V is for victory

There is a long running joke at Portland State that goes something like this. Actually, for brevity, I will skip straight to the punch line: the sport teams at PSU. Or a raised eyebrow and a disbelieving smile which says “we have athletics at PSU?” and absolute shock when someone mentions that we do, in fact, have Viking cheerleaders (no, they do not wear horned helmets).

Students at Portland State are constantly reminded of the “differences” of PSU. The ways in which we form a far more diverse and complex body of students that does not demographically resemble other state schools. We are consistently told that our focus at PSU is on academics (!?) and in business relations with the surrounding city, a relationship in which we are inextricably linked.

We are told of our “real world” education and the importance of career, transportation, decent child care, partnerships and internships, and somewhere along the way we forgot the pure, unadulterated bliss of screaming for your school team until you are hoarse and bemused, as much as your friends are embarrassed.

Despite my often acrimonious comments about the financial favors that the school doles out to athletic programs and the status that athletes maintain in their negotiations with financial aid (read: they are first in line, without ever standing in the line), my critiques were eroded when confronted with the smiles, tans and muscle on display at Viking Day (Tuesday, May 22). This subculture of physical education was finally in the light, out of the gym and off the fields and gathered on a beautiful day outside the Smith Memorial Center.

At the risk of sounding awe-struck, I was completely na퀌�ve to the accomplishments and awards that PSU teams and individual athletes had achieved this year and in years past. Thankfully, cardboard posters hung throughout the park briefly informing me of hard work, sweat and dedication. Each poster was decorated with comic-like bubbles filled with the impressive statistics and odes to the stamina of PSU athletes.

And then it hit me, if anything, the athletes of PSU are performing, working (and educating themselves) without the one thing so many other athletes take for granted – an audience. PSU athletes perform because of the financial help, sure, but their dedication must also be inspired by a sheer love of the game because the glory that is normally afforded to winning athletes is markedly absent at PSU. In so many ways we are a school of perpetual underdogs, and I love cheering for an underdog.

So, I won’t necessarily be painting my less-than hulking chest in Viking colors or slamming cheap beer before the big game (though, I will not specifically exclude the chest painting after a million hours of working out), but I will be looking forward to attending some event with friends in tow and reveling in a Viking spirit which I have never felt, until now.