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"School Spirit"

At the University of Texas at Austin, students and members of the institution wear the ugly orange and white school colors with pride as they furiously fight for the best view possible at the UT Longhorn football games. Now, what do I do during the football games? Well, quite simply, I'm not there. You wouldn't ever catch me at a college football game unless there was a rare cosmological event which aligned several newly discovered moons with a British bloke's upper row of teeth. I'm part British so I can say that.

It's always a bit annoying to me to think about how a sport receives more resources at an institution than the academic departments do. Even more annoying, the rabid fans of that sport expect me to join in in their commercialized, corrupt fun by yelling and screaming at a bunch of disorganized, unskilled college students running up and down a field.

Don't get me wrong. I love football. But only if it's good football. That means all I do is watch professional football. I appreciate the technicalities and well-rehearsed plays executed on the field. I enjoy seeing athletes having to play within stringent rules instead of the lax ones college football players take for granted. Besides, my life is so separate from the beer-guzzling, football game-betting life that other students have that I never see those people unless they show up in my intro courses.

A little background: in Texas, there ain't as much importance placed on them thar learnin' books as thur is aun good ol' football, y'all. High schools pride themselves on how good their football teams are, not on how well their representative teams are doing in the academic decathlon. A large amount of funds go into supporting football, what with all its equipment and leasing expenses and, in higher institutions, recruiting players (heh). I suppose it's not a bad investment -- at Plano East Senior High School, season tickets kept selling out because everyone wanted to go see the black and gold kick lower-middle class ass. Hell, football makes a lot of money for a school.

Unfortunately, most of that money goes right back into paying for the football team, not into upgrading a school's computers or replacing old textbooks or getting new desks. Part of the tuition goes into athletic organizations, so even though I'm not getting a return on a commercialized college sport, I have to help pay for it.

So I'm not pleased with having to financially support something I would rather was supported by its own success and not by students' tuitions, nor am I happy about the emphasis on throwing the pigskin over hitting the Cliffs Notes.

But there's more. Not only does the university expect me to take part in college football, but so do the fans. Every weekend during the football season consists of the usual "You aren't going to the game?!" questions and the parking of dozens of cars outside our complex for people who have to walk all the way from our side of the campus to the stadium. The area becomes mortifyingly quiet for a few hours while all the rowdy people in the city are bottled up in a stadium thousands of loan applications helped to build. Now that's a good time to shop!

And when everyone returns back to their daily lives after the massive bacchanal, they look at me with disbelief as I inform them of my ignorance regarding our favorite orange and white steeds. Beyond their scope of comprehension is it that I find no enjoyment in watching sweaty men with chests painted orange (no, not the players) holler and scream into the TV or directly into my ear. They do not understand that I'd rather watch a UT tennis match on TV than see Baylor embarrass UT on live television. "Where's your school spirit, man?" they say, "where is it?"

Now that's a mighty good question. Where is my school spirit? I am not entitled to have school spirit. I think the campus is beautiful, and I would prefer not to leave this institution for another, and the faculty is amazing in its depth and caring and loyalty for students. But beyond that, all I do is go to class and talk to people on campus and go home to work on various projects. I'm not in any clubs at UT, although that UT Biblical Chapter looks promising (I'm kidding, I'm kidding...). I'm a contributor to UT basically through the checkbook.

And, you know, that's not all that much different from most other students, particularly UT Longhorn fans. What they do is skip their damn classes so they can get extra sleep for the party that night. They don't participate either, but come Saturday, they're the campus's greatest fans. They deck themselves out in bright orange and white sweaters and caps and socks and God knows what else. Frankly, these colors are scary. You could drag a random swinger out of the '70's and he'd be appalled by the decor. Atrocious. But anyway, I digress... These people have the nerve to claim the right to school spirit when they do nothing except hoot and yell while sitting on their asses (and occasionally standing up...to get a beer).

I'll tell you who deserves the right to claim school pride: the teachers, who contribute their lives to the educations of us college students; the administration, for keeping the university running while having to deal with registration nearly year-round; the teacher's assistants and hired help to keep the campus clean and running; and last of all, the actual athletes, who sacrifice their days to work out and practice so they can play their best and make their university proud. The rest of us are just schmucks.

Just like most Chicago Bulls and Dallas Cowboys fans are schmucks. These people claim to be fans of the said teams for life, when you know they only like them because they're winning ballclubs. Let's see how loyal people are next year when the whole cast and crew of the Bulls leave. A lot of former Dallas Cowboys fans like the Broncos now, I'm sure. Hey, I admit openly that I'm a schmuck. I love watching those two teams play. Why? Because they're exciting. Hell, Jordan's the best basketball player ever and Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders are a joy to watch. But I am not loyal to them. They just make TV worth watching on Sunday afternoons.

I remember last year when UT beat Nebraska or something. Oh, it was a blast for UT. Paper towels clogged up Guadalupe Street as people celebrated and everyone was happy. The tower was orange to celebrate the upset victory. The only reason I knew about it was because some people honked their horns at us while they drove past us...us being on a basketball court, oblivious to it all. We kept shooting baskets while the people in the car grew agitated with our ignoring them, so they finally shouted, "Where's yer school spirit?" I didn't feel insulted -- I was getting a good workout that evening.

Go claim something you've actually contributed to, like drug use, or cigarettes, or illegally-purchased alcohol. I'll claim what I contribute to as well: the Web, Anna, and my own future well-being.

The college football season is winding down and many UT fans have lost interest since the best UT can do is get into a lousy bowl game. What a shame. And we just paid for the newly-installed skyboxes at the stadium! I'm sure the ticket-sellers are concerned if anyone will buy those boxes next year.

The university wouldn't be worried about the future worth of its investment if it'd put money into more bandwidth for UT's lagged networks, or into rare Greek lexicons, or into giving the professors bonuses. The benefits for doing that are long-term and secure.

But I guess the intellectual and long-term aspects are too foreign to those who are used to the immediate benefits of physical competition.

The arts are slighted yet again. ;)

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