Column: Football shouldn’t steal the spotlight

first_imgJulia Poe is a junior studying print and digital journalism. She is also the sports editor for the Daily Trojan. Her column, Poe’s Perspective, runs on Wednesdays. Daily Trojan File PhotoThe best game I’ve ever experienced as a sports reporter was an NCAA championship final.I’ve covered my fair share of games — college and professional football, MLS and U.S. national team soccer, Major League Baseball. I’m used to the glitz and glamor of high-stakes games chock full of talent, and the roaring crowds that come with them. Even the Phillies, in all of their 45-77 glory, scrapped together nearly 30,000 fans for each game that I covered as an intern this summer.But the greatest game I’ve ever covered took place last fall in front of a small crowd that barely topped out at a total of 6,000. It was the first weekend of last December and the USC women’s soccer team, despite low preseason rankings and several fumbling early season performances, was about to go all the way.I like to brag that I predicted the Trojans’ dark horse run to the NCAA final months in advance. When the team knocked off a powerhouse North Carolina program in a dominant September victory, I started to write that the team was showing the razzle dazzle necessary to make it to the NCAA playoffs. Several months later, when the team entered the Sweet Sixteen, I booked a hotel room for San Jose, where the College Cup would be hosted. To me, it wasn’t a risk. I knew the team would be playing in the finals.So when I ended up in the press box of the Avaya Stadium, trying my best to keep from cheering as Katie Johnson knocked in a goal to put the team up 2-1, it felt like the season was coming full circle. Yet as joyful as the moment was, it was tainted by the scene in the stands.Avaya Stadium isn’t massive by any means — it’s an MLS stadium, built much smaller than other arenas — but the stands on half of the stadium were hardly full. The scattered handful of Trojan marching band members present overwhelmed most of the cheers throughout the 90 minutes of the championship game. A little ways down the road, Levi’s Stadium was sold out for the Pac-12 football championship game on the same night. I’m willing to bet that more USC fans watched that game — a boring 41-10 beatdown of Colorado at the hands of Washington — than the women’s soccer national championship, despite the fact that the Trojans weren’t featured at all in the night’s football game.Weeks later, when the Trojans won the Rose Bowl, I could feel the Trojan spirit all the way from my couch in Kansas City where I was watching with my family. But on that night in San Jose, the half-empty stands made that classic USC cliche of the Trojan family hard to believe.I know you’ve all bought into this year’s hype. I know that Sam Darnold’s No. 14 jersey is already pretty much sold out at the student store, and that perhaps too many fans already have January flights to Atlanta bookmarked on their computers. And I get it. I can’t wait for football season either. I’ve made far too many bets and boasting comments to back down from my belief that the Trojans could, and should, go all the way this year. But I’m also entering this fall excited for the prospect of the wide variety of other trophies that the Trojans could wrap up this year.If there’s one thing that USC fans pride themselves on, it’s the intensity they bring to the stands. School spirit is crazy here, we always say, and Saturdays in the fall are holidays. But that’s often not the truth for teams that play every other day of the week.I’ve been to USC women’s soccer games with less than 100 fans in the stands. Same with men’s water polo NCAA finals, and even men’s basketball games. When most Trojan fans say they have school spirit, they really mean that they have football spirit.But this year, USC fans have reason to turn out for nearly every team. Men’s water polo, women’s soccer and football are all poised to vie for fall championship victories. There are squads throughout the seasons — from men’s basketball to lacrosse to track and field — that could be serious championship contenders.So yes, pack the stands of the Coliseum on Saturdays for games. But also be there on Fridays and Sundays when the women’s soccer team looks to defend its national championship title. Be there for the teams who won’t get the College Gameday treatment, who won’t make the cover of Sports Illustrated or dominate primetime discussions on Sportscenter.Football might be the highlight this fall, but that doesn’t mean other sports have to be relegated to a sideshow. There is plenty to be proud of when it comes to Trojan athletics. Don’t let the rising star of one championship-worthy team outshine the rest.last_img

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