As the doors to the Metro car opened the noise was inescapable. The underground tunnels rumbled with the cheers of hundreds of GW basketball fans returning from Monday night’s victory over the University of Maryland. We even performed the fight song on the platform of Metro Center. As the trains unloaded the masses of Buff and Blue fans returning from the MCI Center at Foggy Bottom, all that remained behind were a handful of bewildered looking Metro riders, all with the same look on their face – Where did these kids come from? Since when did GW have fans at all, much less rowdy fans?
Having been caught up in the moment with the crowd, I paused upon seeing this because, for the first time, GW felt like a real campus. My realization Monday night was a realization of the startling contrast of how far GW has developed and has now arrived in a way that I never would have thought possible just three years ago.
Oh sure, in the grand scale of sport’s fandom it wasn’t rioting in the streets or burning down our own campus. But looking back, it’s hard to believe how much things have grown since I was a freshman. Back then basketball games were … sparsely attended, to put it somewhat generously. But things slowly started to change as the GW community has grown. One major catalyst has been an improving basketball team.
In my mind, the turning point came at the GW-Dayton game on Feb. 18, 2004. It was the first time I had ever seen the Smith Center truly packed to the rafters (The Hatchet write-up of the game confirms that the attendance of 5,033 was the largest since 2000). The game was tied with just a few seconds remaining and the atmosphere was the most electric I have ever experienced. When T.J. Thompson made the game-winning layup, the place absolutely exploded. I mean the place went absolutely, totally and completely nuts.
We even rushed the court. Imagine that, GW students rushed the court. And afterwards, still high from the elation of victory, we exited the Smith Center and started cheering in the streets. Eagar to carry our celebration to the next level, someone next to me screamed out “Let’s riot!” And without missing a beat the kid next to me turned and screamed, “I don’t know how!”
So even we still have a few things to learn (though I think the Red Sox celebrations last year gave us a few lessons). I like to think that game was a turning point for the GW community. My point, and I do have one, is that I think that a true GW campus community has started to form because of the emergence of common-shared events. If we ever want to truly be a campus and not just a random collection of buildings with GW flags on them, the key is going to be more events that are shared by the whole campus that build identity and collective experience.
Flash back to Monday night and our return to Foggy Bottom having vanquished Maryland. As we exited the turnstiles and neared the escalators we approached a most remarkable scene. Both ascending escalators were full of GW fans returning from the game and three fans up top were leading the escalators riders in a rousing chorus of “Let’s Go G-Dub! Let’s Go G-Dub!” But instead of clapping, people were pounding the sheet metal between the escalators, sending reverberations that could be heard both deep underground, far above and maybe even as far as College Park. And I thought to myself, “So this is what a real college looks like …”
-The writer, a senior majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist