Fandom Week Column: College sports matter

UConn women's basketball pose with their 2016 NCAA Division championship trophy. (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

UConn women's basketball pose with their 2016 NCAA Division championship trophy. (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

This week, Daily Campus Sports is celebrating both the highs and the lows of invested fandom with a series of personal articles telling the stories of our sports memories. This is Fandom Week.

Sports have always been a key part of my identity. For better or for worse, they’re probably the first thing people associate with me, and they’re definitely the first thing I reference when I have to describe myself. Some of my best memories are sports memories, both as an athlete and as a fan.

I grew up watching rerun after rerun of “SportsCenter” in the morning. My dad would wake me up in the ninth inning of a close Yankees game when I had to go to bed earlier in the night. At a young age, I could recite batting averages and other stats of several Yankees players, earning the nickname “stat-man” from a family friend.

I have seen two Giants’ Super Bowl victories and am old enough to remember one Yankees’ World Series win. I’ve been a huge football and baseball fan, as well as a fair-weather Knicks and Rangers fan, for years, but I was never into college sports as much.

My immediate and extended family and many of my friends growing up in upstate New York were Syracuse fans, but I never really got into them. I made the three-hour drive to visit the Carrier Dome a few times and I had a bit of Syracuse apparel, but I certainly wasn’t a die-hard.

I could not stand that college football was on every single channel on fall Saturdays. I always loved March Madness, but didn’t really have a team to root for, so I would just root for the underdogs.

My fandom for the collegiate level was nowhere near the passion I held for professional sports teams.

That all changed when I decided to come to UConn.

All my life, the teams I rooted for were born into me. My dad and most of my extended family are fans of the same teams, which meant that I didn’t have much of a team choice if I wanted to fit in.

And I’m definitely not complaining about that. Gathering together with family and friends to root for one team is an incredible experience and makes for great family bonding. Like I said, some of my best memories are because of this shared fandom.

However, coming to UConn instantly gave me my own “team” to root for, something unique that I could call my own. While my parents have quickly become Husky fans themselves, there’s something special about the passion you feel for your school.

I quickly learned to “Bleed Blue” when I got here, and sports events have been some of the best times in my college career. There are not many sports that I haven’t attended in-person here, and my long-lasting attachment to UConn is something I would not have felt if I went to the other, smaller schools on my list.

Being a UConn alumnus is something I’ll be passionate about for the entirety of my adult life. Because I chose to attend this school, I added a whole new dimension to my sports fandom that never existed before.

Seeing the UConn women’s basketball team win the next 10 NCAA Championships is going to be just as sweet as the two I’ve seen in person. Talking about college football and basketball is much more enjoyable when you actually have a horse in the race (well, maybe a three-legged horse in the race for football).

In the future, when I look back on my college career and the choice I made, I don’t think I’ll have any regrets in picking the more expensive, out-of-state option in UConn. Having pride in your school is an amazing feeling and something that you can’t put a value on. And that doesn’t even account for the numerous opportunities that UConn athletics has provided me that I would not have gotten elsewhere.

UConn gave me another lifelong tie to sports, something that I’ll be passionate about even after I graduate. As the university says, “Students Today, Huskies Forever.”


Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at joshua.buser@uconn.edu.