Basketball players, coaches, and student section at a basketball game

Batter My Heart, Hillsdale Chargers

Written by Aidan Cyrus

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but my little sports-loving heart is at its breaking point. I have not seen a sports game for nine months, which in sports years is about a decade, if my math is correct. My earliest memory of Hillsdale sports took place more than a year ago, between our beloved Chargers and the Michigan Tech Huskies. I remember the ball sailing through the uprights and students chanting, “Touchdown for the boys! Touchdown for the boys!” The packed student section was covered in blue smoke from handheld smoke bombs. Men from Simpson Residence occupied the first few rows of the student section and made “conversation” with the opposing team’s kicker.

I am not the only one who misses college sports. When the club soccer team held four intrasquad scrimmages this past fall, they averaged between 75-125 in attendance. And we were playing ourselves. One might have thought that the world was ending upon noticing a hundred students withstand the cold Central Michigan weather while watching a soccer game, a sport whose legitimacy my grandpa still does not recognize.
Group of students on intramural field

Pic from first scrimmage (credit: Anthony Lupi)

In high school, some of my favorite memories involved sports. I have fond memories of a rocking student section during basketball games, or chanting with strangers at my local D.C. United games back home.
fans at a D.C. United soccer game, cheering

(I am the one in the top left with the most wide open mouth.)

That is why when I was looking for colleges, I included schools that I thought would offer me opportunities to enjoy the community surrounding sports. When my admissions counselor told me about Hillsdale, I immediately dismissed it, thinking it couldn’t offer me that experience. So I went elsewhere, to a school in southern Virginia, a bigger school, and a place that claimed to offer the big “college-environment” with tailgates, loud atmosphere, the whole nine yards. And yet for the full year I went to that school, I could not find those memories I had yearned for. The lack of community surrounding sports stemmed from the lack of an identity within the school.

When I transferred to Hillsdale, I immediately found this community. Students jump around at football, volleyball, and basketball games. At basketball games we call ourselves Roundy’s Rowdies, in honor of our long-time head coach, and question the opposing team coach’s fashion sense. At football games we wear Otter’s Army shirts in honor of Coach Otterbein, while one student dressed as Rod Kimble from Hot Rod screams passages from the Western Heritage Reader.

The classroom is simply one component of the liberal arts education. In fact, much of Hillsdale’s education takes place outside of the classroom. Sports, for instance, offer lessons in friendship, both on and off the field. I look back on the basketball, football, and volleyball seasons, and I notice how much closer it brought me to people that I had never met before, simply through sharing a common goal: cheering on our beloved school. Hillsdale sports create this space for friendship because of the College’s clear identity. It is a small school in rural Michigan that teaches the liberal arts in hopes that it might indwell in its population the important truths of life. And it is cold. And it is far away from home, at least for me. And it loves its sports. And for all of these reasons, I love it.

G.K. Chesterton says, “Love is not blind, that is the last thing it is. Love is bound, and the more it is bound, the less it is blind.” I love Hillsdale for itself, the things it is, and the things it is not. If Hillsdale were larger, or in a big city, it would lose the distinct nature of its community. Chesterton also talks about loving, saying, “Somebody wrote a work called ‘The Loves of the Triangles’; I never read it, but I am sure that if triangles ever were loved, they were loved for being triangular.” I love Hillsdale College because it is Hillsdalean, and its varsity sports make up an important part of its “Hillsdaleanness.” The nature of Hillsdale College makes our sports that much more interesting, community-building, and a necessary part of the school’s culture.

While sports are perhaps trivial in the grand scheme of things, they provide the student, both on and off the field, with the opportunity for sharing memories with their friends while cheering on their fellow Hillsdale peers. So go watch our Chargers, cheer them on, and enjoy the community created by Hillsdale’s sports programs.

Go Chargers, beat Findlay!

Aidan CyrusAidan Cyrus , ’22 studies philosophy and classical education. A citizen of Vienna, Virginia, he spends most of his time writing for The Collegian, kicking the ole soccer ball around, and lamenting the loss of McDonald’s all-day breakfast. His band, the Sad dads., is the second-best indie sadcore dad-rock band in Hillsdale County.

Published in February 2021