Sam Salkin: Stick with our Colonials

Last year’s amazing basketball season ended for me not in the Smith Center or on the couch in Guthridge Hall where I watched many a Colonials victory. Rather, three friends and I sat at the airport bar in San Jose, Costa Rica and saw the match-up we had always dreamed of – and feared.

From thousands of miles away in Greensboro, N.C., our beloved Colonials went face to face with the Duke University Blue Devils, the New York Yankees of college basketball. Despite being surrounded by ardent Duke fans, I donned my buff and blue and rooted as hard as I could in an airport bar in a foreign country. I’m sure most of you know how the story goes – GW couldn’t seem to put the ball in the basket against Duke and ended up losing 74 to 61.

Tomorrow night, a season without guys named Mike, Pops, Omar or J.R. on the floor begins, and some GW fans might be a little lost. Even so, we need to remain loyal in light of lost stars and other changes, and remind the rest of college basketball why GW hasn’t lost a game in the Smith Center since March 1, 2005. We need to keep rooting for our team, because, at a school that isn’t dominated by pigskin on Saturday afternoons, we need something to root for.

Now, as we face the reality of decreased team depth and lost old stars, it seems as if last year’s record season isn’t likely to repeat itself. The Colonial Army has also had to revamp its image in the face of a new ticketing policy that opens up seats to non-army members. Things will surely be different this year. What doesn’t have to change is the intensity and spirit we bring to the Smith Center and display on campus.

GW is known for being one of the toughest home courts in the country, not because the Smith Center is the nicest arena or because of its capacity. Instead, GW makes opponents sweat because the 5,000 seats are filled with fans who scream, cheer and chant the home team the whole way through 40-minutes of basketball. Despite the loss of several star players and new rules for our major spirit group, we need to help propel this Colonials team to the excellence we have come to expect.

Before you call me apocalyptic and tell me that I’m the one with little faith by assuming we will abandon the Colonials this year, just know that it is the whole University, along with students, who will need to support the basketball team. I completely understand the budget cuts that the University faces and that any major renovations to the Smith Center will require a big-time donation. Nevertheless, there are small things that can be done to keep adding fuel to the fire of Colonials nation.

Last week, GW played an exhibition game against a scrappy Division II team from Augusta State University in Georgia. Granted the game didn’t count for anything more than giving our band an opportunity to practice playing the fight song and for Coach Karl Hobbs to abandon his regular season suit for a turtleneck, but where was the crowd? More importantly, what was done to promote the game to the GW community? Aside from the ubiquitous banner outside the Smith Center proclaiming “Game Today,” how would your average student have known about the game?

Even though it was a pre-season bout, a simple e-mail could have been sent out on game day. In the future, we should receive similar e-mails to give us a heads up, letting us know when to flock to the Smith Center. Additionally, GW needs to do more to publicize its new ticket policy requiring a sticker on the front of a student GWorld to enter games. Better knowledge is essential to guaranteeing that the stands are full at the start of the season.

If we are going to stay the course, we need to be sure that everyone knows how to best support the Colonials well into the future. As GW tries to build a more dedicated base of alumni, it is important that we create a ravenous group of fans that will support the team years past current students’ time in Foggy Bottom.

Thinking back to that airport bar, where we sat surrounded by Duke fans cheering on their beloved J.J. Reddick and Sheldon Williams, while my friends and I pulled for Pops and J.R., I realized we would have never beaten Duke. We won’t have our logo worn across the country, and we won’t sell out the Smith Center game after game. However, there is no reason why we can’t continue to have the strong, supportive fan base enjoyed by the perennial Division I powerhouses. So stay loyal, GW, and let’s keep on pulling for our beloved Colonials.

-The writer, a junior majoring in geography, is a Hatchet columnist

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