The Big Game
'Twas a perfect night for football, a perfect night for a very first game. Almost storybook. We lost, but no one seemed to care because, in part, everyone expected it. It would have been too much to hope for that a college's very first junior varsity effort could be that successful.
Big deal--the score was only 15-7, and if Morningside hadn't scored on a fluke play early in the first quarter, we could have won. Shoot, we could have won with just three minutes left in the game. We were never out of it. That's how close it was.
There were just about 4000 fans in attendance. I don't believe anyone imagined that kind of crowd. But it was an epoch-making night, for better or for worse; and thousands of people were there to witness.
The coaches looked terrific, the team looked tough, and the night was a honey. Dordt College now plays football. For most of its existence, people would have laughed at anyone who tried to use the school and the game in the same sentence. But lots of the names that came over the p.a. system were from the traditional constituency of the school, kids who likely wouldn't have come to Dordt if it didn't have football, but who were more likely to come here than go somewhere else, because we do.
The most powerful argument for football has always been that our most loyal and faithful constituencies have it. A small college like Dordt needs to nurture its relationships with its most loyal constituents, and we'd not do that by continuing not to have football. The only other reason is sheer numbers--that we need warm bodies.
The greatest scare I felt last night was to see Morningside's hordes. They had more than 100 junior varsity ballplayers, at a college that's smaller in size than we are. The plain facts here are evident: when a college loses its vision, its particular sense of purpose, its constituency--when a college loses its reason for being here in the first place and its mission disappears, it dies. Like everything else on the Great Plains, it blows away.
And one of the earmarks of a dying institution is great numbers of athletes, kids who are at a college simply because they're paid to play football or volleyball or whatever sport. When Yankton College died, all that was left in the cafeteria was athletes, none of whom really cared a whit about that particular school.
Morningside's hordes made me fearful. If it had 100 junior varsity players, it likely has close to 100 more on varsity. Their enrollment can't be much over 1000 students. We don't ever, ever want to be Morningside.
Put it this way--we won't be Morningside, because if we are, we won't survive.
It was a great night, a beautiful night, and there were thousands there, thousands. Amazing.