Dawson story

Even with games being delayed, Gonzaga athletics fans have much to look forward to in the near future.

It is generally agreed that this year has been a wash, but does that mean sports and leisure have to cease?

Gonzaga has been joked about as being “the school that doesn’t exist until March Madness,” and that really speaks to the culture here. This school respects and loves athletics, hence the glorious sports center that crowns the campus.

COVID-19 has left the wide world of collegiate athletics out in the cold. The craving for community and sports entertainment runs through a lot of Zags, leaving many with a fear that their beloved pastime will fall victim to a socially distanced death.

Whether it’s intramurals, Division I basketball or just cheering from the sidelines, Zags heavily rely on sports.

“Sports give an outlet so [GU students] can take a break from their responsibilities and come together to enjoy something as a unit.” said junior and former Kennel Club Chair Graphic Design and Promotion, Cameron Weaver.

Not only do sports provide alleviation from daily stressors, but also form that sense of community that GU is so well known for. That community is strengthened by having a team and an identity.

But sports can do this wherever they happen, so why is GU a special case?

“Basketball is a staple of the school," junior Dylan Friday said.

But as a whole, GU loves to come together and participate. Seeing Zags not participating is almost unheard of, and the student body brings that fire to its teams.

With a student section that seats only 1,200 of around 5,300 undergraduates, getting a seat at a game is no small feat.

“If you want to be there you have to show that you want to be there," Weaver said. "It’s people’s main complaint, waiting for basketball, but it’s also the coolest thing that those who want to be there have to prove it.”

Yet despite the struggles, GU students prove it time and again with tenting, waiting for hours for tickets and going all-out in regalia.

This brings it back to the question of ending sports due to our current national situation. Thinking about cutting out a favored university pastime drives a fear that the school won’t be itself.

"Part of the identity is lost,” Weaver said.

There’s something magical about gathering friends and strangers courtside, filled with the anticipation for the tip-off, or the first kick of a soccer game. All onlookers wait with the same bated breath, anticipating either a glorious win or a bitter defeat.

It’s this singularity of mind and soul that COVID-19 has threatened. With one fell swoop this virus has taken nearly all true leisure away, leaving many begging for social interaction. It is this desire that makes sporting events a necessary piece of the GU culture, despite challenges.

For many freshmen, sports seem like a fond memory of a distant age. Campus has seemed sadder and less lively, but the reintroduction of a campus favorite would reinvigorate the student body and wake up this university.

“There feels like there’s a hole in my college experience, that I was really looking forward to participating in on a larger scale than high school," freshman Ryan Rizzuti said. 

Sports may not create friendships here, but they help build them up.

“I’ve built a lot of friendships, not really around sports, but that we can vibe off of sports and talk about it and enjoy it together," Friday said. "They’re a good way to enjoy the moment with your friends around you.”

Whether you’re a communications major with a Spanish minor, or an undecided business major, you can find a home in the student section at any game, match or event. Sports don’t care what your plans for the future are, if you turned in that assignment, or if you have straight A’s. Sports are an escape, the moment in which academics tune down and allow spirit to turn up.

No matter whether sports are virtual or live, the school spirit needs them.

As Weaver says, “I’ll be there to support.”

Dawson Neely is a staff writer. Follow him on Twitter: @DawsonNeely.

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