I am approaching the end of the third season of Cornell hockey in which I have been to every ECAC regular season and playoff game the Big Red have played in. I have come to enjoy to some wonderful rinks such as Dartmouth's Thompson Arena, look forward to exciting match ups at Lynah East--nee, the Bright Center--with our rival Harvard, and absolutely come to dread several venues for the most unfortunate of reasons.
When Coach Mike Schafer rejoined the Big Red in the 1995-96 season, he introduced a mandate to make Lynah Rink a more family-friendly atmosphere. The students were the targets of this action, and perhaps rightfully so. It would seem unfathomable, however, to imagine any sort of disciplinary action warranted for the "Townies" of the Lynah Faithful. Sure, at times the students would like them to stand up a couple minutes earlier at the end of games, or make a little more noise, but on the whole, the Townies are loyal, well behaved, and very appreciated by the team and students.
If only that were true everywhere.
A certain amount of antagonism is tolerated, if not expected, from the students of schools we travel to, especially when the vocal Traveling Faithful invade. Where absent, it is usually a sign of pervasive apathy, such as at Brown and Dartmouth. Where else could I walk around for two days wearing a hat that says "Harvard Sucks, Brown Swallows" and never garner a second glance from anyone? To be honest, it makes games more entertaining for the Cornell fans when the opposing students do show some life, even if it is just Captain Jack speaking. But in my opinion there is no excuse for overly confrontational behavior when it comes from townies. The trend also seems to be that when the game is over, their belligerence persists unabated.
On my trip to the North Country this past weekend, my impressions were only enhanced. At the Clarkson game, a group of us were standing behind some seated locals. When Clarkson seemingly scored and they continued to celebrate long, long after the referee pronounced there was no goal, I told them to sit down because it had been waved off. Well, clearly in North Country Speak I insulted their mothers, because one of these "adults" spun around and proffered the universally loquacious "F--- you!" and several other colorful metaphors. On the previous night, I had a very heated exchange with two fervent St. Lawrence students. Despite the many personal insults being lobbed about, as soon as the game was over, one of them came over, patted me on the shoulder and offered a compliment. The game was over. We all understood it was in good fun and left it at that. Now, this concept was apparently beyond the scope of the fellow whose manhood I must have challenged in Potsdam. Late in the game, when Clarkson scored their second goal, he and everyone else in his row jumped up and swiveled around like stunt doubles from The Exorcist, merely to taunt us with more colorful metaphors, not to celebrate their team's goal; all this despite the fact that there was a small boy among them. That speaks volumes. Long after the game was over, he persisted in his complaints about me "yelling in his f---ing ear." He certainly didn't seem to be bothered by the mind-numbingly loud air horn they have in Cheel Arena.
This behavior is by no means unique to this trip. I've been yelled at, spit on, thrown at, shoved, insulted, and had my cowbell or cowbell beater abducted at Vermont, Yale, Colgate, and RPI to name a few. Road trips are so much fun. I think...
Consoled by the fact that I didn't live in the North Country, I took away one lesson from the trip: Be careful what you say in St. Lawrence County. Words must mean different things there.