now.
Sam Permutt ’11