Surprised. Shocked. Honored.
This three word sequence encapsulates my string of thought upon reading the Princeton Review’s 2009 College Rankings.
No, I am not talking about our academic standing, which is determined by US News. We’re still slightly outside of the top 50; not a shock. Instead I am referencing the rankings that matter.
Every year The Princeton Review releases a number of top ten lists, ranging from ‘highest quality of life’ to ‘where students study the least.’ The Terps took an active role in this year’s ranks. We placed fifth in ‘Colleges Where Students Pack the Stadiums,’ second in ‘Colleges Where Students Study Least’ and first in ‘Best Athletic Facilities.’
While I will readily admit that I study just as little as the guy not in the library cubby next to me, that is not what gives me my sense of Terrapin pride. The fact that Byrd Stadium on a Fall Saturday afternoon is the best place to be in the country is.
I am surprised and shocked by such a ranking because, despite our pitches to prospective students, we are not an elite athletic institution when it comes to the “important” sports.
Sure we may win a field hockey title here and a soccer championship there, but football and basketball are the staples of college athletics.
We have made three appearances to three mediocre bowls in the last three years, and our basketball team has not made it past the second round of the NCAA tournament in the last six years. We are just not that good; or at least not close to as good as we act.
Here comes the honored part. Despite our average on-field and on-court performance, we persist in filling Byrd Stadium and the Comcast Center every game of every season. We all act like idiots and dance around with that guy in the Turtle suit we call Testudo, and we all insist that Duke is a rival even when we lose to them by 41 points.
Why do we do this? Because we love sports.
Ralph Friedgen could lead our team to an 0-11 record this Fall and I guarantee you that before the last game against Florida State, Lot 9 would still be full of tailgaters singing that fight song that 95% of the freshmen don’t know a word of.
Maryland students don’t come to school to win championships. And if they do, they are severely misguided. They come for the sport culture and for the love of the game.
This may well be the corniest thing that I have ever written, but it undeniably valid. We are not that good at sports, yet we talk and act like we are the best. We stand until our legs go numb, chant until our lungs give out, toast to our wins and drown out our losses.
Pack the stands? You betcha.