College is one of the few places we can set aside grade-school proverbs. “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” I’ve heard for years. But in college athletics–indeed, athletics in general–the team is used as a cover to separate one side from the other.Only in sports is it acceptable to dislike someone solely because their shirt says “Bethel” or “Huntington.” In life, the science of classifying based on exterior appearances spawns task forces and political correctness. In sports, it’s an opportunity to bond with people like yourself.
For two significant reasons, the faithful Maple Leaf fans have an opportunity to root for laundry that doesn’t come across often. First, the NAIA densely populates Michiana: between Goshen, Bethel and Grace lie half a century of competition and less than an hour of travel time. It’s not at all uncommon to “invade” the other school’s space: just yesterday, I crossed paths with a Bethel shirt in the Gingerich Center.
Second, because of the proximity (adjacent counties and what have you), each school is acutely aware of how the others fare. This academic year, Bethel and Grace each have more than 40 conference wins; Goshen isn’t halfway there.
Does that make the Leafs losers? Only if we apply that title ourselves. Regardless of the team on the floor, it’s up to the hundreds of people not playing to represent GC off the floor. I know not everyone on this campus gets along with everyone else, but that’s OK.
The players in the uniforms are one thing. But the uniforms themselves have cachet–they represent 55 years of athletic excellence, America’s second-oldest Mennonite college, half a dozen national-tournament teams and the Maple City at the post-secondary level.
Goshen has fans. I know we do, I am one. Why don’t I see them?