SENIOR SPORTS REPORTER
In an attempt to capture that unruly state-school student section they see on television, the vast majority of students attend the first two or three home football games their freshman year. But what they tend to find out is that the varsity competition in Newark doesn’t live up to their expectations.
Fans have their reasons: harsh university backlash against tailgating, consistent losing seasons from various teams, lack of excitement and rivalry. Whatever the case may be, unless you were recruited, sports was most likely not the reason you chose to attend Delaware.
Many wonder why we aren’t like the teams of the Southeastern Conference. Why don’t students know who plays for our teams? Why don’t students want to spend their weekends cheering for the Blue Hens?
In the post Flacco-era, this student body seems to have given up on sports entirely. It needed a hero again, someone to prove that it’s worth trekking down South College Avenue to the Big Bob. It was an unlikely luminary on an unlikely squad who gave us a glimpse of what seeing the Blue Hens on television was like. It was a luminary like Elena Delle Donne.
Although the women’s basketball team only advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in 2013, Delle Donne was the start of something different here on campus. Never before had students seen their social media conversations include the topic of Delaware sports. Never before had Main Street hotspots advertised for the games of their own team.
Elena Delle Donne put Delaware sports on the map. But did she help get your consideration, students? Unless friends or peers with an athlete, the majority of students could not name one varsity competitor besides Delle Donne; not even the women she played with on their Cinderella run (the likes of Lauren Carra and Kelsey Buchanan), or the Tina Martin, who guided the team there.
That all changed when the 2013-2014 men’s basketball team captured the hearts and the attention of nearly everyone who saw them. Captivated by moments like Devon Saddler’s capturing the all time scoring record, the men’s team appeared in the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 1999 season.
Also for the first time, thanks to the mayhem that is “March Madness” and the press that comes along with it, the Blue Hens were noticed not only by the local market but also by a national audience. There’s a good chance that the amount of Americans who can now located the state of Delaware on a map increased tenfold after March.
The fairytale story ended abruptly in Spokane, Wash. when they were swiftly defeated by the Michigan State Spartans. Perhaps they did not claim their ultimate goal, but they make a little town in a little state the proudest it’s been in awhile.
But what lies next? Most of the men who lead the Blue Hens to the national spotlight will all receive their diplomas at the end of the semester. Chances of appearing in the NCAA tournament again are slim heading into the 2014-2015 season. But is that the only reason attendance soared? Are Blue Hen fans just jealous of the limelight? Was the passion true or forced?
Walt Disney once said, “I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.” Life in Newark, as most students can attest to, is complicated. To predict the future turnout of any team is a daunting and quite doubtful task to guess.
The optimist in me wants to believe people like Elena Delle Donne and Devon Saddler brought a noticeable change of heart. They shaped opinions that had not been thought about in years and gave past, current and future Blue Hens a reason to be proud of their school.
The realist in me, however, knows old habits die hard. About to enter my fourth year at the university, I have met nearly every kind of student Delaware has to offer. I have gone through the ropes, I have felt the stress, I have heard the desires. Although the men’s basketball team did attract a large audience, the crowd wasn’t truly seen in the stands until reports notified the public of their impending chances of playoff victory.
Where do we stand now, Blue Hen fans? What will it take to retain your devotion? Are you proud? Are you not entertained?