I’ve been here at GW for almost four years now, and I have attended more men’s and women’s basketball games than I can count. Our crowds over the last three-plus seasons have helped the two basketball teams to a combined record of 81-12 in the Smith Center, and we have been given more positive memories than negative ones. Sunday’s women’s game, however, was the low point of the time I have spent in the Smith Center.
As I looked out at the crowd that was filing in, I saw all the fans dressed happily – not in buff and blue – but in their red and orange. My eyes did not deceive me. Our beloved student section was filled with hundreds of Virginia Tech Hokie fans. Was I in the “Twilight Zone”? Had I mysteriously been beamed to Blacksburg, Va.? No. I was at home, but it did not feel like it.
While I waited for the game to begin, the situation got worse. The Hokie fans kept coming, and there were almost no GW students filling up the stands. When the game started, it seemed that GW would have to get off to a good start to take the crowd out of the game – in their own home arena.
When the Colonial women scored, the fans from the main stands were cheering, as were about seven loyal GW students in the back right-hand corner of the student section. But the lion’s share of the “student” section was full of visiting fans, who traveled several hours to be at the game. Meanwhile, so few of our students, who are considerably closer to the action and can see the game for free, were unable to make it. Some may say people were just getting back from break, but that argument doesn’t hold up in light of the excellent student turnout at Saturday’s men’s game against La Salle. This was a blatant slap in the face to the women’s team by our student fans.
The turnout has more ramifications than simply damaging school spirit. The game Sunday was the biggest game of the year so far for the women. They faced an undefeated Virginia Tech team, and the game was nationally televised by ESPN2. Not only did the Colonial women get no support during the game, but there may be residual damage as well.
The commentators on ESPN2 remarked frequently that the contest “seemed like it was a road game for GW,” and this reflects poorly on our school. Anyone who watched that game saw a school that does not support its teams. Who watches those games? Not just casual fans, but potential recruits, potential students, journalists, future opponents, etc. We get precious few opportunities to be in the eyes of the nation, and we failed to take advantage this time. Our fan turnout was an embarrassment to the school, and on behalf of all the members of both teams and the loyal fans, I hope this never happens again. The women work as hard as the men, and they deserve as much support as the men.
So, I urge you to get out and support both teams for the rest of the
season. And if you want a chance to make up for last week, find a way to get to Blacksburg, Va. Feb. 21 and help lead the Colonial women to victory.
-Matt Osborne is a basketball commentator for WRGW radio.