A rhetorical analysis of a sports rally

Anna MitchellThis weekend I had the unique experience of being an upperclassman sitting in on the pep rally designed to get new students pumped. Beyond the exhilaration of being there for Andrew Schneeweis’ incredible $10,000 shot, one thing about the event was particularly striking to witness:

The rhetoric involved in a sports rally goes a lot more in-depth than merely getting people excited.

“Sports rhetoric?” you say, “Stop trying to over-analyze something meant to be all about spirit. You’re taking the fun out of fun.”

Sorry, I believe it is a disservice to one’s analytical abilities to write things off as “just fun” and not look at the deeper purpose they serve.

When a communications professor of mine recently explained why our class syllabus left room for discussing the subculture surrounding sports, he mentioned this quote: “Give the masses sports, and they’ll leave politics to the few.”

Let me say right here and now that I do not doubt the sincere pride that the Athletic Department takes in creating positive experiences for the campus community. I don’t believe that there is some deep hidden political scheme of every person who was involved in hosting this pep rally. It’s pretty likely that the aim of most was to create and foster school spirit, getting their fellow Rammies all pumped up.

But the opportunity to speak to a bunch of incoming students in a way that will make them excited to support just about anything is a tempting fruit.

If you give college kids free swag and blast loud music, they’ll get pumped about pretty much anything without thinking too hard about it. That’s the danger of a mob mentality.

It was hard to hear the term “Be Bold” dropped a dozen times without connecting it to the recent on-campus stadium debate process. Those two words carry so much weight in my mind, but are seem buoyant to wet-behind-the-ears new students that have no idea they repeatedly heard the catchphrase of advocates for the stadium’s construction.

Talk about a clever way to get a group of students exposed to supporting one end of a polarizing idea without even knowing they are being subjected to it.

The pep rally’s portrayal of the athletics at CSU consisted of little more than our football, volleyball, and basketball teams. That’s it.

I imagine new students will be surprised to learn that CSU is home to nationally placing champion baseball, lacrosse and rugby teams — all consistently delivering winning streaks and massive trophies.

All of these intramural sports are independently successful, because the school will not support them. What purpose does choosing to not sponsor these sports serve the athletics department?

It’s certainly not based on merit, as our football team’s track record shows. For the most part, the sports least supported by the university are the ones most meriting that support.

Perhaps, at least in part, it has to do with appearances. The athletic department’s paychecks rely on you being in the stands at the sports they want you to support. The lower the amount of games going on, the less student numbers are divided, and the easier it becomes to get high attendance. Or maybe the athletic department feels football, volleyball and basketball are the trifecta of sports that people are likely to support.

The more a university member gets paid for the image they create, the more they have to lose, and the bigger the lengths they are willing to go to prevent that from happening.

Everyone — I do mean everyone — at the university has an agenda. Some agendas are positive, some innocuous. But they are still what determine the nature of the interactions the university has with students.

I’m not trying to smear the university or the people within it. There are so many things about both that are an absolutely wonderful part of the green and gold community.

But it is so important for students to be weary that everyone is trying to sell you something. A product, an idea, something.

It’s up to you to be a savvy consumer.

Senior liberal arts student Anna Mitchell likes to think she could take the gold in team golf cart racing. Love notes and hate mail can be sent to letters@collegian.com