Because I Said So

    The UCSD Tritons are one of the most exciting sports programs in the nation.

    I was not stoned, drunk or insane at the time of that statement, though some of you are ready to have me committed for such a seemingly false claim. But take a look at the UCSD athletics program and tell me how wrong I really am.

    It boasts 28 national championships, 35 national runners-up and 32 national third-place teams. Individual Triton athletes have captured an eye-popping 96 national championships. These numbers earned UCSD the 1998 Sears Director’s Cup, which is awarded annually to the best athletic program in the nation at each division.

    The Tritons can also boast 741 All-American selections.

    For those of you who scoff at this and point to the competition — a weak Division III league — just take a look at the numbers from UCSD’s first year in Division II.

    The Tritons captured one team national title and one team national runner-up. Seven teams made the playoffs while nine finished the season with winning records. Pretty impressive, considering UCSD was competing in the toughest Division II conference in the nation.

    Still not convinced that UCSD is an exciting athletic school?

    I’ll grant you that we are only a Division II school and as such do not have the most talented recruits in the nation, but I say that is precisely what makes this program so great.

    I’ve been around my share of blue-chip recruits and seen my share of Division I games. While there are feelings of mystique and excitement that abound from these games, I would argue that they are not the most exciting ones to watch.

    Most Division I players starred on their high school teams. They got all of the glory and were treated like gods. Many of them did not have to work as hard as the other players did to get where they are. They simply coasted through practices, and even games.

    A story came out this spring about how Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers guard, would purposely slack off during high school games to make them close so that he could be the hero in the end. These are the kind of players that populate Division I sports programs.

    Now take a look at the Division II athletes. They were still good, if not the stars of their teams. Maybe they did not get all of the glory and were not recruited as heavily by Division I schools. For the most part, they had to work harder than others to get to where they wanted to be. They were the best because they worked for it, not because they were born with freakish talent.

    These are the players who dive for the loose balls in basketball games, make the hustle plays in baseball, and outrun people for loose balls in soccer. These players play with an unparalleled passion for the game. For most of them, their athletic careers end with their college careers, and they know that. That is why they treat each and every college game like it is special.

    It is this passion that can plainly be seen on the playing field. That is what makes them so exciting to watch.

    An overused critique against UCSD athletics is that there is no football team here. Some say that we can never be considered an athletic school without a football program. That’s a bunch of crap.

    Just because we don’t have a football team doesn’t mean that the rest of our sports are horrible or uninteresting. We have one of the best women’s soccer programs in the nation, taking national titles in three of the past four years. Our men’s water polo team finished second in the nation last year while competing in an open league full of Division I schools.

    We have exciting sports teams. That is not the issue.

    The only thing this school needs is fan support. Without fan support, exciting games can seem dull to the few spectators that bothered to attend.

    Ask yourself this: When you went to the football games in high school — and even at other colleges — were they fun because the teams were so good or were they fun because of the crowd atmosphere?

    If you are honest with yourself, you’ll find that it was just being surrounded by thousands of fans rooting for a team that made the experience special. That is the feeling that you think that you are missing by not having a football team: the unity. I have news for you: You don’t need a football team to feel that unity. You can just as easily get it from a basketball game or a soccer match.

    That last one threw you for a loop, didn’t it? A soccer match can’t actually be fun, you tell yourself. If that is your mindset, then I invite you to go down to the next women’s soccer match with a bunch of your friends. Get into the game. Have fun with it. And the next time a UCSD soccer player scores, get your group of friends to go running down the sidelines with the players, screaming “”GOOOAAAL!”” while sliding on your knees and tearing off your shirt. I guarantee it will make the event more exciting.

    You might want to bring extra shirts to tear. Our women’s soccer team is really good. They even have the No. 1 rank in the nation to prove it.

    Even if that day’s action isn’t especially exciting — I promise those days will be uncommon with UCSD sports — you can relax as you watch the event from some of the finest facilities in the nation.

    Few basketball and volleyball complexes can rival RIMAC Arena. The soccer stadium at UCSD is second to none, along with some of the other facilities, like Canyonview Pool. While on the subject of choice sporting venues, I should mention that there are plans to build a $4 million addition to the baseball field that will make it one of the best in the country to watch a ballgame in.

    Still not convinced that being a fan at Triton sporting events will be a good time? Well, if you don’t want to do it to support your school, then at least do it to be greedy.

    This year at UCSD home sporting events, fans will have the opportunity to win prizes through volleyball serving contests, soccer skill contests and other fun activities. Fans will also have the chance to win valuable prizes, including round-trip airline tickets, a trip to Hawaii, a new car or even $20,000.

    With all of these reasons, how can you not be excited by the upcoming season of Triton athletics? I know I am.

    Trust me, if you go out and support our teams, you will have a good time. Why?

    Because I said so.

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