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Institute Should Stimulate Attendance at Sports Events

Thomas R. Karlo

Column by Thomas R. Karlo
Contributing Editor

With hundreds of preppies visiting Cambridge for last weekend's Harvard-Yale football game, MIT student athletes must be wondering why their own matches are so sparsely attended. If you've been to an MIT football game lately, you know how it can be hard to tell which school is playing at home, considering the stands are usually filled with folks rooting for the visiting school.

But considering how few people from MIT attend the games, you probably aren't one of the faithful who visited Steinbrenner Stadium to watch the Engineers this fall. Like many other MIT teams, the football team can't seem to get much of an audience come game day. And that's a shame.

Why do MIT students not attend sporting events? It's not like our other events have big attendance problems. We've all seen full houses at a capella concerts, engineering competitions, LSC movies, and guest lectures. Obviously, finding the time to attend events is not the problem. We all enjoy going out on a nice day with our friends. Sports events are just as entertaining as any of the above; they're more relaxed, and there's obviously a lot more drama to what's going on.

Some would say that it's because MIT teams aren't good enough. That's a really lame thing to say. I'd be willing to bet that Columbia University's football team had more people in the stands during their incredible multi-year losing streak than we do at our homecoming game. I've attended a lot of games over the years; whether a team is having a winning or losing season seems to make little difference in how many fans show up.

When a friend invites you to listen to their concert, you don't worry about how technically perfect the performance is going to be. You go because you support them and all the weeks of practice and struggle that goes into every performance. If this were true of MIT teams, you'd see more than the 10 people who usually go out to watch regattas. Each race is the result of weeks of waking up before dawn, working until collapse, and doing it again the next day. Few people here put so much into an activity and ask for so little in return. No, MIT athletes probably aren't headed for professional athletic careers, and they might not be the best on the face the of the earth. But they come from the ranks of our community and have to do all the work the rest of us do while pursuing athletics. We should support them all the more for it; the fact that they choose to do this without any financial incentive only makes their efforts more compelling to watch.

Not all of the blame for low attendance should fall on the students, though. MIT could do more to make sporting events interesting and comfortable to attend. The fact that the announcer at MIT basketball games sometimes introduces the Rockwell Cage as "the coldest arena in the NCAA" should be a tip off that it's time to turn up the heat. A cold arena might be acceptable for the players as they run back and forth, but not many casual fans want to sit huddled for two hours watching their breath condense. Keeping scoreboard and public announcement systems maintained should also be kept in mind. It's a lot more exciting to watch a game when you know who's winning.

As we head into the winter sports season, keep in mind that MIT athletes are the folks you live and work with everyday. They're your friends and your classmates. Take some time to go to a game and cheer for our team. They'll play better, and you might just have a good time. If you don't go to at least a few games while you're here at MIT, it will be your loss.