It’s the most wonderful time of the year, at least for a CSUN athletics fan, as the Matador men’s basketball team tips off its season tonight against the mighty CSU Los Angeles Golden Eagles at the Matadome in the first exhibition match of the season.
Even though the Matadors competed in a tournament in Canada earlier this semester – they went 2-1 in the northerly tour – this is the real beginning.
The team will play one more exhibition game against CSU Dominguez Hills next week, but everyone’s waiting for Nov. 20 against USC. A win there will excite a marginal fan base that needs just that kind of excuse to grow, and grow big.
I’m entering my third year as a big-time CSUN men’s hoops fan, but I don’t consider myself even close to the biggest Matador supporter this school has produced.
Twenty minutes on an Internet message board or in the stands during halftime at a CSUN athletic event could show, to even the average student, the depth of pride some students and alumni have for the program.
Some students, when asked, don’t even know we have sports teams, but those who do, know how tall the players are and what high school they went to. It’s one or the other, and that’s kind of the problem.
For three years now, I’ve appealed to however many people read the grey pages of the Daily Sundial to come out and support CSUN athletics, especially marquee teams like the men’s basketball team. Has it worked? Not really, admittedly.
But can it work is a more intriguing question. Can CSUN students become genuinely excited about a school they commute 30 minutes to get to every day? Are geography and traffic that big of factors in deciding how much school pride one has?
Apparently yes. The CSUN men’s soccer team has consistently made a name for itself year after year, only to be rewarded with a scant community fan base and student fans who have little interest in taking time out in the middle of a weekday to attend a home game not more than five minutes away from the Quad.
It’s not like the San Fernando Valley is a soccer-hating market too distracted by pro sports to pay attention to the college game. And for those who say we don’t have fans and therefore new facilities because we don’t win enough, I say they’re insane.
I’d like to think that CSUN student athletes know what they do is important beyond just financial aid or personal experience-related reasons. Their representation of our school in intercollegiate athletics across the country is inspiring, and it shows just how deep the working-class mentality runs in our student body.
For this reason, I’d hope the men and women’s basketball teams get some attention this season, as I think they deserve it. Both coming off strong seasons.
I think the men’s basketball team, in particular, has something to prove. With some key player losses from a year ago, can the players unite for one last shot at the Big Dance before head coach Bobby Braswell finally gets an offer and ditches town?
In a conference now missing our friendly foes from Utah State, can we dominate the foreign-led Pacific Tigers?
Maybe those things aren’t important to the average student. Maybe for them it has more to do with making ends meet and graduating on time so they can get that raise at work that requires a bachelor’s degree. And that’s more than fine.
I just hope that the Blue Ribbon Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, now looking into how to make CSUN sports better, considers our unique fan base carefully and deliberately in the recommendations they’ll make to CSUN President Jolene Koester in December.
How in the heck are we going to market CSUN sports to people who seemingly just don’t care? Whatever the answer is, it starts with a winning team.
Our great student athletes and coaches are more than capable of that.
Until a grand strategy is cooked up that should, must, has to involve a new basketball and volleyball stadium at the expense of a cooked up Performing Arts Center, that’s all they can do. But they can’t make flyers and pass them out on campus. They can’t buy advertising space in the Sundial. They can’t lobby for a more rational multi-purpose facility that will serve both an artistic and athletic need in the San Fernando Valley.
In the meantime, all hardcore CSUN fans can do is stay on board something that we all hope will someday become a bandwagon.
Good luck, guys and gals.
Ryan Denham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.