There are many ways to gain camaraderie with a specific group of people. You can join a club or find a church home or get involved with community service. Students have endless opportunities to be involved in their local culture, but I think that one of the strongest bonds young people can share with each other is through organized sports.
Many critics argue that college sports take up too much time, money and cause students to lose focus in their courses, but being a strong advocate of athletics myself, I think that attending sporting events and cheering for K-State is one of the best ways students can find unity amongst each other.
As a college student, I love football and basketball seasons at K-State and not just because it’s a good excuse to hang out with friends or tailgate all day. The sheer amount of people that come out to support one common goal during major athletic events is incredible and the energy and enthusiasm of everyone rooting for the same thing is truly amazing. Joining a club or a community event is great, but at some level, those organizations are relatively small. A handful of people hang out together all sharing a common interest, like karate, or advertising, or painting. But when you attend a football, basketball, or any other type of athletic event at K-State, thousands of people have abandoned any prior difference or prejudice to be together to support their university. No one cares who you are. People who previously may dislike someone because they’ve labeled them as a sorority girl, a frat boy, a hipster, a jock, a cowboy, or a prep are all in one place at one time wearing purple because they care about their team and they care about their school.
The way we interact as a group has psychological roots. I asked Megan Strain, graduate student in psychology and president of the Graduate Association of Psychology Students, what type of mentality is occurring when thousands of people root for their team together.
“The simple answer here is that in general, people are social creatures. For the most part, we like being with others and we like others who are similar to us,” said Strain. “If a group of people has a liking for a particular team, it becomes something they have in common, so aside from just having a fun activity to do together, it’s something that they agree on.”
For a game of football or two halves of basketball, our social fabric is intertwined with everyone else’s and although everyone is screaming and cheering like a group of wild banshees, being at sporting event may be one of the rare times when we are the most civil towards each other.
Pat Bosco, vice president of student life and dean of students, describes the effect of seeing K-Staters attending sporting events as chilling.
“I am in awe when I see how students react at games,” said Dr. Bosco. “It is what attracted me to K-State in the sixties. This business of wearing school colors everyday doesn’t happen anywhere else in the country. It’s tradition and it’s very unique and special.”
Being a part of something so inspiring to the leaders of this university is something that every student doing the Wabash and singing the fight song can be proud of.
“It is awesome hearing our students cheer,” said Kirk Schulz, president of K-State. “I have been on the field during a football game and seeing the students doing the ‘(Wabash) Cannonball’ is one of my most memorable experiences.”
People who complain about people putting too much emphasis on sports have clearly never witnessed the unifying force of athletics and team spirit. It is not just the president or the dean of students that appreciate the fandom, either.
“I personally feel a boost of confidence and the desire to go all out when I hear the crowd cheering my name and for our team because, as a whole, you never want to let them down,” said Daniel Thomas, Kansas State’s 2009-2010 star running back.
In the end, President Schulz sums it up best. “At a basketball or baseball game, it is not important what you are majoring in or whether you are a freshman or a senior- everyone is there together to support K-State.” The effects of our athletic purple pride run deep and the unity it brings to the school is strong. That in itself is definitely worth cheering for.