The Ryerson Lessons: Athletics

Ryerson Lesson #1: Ryerson taught me I could care about athletics - without being an athletic person.  Growing up, I was not a sports person. My household was all women: we watched romantic comedies and Disney movies. We went on spontaneous shopping adventures. We curled each others hair. We did not do sports.

Sometimes, I would watch movies that featured crowds of people, cheering for their sports teams. And while most of the time, it was to watch Chad Michael Murray run off the football field to kiss Hilary Duff after she told him waiting for him was like waiting for rain in this drought: useless and disappointing. I thought the football crowd and culture of American sports was cool, but I never thought I'd be one of them.

I was also painfully, cringe worthy bad at sports, so I gave up caring about them. Canada playing hockey in the Olympics was my sport. Sports in a romantic comedy were sometimes okay. Other than that, I had zero interest in the sporting world.

Which is why, many years later, everyone is surprised that a) I spend most of my weekends at an athletics centre or on court sidelines, & b) I MC sports games. People laugh and giggle amongst themselves; they then pause, wondering in curious tones if the world is ending, because Hannah enjoying sports is surely the sign of the apocalypse.

To that I say: I don't really like sports, but I love love love the Rams.

I can count the number of games I went to in first year on one finger. It was a women's hockey game, which was a trek and a half to get to. At one point, we were so sick of waiting for the TTC, we began walking in negative temperatures.

But when I got to the game, I held my first pair of bam-bams, and I went a little nutso with the cheering. I was surprised by myself, to be honest. I didn't know what was happening, but by golly, was I excited about it!

(That last sentence is also a pretty accurate summary of my life.)

Then the Ryerson Rams men's basketball team made it to the OUA final four, and we packed five busses to go to Waterloo, and legend has it that our fans were so loud and rowdy, the Waterloo fans complained. We upset a team in the final four and made it to the basketball national championships, for the second time in program history. I think one of my biggest Ryerson regrets is not going on their fan bus to Halifax.

And this is when things started to get real exciting.

In my second year at Ryerson, we acquired access to Maple Leaf Gardens, which had been converted into a stunning home for our Rams. Suddenly, it became trendy to wear face paint at games, and it was cool to buy the blue and gold socks at the Ryerson bookstore. And if it wasn't trendy or cool (let's be honest, it wasn't), I didn't care, because going to games every weekend and cheering my face off was an incredible way to spend my time.

Mel and I would generally meet fifteen minutes before game time, dressed in a Ryerson t-shirt and our blue and gold socks. Sometimes, we'd don the face paint. Sometimes, we'd bring signs. Almost always, we'd have noise makers. And then we'd sit in the stands, reciting Ryerson cheers, jumping up for goals and baskets alike.

The best part was this: not understanding sports was no longer a reason for me to feel apathetic about school sports. I cultivated my own sense of school spirit and then began trying to convince everyone else that our Ryerson Rams were awesome, with an almost religious zeal.

And the number of bodies in the stands started growing. And our national rankings started growing. It was almost as though the entire university took note and said, "We're no longer content with good enough. We're ready to make some history. We're ready to support historic things."

I'll be honest: I still have no idea what is happening in sports. I get very confused in volleyball and have to awkwardly hold in my cheer until the ref points to which team gets the point, because otherwise I yell "WOO HOO GO RAMS!" at the wrong time. Basketball is very confusing because fouls? And travels and when it becomes a three point? It's just not the same as what I remember from when I played professional Grade 8 basketball. And hockey still confuses me, because off-side calls never happen when they're off to the side and icing calls never happen when ice comes up. I have to squint to see soccer players, so I never know what's happening there.

Despite that lack of knowledge, sometime truly magical happens when scads of fans crowd the stands of a hockey arena and jump to their feet when the men's hockey team scores their fifth goal that night. There's something incredibly cool about being in a community where we're all rooting for our women's basketball team to overtake the top team in the country. Fun things happen when everyone comes together to cheer (and maybe not really understand?) volleyball together. It's exciting to watch the crowd rise to their feet after dunks and alley oops.

We're all rooting for the same thing, and this year - more than ever - there is a community ready to rise with our Rams.

Awkwardly we cheer, but united we rise.