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School spirit has changed in the past few decades, for better or for worse

What happened to the Panda Bowl? And no, I am not simply referring to the fact that up until this fall, the last one was played in 1997. I am talking about the spirit, the enthusiasm, and the pride for one’s school. The legend of the game is well documented: the ridiculous thefts, the hype, the parade, the celebrity of Pedro—all of which made the game and the week leading up to it an annual event.

Having spoken to many former students of both schools, their recollection of the game is of a great party where the two schools got a chance at a year’s worth of bragging rights. Of course, the Panda Bowl has also been known for its excessess and the 1987 tragedy at Lansdowne Park demonstrated how the game could get out of hand. The disappearance of the annual rivalry is certainly not responsible for the decline of school spirit here at the University of Ottawa, but there is no question that the game’s eventual disappearance created a noticeable void in the school’s spirit calendar.

On Oct. 5, the Ravens and the Gee-Gees renewed the 58-year-old tradition (in fact older, but Pedro has only been around for 58 years) and the game certainly did not disappoint as the Gee-Gees put in a winning effort. The score aside, there was something missing; there was a fervour that was absent, a lack of enthusiasm.

The tickets did not sell out until the week before (for a 4,000-seat stadium with 800 standing spaces and with both students’ populations totalling more than 60,000) and although Sports Services may have tried, there were no real signs that the garnet and grey campus was hot-to-go. At the game itself, many individuals left before the newly minted Pedro could be passed off to the victors.

I have been looking forward to this game since the Ravens announced they would once again have a team. For me, the game was one of the best ways  I could voice and experience my pride for the garnet and grey. I don’t expect that every student shares my passion, for the Gee-Gees or for football, but I do find it curious that school spirit seems to have become a thing of the past.

I could explain and argue why a student should be proud of their school but I would like to argue something else instead. Rather than imagining that school spirit must be expressed through a “ra-ra-ra” type mentality, perhaps students now choose to do it through different forms of support, or maybe they simply do not support at all.

In essence, this is a lament for the things of yesteryear. University life has changed, students have changed, and society has changed. This is something I have to come to terms with, that as a student who willingly identifies and promotes his campus, not only is my fervour not shared, neither is my passion. I will continue to share my pride and cheer on my team, but I will also try to keep in mind that today’s campus population may in fact want a different, more modern experience.

As the administration and the student federation move forward and continue to promote students’ involvement and create a sense of pride, I hope they will keep in mind that they may be fighting a fight that no longer exists—to rekindle a spirit that is no longer there.