Because of the generosity of Ball State alums Jason Whitlock, Brady Hoke and the athletic department, Ball State was able to send 240 students to Wednesday’s game against conference rival Northern Illinois. I happened to be one of the lucky 240.
Need proof? I have some.
Since the game was on ESPN2, I made it a priority to get on TV, and I succeeded…kind of.
As we got off the bus in Dekalb, one of ESPN’s camera guys shot video footage and, for a few seconds, I was on national television, looking rather confused as to why there was a camera right outside our bus.
But this post is not about me being on TV.
For some time now, sports has diminished in importance to me. It’s not because I am not entertained watching them anymore. I watch every Chicago Bears and Blackhawks game, but watching the games doesn’t pack as much fun as it used to.
Sports has always been about the bond between teammates and the community of fans. For every Bears or Blackhawks game, my friends and I would hang out, watch the game and just have fun. Joking around and seeing your friends became the reason to watch the game.
I lost that sense of community once I went away to college. Most of my friends stayed home and most students here are either Colts or Blues fans, so watching games turned to lonely Sunday afternoons and nights in my bed watching the live stream on my laptop. My interest in sports waned as paying bills and homework took priority.
All that changed after Wednesday night.
Never in my years at Ball State have I felt more a part of a community than Wednesday. Even though the football team’s record is 9-2 this year, attendance and student support of sports at the school has been pretty underwhelming. Even with just 240 or so fellow fans in attendance, Wednesday didn’t feel underwhelming.
The energy at the game was unbelievable, especially given the almost six-hour drive in an uncomfortable bus to Dekalb from Muncie. There was natural excitement for the game, and it showed in the mere fact we spent four hours in about 20 degree weather to cheer for our team a good distance from home.
Even though we lost, I didn’t regret going at all. In fact, I was still happy after the game because I had shared the experience with great people and had a fun time too. As I’ve gotten older, that’s become more important to me than whether my team wins or not.
Modern science says you can fall in love multiple times a day and with people multiple times during a lifetime. I found that to be absolutely true this week.