My, how things have changed.
The article linked above and yesterday’s “Shooting Gallery” conversation got me thinking some about the past and the topic of the campout.
I was a student at NC State from 1989 through 1993.
From a basketball perspective, these certainly were not the “glory years” about which I had increasingly dreamed as my departure for college got closer and closer with each passing day of the decade. The Wolfpack’s performance on the court grew gradually worse during my years at State as the “you can’t win and run clean program” crowd welcomed the power provided them by a constituency who could have cared less about NC State. But, despite the gradual decline in the program, I had the pleasure experiencing the following first hand:
* I saw Jim Valvano railroaded out of town.
* I saw 12,400 yellow ribbons affixed to every Wolfpacker in Reynolds Coliseum in V’s last home game as State fell one game short of a perfect home record for the year with a loss to Wake Forest.
* I saw out of conference schedules that included neat, nationally televised games against teams like DePaul and Syracuse and UConn and others.
* I saw ACC vs Big East Challenge games in Greensboro.
* I saw highly-rated Duke visit Reynolds only to be turned away (like they so often were in those years) in a game that featured a young Bryant Feggins sending an Ala Abdelnaby baseline shot about 25 rows into the stands.
* I saw Chris Corchiani and Rodney Monroe threaten to transfer.
* I saw Avie Lester victimized beyond reproach by a screwed-up, directionaless University and Athletics Department.
* I sat between the baskets for every single NC State Basketball game of my freshman year.
* I sat directly behind Georgia Tech’s bench (almost 15 years ago to the day) when Rodney Monroe was unstoppable and went for almost 50 points.
* I saw a skinny kid from Huntington, NY named Tom Gugliotta go off in the Pepsi Challenge in Charlotte and never slow down.
* I saw Les Robinson use a little guy named Keith ‘Mister’ Jennings at East Tennessee State to beat Jim Valvano in an early season game and then take his job a few months later.
* I saw Migjen Bakali go off from the 3-point line in a home game against Maryland that you still wouldn’t believe. (28 points in the first half?0; I saw the same Bakali set an NCAA Tournament record for three-pointers at Cole Field House against Clarence Weatherspoon and Southern Miss; I saw the same Bakali do an awful lot of drinking whenever I didn’t see him on the court.
* I saw Les Robinson wear a lot of red sweaters and do a lot of clapping followed by shaking his two fists in the air.
* I saw some a lot of bad basketball in between Les’ nice wins over Carolina.
* ….and, I sat on the first row, behind the NC State bench, for the State-Carolina game as a freshman. That would be “Group One, Line One” for all of you home gamers out there.
As I look back on those years, I conclude that having seen all of these things isn’t nearly as important as remembering all of them with the happiness createed from the overall experiences and interactive fellowship that were a part of these events. A huge majority of those fond memories were derived from nights of camping for tickets — the people that you meet in the atmosphere, the natural anticipation that builds up for the event, and the fun things that you with people that you would otherwise not meet.
Like anything in life, these experiences obviously meant more than any average experience because we had to sacrifice time, effort, convenience, and other events just to earn the right to get tickets and attend the events. We had to camp out to attend. Therefore, we had to really want it.
Life wasn’t as easy as clicking a button and printing tickets from the warmth of University Towers; but, the camping experience wasn’t only about “sacrifice.” The experiences helped students refine valuable skills that are important in life – we had to manage our time efficiently, we had to be committed to and held responsible by a group of other people, we had to learn to prioritize things, we had to be innovative in the way that we scheduled our time, and we learned the value of the balance between commitment and pay-off.
I believe that campouts created significantly more intangible value on campus than the administration who decided to abolish the system must have realized. The “Pack Pride” that grows from a large group of students committing to a similar cause (no matter what the cause) is catalyst for student development and campus pride. Additionally, camping created a centralized area where students from all over campus had the opportunity to meet students that they would otherwise not have the opportunity to meet. How do you value a student body that knows each other significantly better and more intimately than not? How do you value the campus heartbeat created by a camping community? How do you value the life long contacts and relationships that grow from meeting others that you would not otherwise meet and with whom you fellowship?
When I was in school, there was nothing that created a stronger bond of lasting fellowship and goodwill that stuck with the members of the freshman class throughout their years on campus. Have you been to NC State recently? Do you have a clue what the dying social dynamic is like on campus? There is no centralized social hub as Hillsborough Street continues to struggle, and Western Boulevard, “Glenwood South” and Downtown Raleigh all add “social commuting” to a campus life that already resembles more of a commuting experience than a traditional college, residential experience.
Note how I have ignored the Greek System in my essay. Why shouldn’t I? The University sure as hell has.
The reality of the situation is that camping and attending games was a rite of passage at NC State. As a freshman, it was just what you did. It was part of your DNA. As a sophomore, you probably weren’t as committed to the process because you had growing responsibilities on campus. As an upper-classman, your ability to camp and attend games continued to dissipate into other responsibilities took precedent in your life and as the more committed freshmen back-filled your spot on campus.
That social system was fine. It worked for decades. It was merit-based and accepted by generations of students who realized that the equal opportunity to get something was the key tenant to the sytem. If someone else desired tickets with greater fervor than I and they were more willing to commit to earning the tickets, then they ultimately got good tickets. Due to their commitment in the quest of getting the tickets, they also were probably more committed to screaming and yelling and supporting the Wolfpack at the game.
It was neat. It was nice. It was healthy. It was a long-term tradition that bonded every student that came through campus for decades. Ah yes….bonding and tradition. Now that is something which is in abundance at NC State (sarcasm), isn’t it?