Our Own Little Pirate Nation: An Ode to College Football

Posted by Brandon Alandt

I was a fresh face on my school’s campus in January, 2012. Upon transferring from another university across the state I was longing for a vintage college experience. I wondered where the fun and exciting part of college was. I wanted a home away from home. I wanted a family aside from my family. I pessimistically didn’t expect either of those, however. Enter East Carolina University.

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When my first fall semester rolled around 8 months later a lot of things were different for me. The weather was warmer and I knew a lot more people. I was fairly familiar with my school and the surrounding area.  I woke up regularly to the sound of the Marching Pirates rehearsing the fight song and that didn’t even irritate me. In general, I had already grown to like the town I had crash-landed in. What I didn’t understand at the time was that I didn’t completely comprehend the whole culture I was being assimilated into. Then a few weeks later I experienced my first college football game as a student, and a wave of clarity overtook me.

I didn’t know my peers who often slept through 8am classes would enthusiastically and emphatically drink beer in a parking lot at that same hour. I didn’t know there wasn’t a division between groups of people and organizations on these days. I didn’t even know I could have fun losing at cornhole. I didn’t know I could tolerate scorching hot weather for an entire day, either.

As a lifelong sports fanatic, I still didn’t understand the capacity for a game that’s played once a week to bring people together. I always looked forward to the experience, but I was stunned by how much better it was in person. It didn’t matter who you were; when you walk into the stadium wearing the appropriate colors, you become part of something where you aren’t alone.

You become a member of a family. A family of children, students, and alumni who are mostly strangers. You become part of a tradition. You scream your lungs out to the same chants and cheers week after week and it never gets old. On Saturdays we actually become our own little Pirate Nation.

Come Saturday I’ll be standing in my usual spot several rows up in the corner of the end zone in the student section. I’ll be at the stadium an hour early to watch the band perform and for all of the pregame festivities. I’ll have butterflies in the pit of my stomach due to the anticipation that causes me to be unable to stand still. I’ll be yelling and clapping until my throat and hands get sore, and then I’ll yell some more. I’ll be doing this every Saturday I get the privilege of seeing the team emerge out of an inflatable skull in the midst of a purple haze.

If anything, the whole experience gets more exciting as the years pass. I didn’t understand all of this at first, but I think I do now. The spirit and pride I feel for my school is something special and it’s something that I’ll take with me to my grave. I found my home and my family, and it’s all here at East Carolina University. Go Pirates.

 

Robot Dinosaurs and Action Figures

Posted by Brandon Alandt

Some of my cloudiest early memories were of me standing in front of my preschool and kindergarten classmates declaring that I wanted to be a Power Ranger. I was so obsessed with these fictional heroes that I did that on two separate occasions. I had onesie pajamas that resembled the red ranger that I wore even when I outgrew them. I remember my younger brother (always the green ranger) and I running around my parents’ house and backyard pulverizing each other. We called it a game and my mom hated it. I can’t recall anything from the show other than that I think they had to battle a giant robot dinosaur once, but for a while all I wanted to be was one of them.red ranger

One of the most horrifying days of my childhood was when a leg to one of my many Power Ranger action figures (All of them red, of course) snapped off. My mom glued it back together and I became less aggressive when crime-fighting; a little less self-destructive in a way. The plastic doll never returned to the perfect condition that it was in prior to that moment.


Moments after I arrived home from work on Friday night my roommate showed me a slow-motion video of Paul George’s leg exploding during a Team USA Exhibition with little forewarning. My stomach twisted like a pretzel and I felt a subtle pain in my shin. It was the worst sports injury I’ve seen since Kevin Ware during the NCAA Tournament in 2013. George will be sidelined the entire 2014-2015 season and will return after the start of the 2015-2016 season at the earliest. We may not see the superstar he recently blossomed into ever again. He also might not skip a beat. Leg injuries are unpredictable like that from what I’ve seen. I never took Anatomy 1000, so what do I know?

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After nearly a year of experiencing side-effects from a neck injury that occurred last season, David Wilson of the New York Giants was advised by multiple doctors to quit playing football. The 23 year-old’s career as a football player is over just before his third NFL season, and at no fault of his own.


In each of their respective cases, WIlson and George became plastic versions of themselves. For the foreseeable future their opponent isn’t on the opposite end of the court or field, but themselves. The thing about fragility is that the only way it can be tested is to see when an object finally breaks. Both of them are extraordinarily gifted athletes that simply fell victim to circumstance and realized how fragile they are.

Lebron James: Waking Up

Posted by Brandon Alandt

I was an eleven year-old boy when I was finally woken up from my dream of being a baseball star. I had visions of playing short stop for the Yankees. I wasn’t particularly fond of The Pinstripes although I lived in a rural town in New York until the day after I completed the third grade. I saw it as the pinnacle of baseball; I wanted to be Derek Jeter. For hours each day I would throw a ball up to the roof of my garage and wait for it to roll down, falling gently into my tiny glove. I would place myself in situations – often alone – like many kids do.

Bottom of the ninth. Down by three. Two outs. Bases loaded. Full count.

I would always triumph in those situations, but that was still as close as I would ever get to Yankee Stadium. Growing up often means giving up as time catches up with us.


Four years ago I watched ESPN and Lebron James air “The Decision”. A day later I watched Lebron and his two new best friends emerge from a cloud of smoke, sit high on their wooden stools as if they were thrones, and declare to a stadium full of screaming fans who were there to see them, that they were there to win “not two, not three … not seven [championships].” The fans that packed the arena loved it. Everyone else was left dumbfounded by the arrogance.

Lebron had his eyes set on a number of titles that would make him undoubtedly the greatest basketball player of all time. This was his dream. It seemed possible to a lot of people, too.

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Dreams are like that. For a moment anything can happen. Infinity becomes completely finite. Then your neighbor starts mowing their lawn at 7am and everything is exactly the same as you left it before you went to sleep. For Lebron and his crew, the San Antonio Spurs were their noisy neighbor, but in this case everything was different.

Lebron woke up four years later in his hometown. He had one hell of a dream. In his four year slumber he won two championships and played on the most feared team during that time. In all fairness, it was magnificent, but it wasn’t what he wanted. He nor his team were the indestructible machine they acted as. He woke up and decided it wasn’t worth rolling over and dozing off for any longer.

Even if Lebron and The Heat continued at the same pace without the NBA landscape changing, he still wouldn’t reach his absurd goal until age 40.

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I want to rip into a guy like Lebron so badly for “The Decision” and whatever you want to call the parade following it. Disregarding the way he’s handled his moves, they’ve made sense and he’s made them for reasons other than money.

Maybe he’ll win a handful of championships in Cleveland. Maybe he’ll be a Free Agent again in another year or two because of the way his contract is structured. The team has more talent now than it ever did in Lebron’s previous stint. They also have the NBA’s version of Jerry Jones in Dan Giblert as well as a head coach who lacks any NBA experience. All things considered, I don’t think he’ll see the same amount of success in Cleveland as he did in Miami, and it won’t be his fault.

Lebron is returning home a different man than he was four years ago. He grew up in Miami. He was humbled after getting lambasted in this year’s NBA finals. The move back to Cleveland looks a lot like he’s given up. When all is said and done he will still be remembered as one of the greatest, but he’ll have more company than he originally set out to have.

Lebron James chased his dream. He chased it until his legs got sore. He left his hometown in the process and pissed a lot of people off along the way. He’ll probably never make his absurd dream a reality, but dammit he tried, and after all isn’t that what dreams are about?