You may have noticed recently that on a Saturday afternoon, when the Marist College football team has a home game, the McCann parking lot has been packed with students. In fact, USA Today ranked Marist College as one of the top ten best small schools with big tailgating traditions.
On the outside, Marist College tailgates have all the ingredients of a successful tailgate: hundreds of Marist students sporting their school colors in the parking lot, people cooking delicious food on the grill, and of course, endless rounds of Beer Pong. There is only one thing missing… school spirit toward our sports teams.
Let’s face it. Many students go to the tailgates on Saturdays for the social aspect, not because they are excited to watch the game that follows. In fact, some students have admitted that they have attended tailgates in the past without even knowing what team Marist is playing; and sometimes, without any intention of going to the game at all.
“Usually, the tailgates are packed but then the stands are empty,” stated Gabriella Gamba, a junior at Marist. “I think the tailgates are a good effort to get students to go to the games, but a lot of people only to go because they want to hangout with their friends.”
The tailgates are becoming increasingly more popular this year; however, it is apparent that the number of students who are attending the tailgates is not accurately reflecting the amount of students that go to the games.
“Although many students may stumble into the game at some point, their first priority is definitely the tailgate,” says Spencer Strange, a senior at Marist. “If I had to pick only one, I would attend the tailgate over the game because everyone in my grade usually just stays there. It’s a really fun social experience.”
While there are certainly Marist students who are dedicated to supporting the football team, it seems like the majority of students view the tailgates as solely an opportunity to socialize with their peers, and very little to do with the actual football game.
“My friends and I will usually ask each other ‘are you going to the tailgate this weekend?’ instead of ‘are you going to the game?’,” said Victoria Maschi, a senior at Marist. “I think because the tailgates have gotten so popular for upperclassman this year, people have gotten caught up in more of the social aspect of it, and less about actually supporting the team.”
Jade Unmann, another senior at Marist, said that both times that she attended the tailgates this year, she ended up staying there instead of going to the game. “I have been having so much fun at the past few tailgates that I didn’t want to leave,” admitted Unmann. “When the football game started, there were still so many students in the parking drinking and hanging out, so I just stayed there instead.”
While the football players do not attend the festivities in the parking lot because they are preparing for the game, they certainly notice how many people attend the tailgates and feel the positive energy that goes on during them; and while the team realizes the tailgates are more of a social gathering, they still encourage and hope for a big turn out at the games.
“The tailgates are supposed to be a social thing. We don’t expect people to be in the parking lot discussing how they think the game will go, that’s just not the type of school we attend,” said Daniel Rice, a senior on the Marist football team who plays Left Tackle on the offensive line. “None of the players care what your reasoning is for coming to the game, as long as there are people in the stands to get us excited.”
Amber McComb, a senior who has been working directly with the Marist football team for almost three years, said that she encourages students to go to the tailgates because she hopes that since students are so close to the field, they will choose to come support the team.
“I think people really underestimate how much having that fan support really helps the team perform better on the field,” says McComb. “The guys notice it when a lot of people come to the game, and they notice it when the majority of students leave at halftime, too.”
Brian Psota, a senior at Marist, recognizes that the school spirit at Marist is weak, and admits that he is guilty of usually attending the tailgates without going to the games afterwards.
“To Marist’s defense, it isn’t the biggest school and the athletics aren’t as emphasized as other big name schools, but the school spirit at Marist isn’t even close to what the athletes who are constantly working hard deserve,” says Psota.
Understandably, it appears that most Marist students prefer staying wherever the majority of their peers are; if the tailgates are popular, students will tend to choose to stay there over leaving and going to the game. However, if the student body, as a whole, shifted that high energy that is demonstrated at the tailgates and brought it to the games, we would have a much better sense of “school-spirit” that Marist is lacking.