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Bartlett: College Sports Bring People Together

University athletic events forge loving connections between students, families, and friends

College sports unite friends and families as well as university students.  | Washington State Athletics

Editor's Note: SportsPac12 does not recommend the consumption of intoxicating substances as described in this column, though Nick seems to have survived his college days well enough.

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May 2, 2020

By Nicholas Bartlett, SportsPac12

ports are meant to be enjoyed with others. As a youngster, I thought competition was about winning, impressing girls, and gaining social status. But as I have continued to age, I’ve come to understand that sports forge a loving connection, whether it be among friends, family, or college buddies. 

There's nothing like drinking a six-pack or smoking a couple of joints with acquaintances, while yelling in harmony at the zebra-striped officials, gut-bellied offense coordinator, and second-string kicker. 

All sports are unifying. But there is something extra special about the college ranks. 

College sports breed a different level of passion. It can bring out the best, or the worst in people. To be honest, the only reason I chose to go to a Pac-12 school was so that I’d have a major program to root for. And while I’m grateful for my degree, the memories I cherish the most were those moments I spent manically screaming for my University’s athletic programs. 

As a kid, my favorite sports team was not the Los Angeles Lakers, the Utah Jazz, or the Seattle Seahawks. I was totally into cheering on the Washington men’s basketball team. 

Washington's Nate Robinson was a fan favorite. | Washington Athletics

The 2003-04 team was especially memorable. The Huskies began conference play 0-5, but finished the year on a run, knocking off No. 1 Stanford and receiving a bid for the NCAA Tournament. Something about the combination of Nate Robinson’s mystifying athleticism, Brandon Roy’s quirky smoothness, and Lorenzo Romar’s full-court press resonated with me. 

But it isn't just the action on the court that makes amateur sports so compelling. 

For whatever reason, it's easier for everyday people to relate to college athletes than to their salaried counterparts. Sure, some of these kids are pursuing professional dreams. But most are competing out of a pure love of the game, and with that, comes bountiful energy. Their faith, uplifting personalities, and youthful exuberance instills passion into games, bringing out epic performances from guys who could be working at Kinko’s six months later. 

No doubt, there are still mistakes, even at the highest level, because, well, it’s still amateur sports. The sometimes laughable moments take us back to our youths. I mean we never made stupid decisions in college...right?

Who didn’t enjoy the late-night cream-cheese covered hotdogs, tequila themed parties, and being thrown in the drunk tank? Ok… maybe you all made better choices than I did in college. 

Nick may or may not be somewhere in this crowd of partiers. |

For many of us, those college years helped determine our futures. Just as our high school years define our youth, the university experience creates this weird middle-ground between adolescence and adulthood, in which we are thrust onto our own and expected to figure it out. 

Regardless of economic status, ethnicity, and personal interests, the freshman dorm experience is usually met with bright-eyed anticipation and fearsome tears all in one. I’ll never forget my first day in Washington State's Goldsworthy Hall, just a bunch of dudes running around like rabid geese squawking that I shouldn’t hang out with Sam. 

By the way, Sam’s a good guy, and—in fact—one of my first great college memories is splitting a bottle of Sailor Jerry’s Rum with him, and going to the Women’s Volleyball game. Sports, and a mutual love for Madden, being the underlying connection. 

As confusing as the college experience can be, there's nothing perplexing about a family’s allegiance to a particular school. 

It's one of the purest connections between adults and their kin. Think back to Carlton and Uncle Phil—no, not Oregon's Uncle Phil—singing the Princeton Fight Song on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

Carlton and Uncle Phil in "Fresh Prince of Bel Air." |

Prominent five-star recruits sometimes choose to go to lesser athletic programs for no other reason than family tradition. This sense of connection can’t be explained by touring a campus; it's a direct result of a deep-rooted shared experience. 

For me, college wasn’t the life-changing occurrence I expected it to be. I was just myself, confused and lonely. And yet, for some reason, I still cheer for my school harder than any professional sports teams. 

The ultimate reason for our love of college sports may be that it serves as a reminder that youth, at least in our hearts, doesn't have to end. Having enthusiasm for college sports isn’t just for university kids, it’s a mindset. An outlook on life in which anything is possible, and every day is an opportunity for a toga-themed party. 

And while togas may not be permitted at the local bar, inebriated friendship, excessive fandom, and living in the moment is a part of every college sports experience.   

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