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These Seniors Have Earned Your Attendance

OTP Rucks ReactionIt’s become the emotional appeal of programs the nation over to talk about how the graduating senior class should be appreciated and thanked for their service and effort each year on Senior Day. Parents get flowers, student-athletes get jerseys, and everyone gets a nice round of applause before the game. It’s a feel good moment to be sure, but for this year’s graduating Ball State seniors, it’s something way more than feel good. It’s amazing. And it’s certainly worth your rear end in the seat on Friday afternoon.

For 13 men on Friday, it will be the last time they play a snap at Scheumann Stadium. It will be the last time the Pride of Mid America will play them off with the Alma Mater. It will be the last time they hear a chorus of chirps on third downs. For all, it won’t be their final game. There are still bowl invites to sort out, scouting reports to pore over once an opponent has been named, and swag bags to collect from sponsors. But for most, after that yet to be determined bowl, their career in pads is over. And what a long strange career at BSU it has been.

The best sports stories are ones about redemption, transition, and overcoming obstacles. I’d say our redshirt seniors have that in spades. Cardinals like Jamill Smith, Matthew Page, Connor Ryan, and Zane Fakes had a front-row seat to perhaps the most tumultuous five years that a program can endure. Recruited by Coach Hoke who leaves before they step foot on campus, coached by Coach Parrish who was fired midway through their freshman campaign, and now coached three years by Coach Lembo having gone to two Bowls all while having a 12-2 season followed up by a 2-10 season, and a new untested unproven head coach go 6-6 in his first season and only build from there. The stories those young men could tell.

For our 4-year Cardinals, like Keith Wenning, Jordan Hansel, Nathan Ollie, Jeffery Garrett, and Joel Cox they had the unenviable task of replacing legends at their positions. Shoes belonging to the likes of Nate Davis, Michael Switzer, Brandon Crawford, Drew Duffin, and Koreen Burch were all needing to be filled and filled they were. Even the walk ons and transfers like Joseph Fazio, Keith Lee, Kenneth Lee, and Jonathan Newsome all provided valuable contributions, some more visible than others, but exceptionally valuable all the same.

It speaks volumes to why myself and many other fans feel such a connection and kinship with this particular bunch of Cardinals. These are not student-athletes that I feel embarrassed to say represent my two degrees on the field each Saturday. These are not a group of student-athletes who forget the first qualifier in that hyphenated description. These are not a group of men that I worry will do something foolish to tarnish the name of our university, because they get that it’s a shared thing. That it is an “our” and not a “mine” or “yours” means everything.

Hard times creates hard character, and this group has that covered. Unlike the feelings I’ve gotten in interactions from student-athletes at football factories down south, these Cardinals understand that there’s more to it than what your typical automatic qualifier is concerned about. There’s a purity in it. There’s a fundamental goodness about not just biding time until your NFL dollars are ready to be spent. As archaic as it may be, most of these men play for the name on the front, the Cardinal on the helmet, and the other men in the locker room doing the same.

There’s an honor in that. It’s worthy of support. It’s something that should be celebrated, thanked, and cheered. And you have the opportunity to do just that on Friday at 1pm. I know the reasons why you aren’t easily able to are numerous. It’s a holiday weekend. You may be traveling. You may have family in town. There may be a Wii on sale somewhere that you feel the need to hipcheck an octogenarian for. I get it. I do. But I’d like to think that the entertainment that not just the seniors but the entire team has brought to us this season is worth spending a couple of hours on the road for. It’s worth all of us, myself included, sitting in the stands in a cold Scheumann Stadium with the rest of the thankful few who are lucky enough to call themselves Cards fans for an afternoon in tribute to those who have sacrificed time and body to make my Saturdays that much more enjoyable.

And I did say I’d be sitting in the stands. Thanks to this site, I am fortunate enough to attend games with media access in the pressbox or the sidelines. Not on Friday. You see, there’s a phrase called “working media” that means my ability to cheer for the Cards has to be tamped down. 70 yard bomb from Wenning to Snead? I can shake my head and grin but that’s it. Clapping? Forget it. Cheering? Can’t happen. And though sitting in the climate controlled media room at Scheumann Stadium may be better for my core temp, I just don’t think these seniors deserve it. This team deserves a clap or three and vocal support. And you just can’t do that in the pressbox.


3 Responses

  1. Well said. It’s a shame this final game has to be played when the students are on break. Had we won the NIU game, most likely this game would be played tonight in front of 10,000 screaming students and a pretty decent home crowd. Sadly, though I get your plea…I am guessing attendance will be around 5,000 tops. I can’t go on Friday; I could have been there had it been us and not NIU playing on ESPN tonight. That said, I am extremely proud of these guys. Having endured the indignity of the 21 game losing streak during my days as a student (’98-02) and the lean years thereafter, I am happy to see the Cards doing well again. I remember being pumped to watch the then powerhouse Cards of the early-mid 90s, only to see the bottom fall out when I arrived on campus. It’s good to be winning (Wenning) again….

    Matt H, Class of 2002

  2. 2002 was a great graduating class. That was the year I got my BS.

  3. Very nicely written!

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