The term “school spirit” is tossed around a lot at Deerfield. This expression is unsurprisingly overused because school spirit is something we care about and pride ourselves on as a community. It is one of the fundamental elements of our school that has flourished throughout our history.
School spirit can’t be faked. It requires a foundation of strong classes of kids dedicated to a sense of togetherness; it requires collective and relentless energy, and most importantly, it demands unity, both on and off the field, floor or wherever else we play.
This year, we have the chance to hit the reset button after a sub-par year of athletics. Sure, there were some bright spots last year, but I think it’s fair to say that 2012-13 wasn’t our strongest sports-wise, if only because we hold ourselves to a very high standard.
Athletic slumps come and go, but school spirit should not. It must prevail through thick and thin, supported by the generations that built and sustained it with an unshakable unity.
Whether we’re watching thirds basketball shoot for its first win of the season or (inevitably) the varsity lacrosse team secure its third victory in a row, there should always be a palpable energy in the stands.
Duke basketball is a top-flight example: in 2007 the Blue Devils didn’t live up to their preseason ranking of 2nd in the nation in men’s basketball and stumbled to a 21-11 record, suffering a first-round loss in the NCAA tournament. Despite their woes, the Duke fan section at Cameron Indoor Stadium, or the “Cameron Crazies,” as they are called, stayed faithful.
Every home game was sold out that year and the year after, despite a big underachievement on the team’s part by usual Duke standards. I would never dare call myself a Duke fan, but watching Duke come play Virginia in Charlottesville, I can say that their student section, even at away games, is unmatched.
I know Deerfield has this kind of potential, a potential we could fulfill if only we took the time to support each other consistently, regardless of the score.
Walking into the Choate basketball gym on the Saturday before winter exam week last year reminded me of the Cameron Indoor Stadium. Our rivals had a few hundred fans decked out in the Choatie standard—sunglasses despite being indoors, a soggy New York Knicks basketball jersey, baggy sweatpants and untied Timberlands—for a JV basketball game.[pullquote_right]“Athletic slumps come and go, but school spirit does not. It prevails through thick and thin, supported by the numerous generations that built it and sustained it with an unshakable unity.”[/pullquote_right]
These people-turned-animals were equipped with blow-up batons that combined for a relentless vuvuzela effect during the game. They weren’t there because they wanted their team to win; they came because Deerfield was their opponent, and they wanted us to go home feeling bad about ourselves and our school. While the batons were noisy, obnoxious and just unnecessary—all Choate norms—their student section pointed out an obvious flaw in our own.
Rarely do I see the kind of dedication from our own fans that I saw at Choate that night. Sure, we show up when we’re supposed to: 80’s Night in the Barn, the Avon football game, some varsity lacrosse games, and Sam Khalifa’s exhibition squash match are all testaments to our rowdiness.
But if school spirit is something that we want to pride ourselves on, we should reach this level of enthusiasm for any athletic contest. Of course games against Choate, Andover or Hotchkiss might attract more attendance than others, but we should be able to go unleash our pent-up energy from schoolwork and support our friends at every single game, no matter who the opponent is.
The class of 2014 has a chance to make it happen this year. We can sit back and pretend we support each other, or we can rise to the occasion—but we all have to do it together.
Every student section has its leader—Duke, for example, had “the speedo guy,” who danced in a blue speedo while opponents were shooting free-throws. But especially while the fate of Captain Deerfield is in flux, we have to remember that it takes a mob to make mayhem.
We need to show up and be loud not because that’s how it’s been for generations or because it’s cool, but because we support each other as a student body, and because we all know how good it feels to have someone behind us.
The term “school-spirit” seems a little hollow after hearing it so many times. Maybe we should figure out a name for our student section like “the dog house” or “peep-show” or something. Frankly, anything works, as long as we get up and go after it.