From the Editor-in-Chief

Matt Eidson, Editor-in-Chief

I can still feel those chilly nights under the glaring field lights, towering over the stadium; the steam rising from the sweat-soaked hair of my teammates, their heavy breath hanging in the air before them, and my heartbeat skipping between the goal-line sprints and the third down conversions. 

I can still hear that crowd at my back: a crowd unlike any other, because they weren’t a faceless mob of people I’d never met, cheering on a team I wasn’t a part of. They were our friends, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, cousins and teachers. They were our hometown, crammed into a dingy stadium with high-rise seating on the home team’s side, lawn chairs and pick-up trucks packed with fans flanking the bleachers and screaming support at the top of their lungs. 

That’s what I think of when I think of football. As a boy growing up in small town Missouri, there were two groups in my high school: those who played, cheered and supported football, and everyone else. I played every season from 8th grade until I graduated in 2006, and though I was never a star athlete, those are some of my favorite memories from high school. 

Nowadays, I root for my favorite NFL team, but nothing can replace that intimate connection I had with the sport all those years ago. The players on TV aren’t my friends. I can’t look at them and remember classes we had together, or parties we enjoyed at another player’s house when their parents were out of town. 

I don’t know them, and more often than not, they play the sport because it’s financially rewarding to them, not because they love the game. The closest I come to feeling that old connection is when my college team – the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks – takes the field. 

I see these guys all the time. I share classes with them and wish them luck on the upcoming games. I bump into them in downtown Grand Forks. I hear stories about them from mutual friends. These guys aren’t just star athletes, they’re student peers. 

While we’re not childhood friends, I know them because I understand them, and I share something in common with them: school pride. For that reason, I want them to do well. When they win I congratulate them, and when they lose, I feel bad for them. I see the hard work they put into every season, and as fellow students at UND, I want to see them succeed.

The football team is an extension of the pride I feel in being a student at UND: a representation of the struggles, victories and defeats I experience every semester. They’re not just players on a team, they’re symbols for our university to take pride in. The football team represents you and me at every game, and if they win, we all celebrate.

That’s why I feel some semblance of that old connection to the team. They remind me that this game isn’t just some intangible entity that draws in millions of dollars a year. It’s an excuse to spend time with those I care about: like-minded people who love their school, support their team and know how to have a good time. It’s a chance to feel that old connection I experienced in my hometown.

It’s because I feel this connection that I support the football team. More than that, I love their spirit. I’ve literally seen these players on campus handing out tickets to their games. They’ve had to fight for most of the attention they’re receiving this year, and it’s paying off. 

When I say they’ve had to fight for attention, let me be clear: here at UND, we’re traditionally known as a hockey school. Hockey dominates everything on campus. So if you’re not taking the ice at the Ralph, chances are you don’t get much praise. 

To make their struggle even more daunting: when it comes to football, it’s hard to compete with the likes of North Dakota State University’s football team. I hate to say it, but when it comes to football in North Dakota, NDSU gets more attention than UND. While our guys are handing out tickets to their own games, NDSU players are enjoying the same collegiate star status UND hockey players relish. 

But you know what? I love a good underdog story. 

Nobody sits down to watch Rocky and roots for the Russian. They root for the Italian Stallion: the guy with the unbeatable spirit who takes a hit and comes back for more. They root for someone they can relate to. They root for Rocky because — though he’s not the biggest — he has heart, and sometimes that’s all you need.

Come game day, I look forward to being part of the crowd at the Alerus Center. Because we won’t be a faceless mob of people cheering on a team we don’t know; we’ll be the student peers, friends, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, cousins and professors of the guys on the field. Crammed into our favorite stadium and screaming support for our favorite team, we’ll share in the experience and feel the kind of connection only our little collegiate community can understand.

Good luck this season, Fighting Hawks. We’ll be rooting for you every step of the way.

Matt Eidson is the editor in chief for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]