Inside the Hash Marks: A Long Journey
Dartmouth long snapper Josh Greene ’23 reflects on Big Green football’s preparation and return to action after the long COVID-19 layoff.
In a new column for the fall, Dartmouth long snapper Josh Greene ’23 will be sharing his experience playing for the Big Green, covering topics such as the team’s preparation following COVID-19, the academic-sport-life balance required of an athlete at an Ivy League school and other musings on his experience in Hanover. This edition reflects on Greene’s experience returning to play last weekend for Dartmouth’s home opener at Memorial Field against Sacred Heart University. The Big Green won, 41-3.
In my inaugural column, I wrote about how great it was to finally play again, how the journey was so worth the wait and how all of our hard work over the last two years was justified. But in football, we have something called the “24-hour rule.” You get to celebrate a win or, in the unfortunate case of a loss, dwell upon the game’s failures for a day until you have to move on and focus on the next opponent. In our first game against Valparaiso University, we definitely did not play our best — but hey, I guess that comes with not playing for a while. We got back to campus, watched the film — both good and bad— and turned the page to the next week’s opponent, Sacred Heart.
Of course, preparing for our opponent is the top priority during the week. But this week, like the previous one, we got to do something we haven’t done in far too long: play a game at home. The last time the Big Green took to Memorial Field for a regular season football game, we left the stadium with a bitter taste in our mouths. On a stale, cold November day, the 2019 edition of the squad had a chance to clinch the Ivy League title against Cornell. In a hard-fought game, Cornell upset us at home. We were able to win the next week at Brown to secure a share of the title, but we all knew that winning it at home would have been great, too. At the time, we had no idea that we would not have a chance to avenge that home loss for a long time to come.
As a freshman who did not see any playing time, those home games during my freshman year were still amazing. Seeing the guys who I, along with my fellow ’23s, practice against every day take the field and take the fight to guys wearing a different color jersey was rewarding in and of itself. But the dream was, and always has been, to be one of the guys on the field hitting and running past the other teams. For a lot of my teammates who contributed to the team in more of a supportive role in 2019, last season was supposed to be our debut. But as I documented last week, we had to wait a while.
Anyways, practice was intense and passionate leading up to this season’s second game. We adjusted schemes to what our opponent would throw at us like usual, but there was a different buzz around the program than the week prior. In the locker room, we would talk about how excited we were to take to Memorial Field for the first time, how the ’24s and ’25s would experience being on the home sidelines for the first time — and even play if the game was going how we hoped it would — and how our friends and family would flock to the concrete and metal bleachers to cheer us on. The feeling is like no other — but in a way, the weekend had a twist, as well.
The relationships between athletes on different teams are quite close at Dartmouth. There are rivalries between teams, but I believe that the overwhelming majority of the student-athletes root for each other. With that being said, it is rare that the fall sports teams get to watch the other seasonal teams play because of overlapping schedules. This past weekend was an exception, though. Many of the teams were home, even the volleyball team, which usually plays two games every weekend — Friday and Saturday — played only one game at home this particular weekend. With our game on Friday, the football team was able to cheer them on in their game against Harvard University, and the volleyball team would be able to do the same the next day. I am friends with several of the volleyball student-athletes, and they were very excited to come to our game. While this may not seem like a shock, I was shocked to find out that our game against Sacred Heart would be the only game of ours that the ’23 volleyball players would be able to attend in their entire four years at Dartmouth. So, not only was this game the first home game that many of my teammates, including myself, would be playing at Memorial Field, but it would also be the one and only time that some of our peers would get the chance to yell and scream as we play the game that we all love so much.
While these circumstances did not change our mission or how we approached battling Sacred Heart, it represented another reason why the Dartmouth community is so special. Every student has their own hobbies and activities, along with their rigorous course load, to dominate their time — yet given a rare opportunity to support their peers, it’s almost a no-brainer. We always hear that college is the “best time of our lives,” but I think that that cliché often leaves much to be desired. Why is college so great? It’s great because we have opportunities to explore things that we love to do. At Dartmouth, it’s a joy to see that one of the things that students love to do most is to support their classmates, even if it is in their limited free time. Thank you to all of the people who came out to our first home game — you definitely contributed to our 41-3 domination of the Pioneers, and I expect to see you all again on Saturday for Homecoming against Yale University!