I didn’t know until today that my college’s baseball team had been in the College World Series, and frankly, I was shocked. Not because I didn’t think they were good enough, but because I didn’t know the school — now known as Stony Brook University — even had a baseball team.
When I went there in the mid-1970s, I was aware the school had a basketball team (then called the Patriots) because they made it to the Division III Final Four and we carried the games on the campus radio station where I worked, WUSB. I don’t think we carried any of the other games during the season, but somehow a couple of the student broadcasters convinced the administration to let them go to Rock Island, Illinois, to call the action. I got the honor of running the board to keep the broadcast on the air from our studio in the student union, which is the only way I would have paid attention to the game at all (they lost in the semi-final).
In my time at Stony Brook, I was happy to be at a school where no coach was being paid more than the professors. It was a campus full of marijuana and mud (from the constant construction of new buildings, including the imposing medical center), with no fraternities or sororities, and an academic emphasis on math and science. Not exactly a school that high school jocks were looking to be recruited by. I went there to learn to be a computer systems analyst, but a 3-hour physics lab I was forced to take at 8am on Monday mornings (when most college students are still in the midst of REM sleep) soon convinced me to switch to media studies and I spent the majority of my time in the radio station.
Lots of people maintain a college connection for their entire lives, continuing to root for their schools’ teams long after they’ve graduated, even if they’ve moved to other parts of the country — there are Notre Dame fans in Florida, Michigan fans in Maine, Mizzou fans in Texas, etc. They refer to the teams in the first person, as in, “We’re going to kick Oklahoma’s ass this weekend!” Those alumni even give money to their alma maters, a concept which is completely foreign to me. I have many good memories of my Stony Brook experience, but the university stopped getting money from me the day I drove off the campus, and I haven’t paid attention to anything that’s happened there in the 34 years since.
So you can imagine my surprise when the university’s baseball team (now known as the Sea Wolves) made headlines, and then to find out it has also fielded championship teams in basketball and lacrosse in the last few years. All this from a school where the only athletic activity most of us cared about was throwing around a Frisbee and hitch-hiking to Tuey’s bar in East Setauket to see Foghat.
Any day now, I expect to hear they’ve finished the construction and cleaned up the mud.