Apparently, my alma mater has a baseball team, and that baseball team kind-of-sort-of won the College World Series.

As a marching band alumnus, I was invited to play in a rally to celebrate a victory I had absolutely no part in or knowledge of until I got an e-mail late Tuesday night.  I’m more than happy to come to this rally: I have school spirit.

I’m still not used to having school spirit.

When I was in high school, school spirit was a silly thing. Though our losing football team wasn’t much to speak of, we had a genuinely talented wrestling squad. Our school put on rallies to celebrate those accomplishments.

I still didn’t care. I wasn’t in the wrestling squad.

I went to exactly one rally during high school, and that was the first of my freshman year. Fellow freshmen, screaming at the top of their lungs, stood around me in the stadium. I sat throughout the entire rally, reading my a copy of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition Monster Manual. I thought to myself:

I could do this in the school library.

So I did, for every rally between autumn of my freshman year and graduation of my senior year. I grew to appreciate rallies. Not because I liked them, but because I liked the school library.

I was proud of one thing in high school: our band program. Our marching band was the division champion in 2003 — for the 60-members-and-under division — and the concert bands regularly did very well. When I got to college, I decided to stick around the music department.

Marching band there got me interested in our college football team — this team tends to be middling with thrilling shots of greatness — and a few seasons later, I was hooked. This wasn’t school spirit so much as loving the marching band for being incredible, and without using amplification.

I was also a fan of the band trip per diem.

I contracted school spirit only since I left the band, and, more recently, the school. My school spirit is derivative of nostalgia, and my nostalgia is integral to school spirit. It works mathematically. Nostalgia requires active interest; it takes effort toward some cause; most importantly, it requires spending some time away from that cause. School spirit works the same way.

My high school threw rallies and sort of expected us to be excited about something other than skipping class for a day. That’s the wrong way about it. How can we reasonably expect students to have school spirit without getting first getting them actively involved?

I’m off to play last chair second trombone at a rally, to celebrate the accomplishments of athletes I hadn’t heard much about until last Monday and hadn’t followed much since then. That’s alumni involvement, and all schools need that, too — active alumni have school spirit.

Schools need to foster school spirit, and most schools know it. High school administrations also realize that they must give their students something to have school spirit about.

Rallies don’t count. Schools forget this.


  1. Q

    Wow, a fellow AD&D/trombone player! Small World! Man, I’m a dork.

  2. dkzody

    I found it amazing that on one news report after another the respondents kept saying “us” and “we” when they had nothing to do with the championship, probably never attending even a home game. The national championship is nice for the boys. And although an alumnus, I can take no credit for the victory so see no point in taking part in the celebration.

  3. Mr. Quigley: Me too.

    Ms. Zody: I love the championship because now I have something to shove in the faces of all those USC alumni at my summer camp.

    Fresno State is a community of fairweather fans. That about wraps it up.

  4. Kathryn

    The “us” and “we” of team fans is an example of how communities form, preserve, transmit culture around and with stories. The “us” and “we” of the American Revolution is another familiar example.

    In this case the competition is a little story, a little battle, that others can feel a part of, if only briefly. In that sense, pep rallies can create school spirit, though obviously not for everyone.

    Interesting that you were absorbed in an alternative story…

  5. There are enough students bored by pep rallies, or who are excited for non-spirit reasons, that I believe that this is an important point.

    Making the school operate as a community might work at getting students excited and engaged, but that often-ballyhooed idea is easier said than done. We need to really encourage students to join in school activities before we can expect school spirit or community, especially because community is, to some extent, a trait of already existing school spirit.




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