The Power Rankings

by IVAN ZLATAR | 11/22/09 11:00pm

With football ending its season, and its legitimate chance to end up in the top half of the Ivy League with a loss Princeton this weekend, Dartmouth's fall sports season has just about wrapped up. There were plenty of good moments the football team redeemed itself somewhat, although it failed to meet my three-win prediction. The field hockey team went to town on the record books. The men's soccer team brought the Greatest Show on Burnham Field into the national spotlight. The women's soccer team stared down most of the Ivy League, winning overtime thrillers and putting up big numbers. And the rugby team absolutely embarrassed the Ivy League, setting a new standard for how to win.

But it seems that, in the end, the fall season sort of just fizzled out. Despite football's improvement, 2-8 is not exactly a "good" or "winning" record. The field hockey team seemed to just lose energy toward the end of the season. What was a team poised to win an Ivy League title just didn't.

The same seemed to happen to the soccer team. Easily the most talented team in the Ancient Eight, men's soccer came into the fall with unbelievable, and very much deserved, hype. The team plowed through the first half of the Ivy schedule and then, nothing. A couple of just-plain-weird losses should've foreshadowed the team's end result. (I still have no idea what Hartwick is. Apparently it's a college. Who knew?) The team seemed to just lose its fire, eventually dropping to fourth in the Ivies. A surprise bid to the Big Dance was awesomely surprising, but it just ended in an OT heartbreaker. And that was it.

This story just kept replaying over and over this season. Women's soccer was also in contention for a title, and then a few tough, tough losses, and then nothing. Even worse, the rugby team, easily the most dominant team to pass through Dartmouth in decades, somehow lost to Syracuse in the NRU semis. That wouldn't happen once if they played 10 more times. And because of this one loss, the team's only loss all season, there will be no spring season for our ruggers. A team that is consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally, which had a great chance at a fourth seed in the national tournament, somehow now won't even be competing in it. It's almost more strange than heartbreaking.

Most tragic of all, though, was probably cross country. Nearing a finish that would bring him to nationals, Chris Zablocki met a muddy hill and fell literally fell out of contention for a spot at NCAAs. I mean, if there is one singular image that I can point to that defines Dartmouth's fall season, what is more appropriate than that? Poised on the brink of conference and even national glory, our teams just sort of slipped in the mud.

And so here we are, a school with several teams that were vying for championships, some for which it seemed to be a done deal, and we're left with nothing. How in the world did this happen?

This isn't at all, by the way, a criticism of the athletes. I want to stress that. I witnessed athletes work harder this season, and in preparation for this season, than I have in a long time.

I can't even simply blame the coaches, which is usually my go-to move. It just seemed that, this season, there was no spark. No fire. No chemistry. Just a fall season grind that ended unceremoniously with a jumble of freefalling teams.

So who's to blame? I can blame the fans, sure dedicated fans are crucial in bringing teams to the next level of energy and competition, and we are not dedicated. When I think of that, though, one image jumps into my head. It happened during the home football game against Cornell. One coach, or maybe administrator, kept trying to urge the fans to cheer for the team in the third quarter. He even became incredulous and almost accusatory, saying things like, "C'mon guys, you're the fans!" He couldn't believe that or understand why we weren't really cheering our team on during a third-down stand after we had committed what seemed like our eighth turnover of the day.

But that's just it. We had just turned the ball over again. We were poised for another loss. And that hurts any fan to watch, as much as it hurts a player.

Our athletes need us to cheer for them. We need to be given something to cheer about. This disconnect between team and fan has plagued our campus as long as I've been here, and I don't know how we can to end this stalemate. We have top-shelf athletes roaming our campus here. We have more than a few Olympians. We have great programs. And yet it seems that sports are just another part of life here, no more significant than 2As, pong, or movies at the Hop.

Who knows, maybe that's a good thing. We are, after all, an academic institution. But there could be so much more to sports here and it wouldn't take away from the other aspects. It would add so much to the dynamic.

I don't claim to have a solution. Well, actually, there is one.

Go to a game. Take some pride in our colors. Most importantly, support our friends. We pride ourselves on community. Let's bring it to the fields.