I’m quickly approaching a point in my life that has always seemed so far away. In 5 months I’ll graduate from East Carolina University and begin writing the next chapter of my life. Vast changes will be made. New values will sprout and others will rot and eventually die. I rediscovered a song that applies perfectly to my life in these coming months. Being a Pirate, the metaphor is even more suitable.
“I’m sailing away. Set an open course for the virgin sea.
I’ve got to be free, free to face the life that’s ahead of me.
On board I’m the captain so climb aboard.
We’ll search for tomorrow on every shore,
And I’ll try. Oh Lord, I’ll try to carry on.
I look to the sea. Reflections in the waves spark my memory.
Some happy, some sad.
I think of childhood friends and the dreams we had.
We live happily forever, so the story goes,
But somehow we missed out on that pot of gold.
But we’ll try best that we can to carry on.”
-Styx; “Come Sail Away”
On Thursday I will attend my last football game in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium as an ECU student. With that comes an unfortunate surge of nostalgia. I wrote about my passion for ECU Football at the beginning of the season. If you haven’t read that yet, go do that now. I still have the same feelings as I did then. I do, however, have a little different perspective now.
The sun had just set. The game was over, but 8 minutes were left on the clock. The stadium was still at capacity. 50,000 fans chanted “We Want Seventy” moments before backup quarterback Kurt Benkert ran the ball in for the final score against Carolina.
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium erupted in such a way that in any other context it would have probably been a joke, but it was genuine.
Everybody hugged everybody and I almost shed a tear. The ball was spiked with such force that I was stunned that it didn’t stick into the earth. To me, that scene encompassed everything ECU embodies. There’s many memorable moments from my time as an ECU student, but that is one that will always stick out to me. I started to write a post for this blog immediately following that game but couldn’t find the words.
I said in early August that I wouldn’t be surprised if ECU went 3-1 to start the season. I’ve watched every game since I arrived as a transfer student and I knew the potential this team had. I knew a top-10 passing attack was in place along with a tenacious defense. The team still had everything to prove, though, and all of those things were displayed against the teams we weren’t supposed to beat. ECU Football was ferocious as the “underdog” in those games. At times they appeared unstoppable. They played like a pride of pissed-off lions. The fans cheered like everything mattered in those moments.
Being in the same half of the state as UNC, Duke, and even NCSU, ECU is often an afterthought beyond just athletics. The Pirates have played the role of the underdog forever, and pretty damn well I might add. What separates ECU from, say, NC State is that ECU has embraced its role in the landscape of college athletics in North Carolina. Everyone here has a chip on their shoulder all for different reasons.
Something happened this season that was horrifying while unfolding, but beautiful in retrospect. ECU Football became something that it was not, and in that solidified its identity.
After the UNC game ECU became the team others circled on their schedules. We would be the heavy favorites and get everyone’s best shots from then on. A bye-week followed the blowout against Carolina, and a seemingly different team emerged from the inflatable skull after that. There wasn’t the same intensity when we played SMU or Temple. We’re slowly regaining that mojo as we come crashing back down to reality.
The team was forced by media and fan hype to abandon their previous identity and I don’t think they were ready for that. We thrive as the underdogs. I don’t say “we” meaning the football team, but our school as one collective entity.
For a vast majority of the people who comprise it, ECU wasn’t their original “dream school.” There is a general negative perception about this University. Outsiders view us as barbaric party animals. They aren’t that far off. I mean, we did have a drunken riot that one time. What I have witnessed from this student body in the three years I have been here extends beyond that in a way that I can’t explain.
There’s a lesson to be learned from this season even if you didn’t watch a single down of football. We as students should go about everything we do with a chip on our shoulders. We should remain humble yet ferocious with every step we take, even if we have no idea where we’re going. We should not let this underdog mentality hinder us, but strengthen and motivate us.
Looking back on it all, football seasons have provided me with some of the best memories not just from college, but from my entire life. I’m going to miss seeing pirate flags flying in the student tailgate lot. I’m going to miss the road beers on walks up College Hill to the stadium. I’m going to miss belting out the lyrics to “Livin’ on a Prayer” after the music cuts off. I’m going to miss standing in Section 23 every game.
It’s strange how simple it is for me to relate something seemingly so trivial to the broadness of life, but it’s real. I can honestly say that I have deeply-rooted values that exist because of how easy it is for me to love my school. I reluctantly transferred here after all of my other options ran out and it quickly became apparent that it was going to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. It wasn’t my first choice, but it was the best choice. Every single day endorses that. Thank you, ECU. For everything.
Posted by Brandon Alandt