Old School: WHAT IS OLD SCHOOL?

I’m going to come right out and say it. I’m a fan of Old School. Yes, the movie is amazing, but that’s not the Old School that I’m talking about. No, I’m talking about the Old School of ESPN Classic, of booty-shorts and black and white.

Don’t get me wrong; I love watching the athletes of today. Who can forget Michael Vick flipping over a James Madison defender to get into the end zone? Or Tiger Woods noting, “I didn’t have my A game today” after blowing away the field. Or the signature stand-and-admire-my-bomb poses of Barry and Griffey?

No, I love watching sports. But what I appreciate the most are the guys who remember that it’s a simple game, and only important as such.

Guys like John Stockton are the guys I love. White shoes, short shorts and the greatest point guard the NBA has seen. You’ll never get him confused with Allen Iverson or Kobe Bryant, because Stockton only knows how to play the game one way. His only bit of flash was the occasional behind the back dribble, and that occurred only when it was absolutely necessary.

And still, Stockton still went to two NBA finals, and would have won at least one title had the refs and the rest of the NBA been living by Old School Rules. (Yes, I’m talking about the blatant offensive foul committed by Michael Jordan in Game Six of the 1998 NBA Finals).

Or how about Emmitt Smith? As life-long Redskins fans, my family may disown me for saying this, but I’ve always had a ton of respect for the guy who, from his first touchdown to his last, either just dropped the ball and headed towards the sidelines or tossed it to the ref. Walter Payton was just like him. Maybe it says something that the top two on the NFL’s all time rushing list were Old School guys, who got the job done and then wanted more.

In baseball, one man is Old School head and shoulders above the rest: Cal Ripken Jr. I was reminded of this on my drive up to school. Along a stretch of I-95 north of Baltimore is a gleaming, new stadium. The sign to exit into the town of Aberdeen, Md, reads “Ripken Stadium,” and is now the home of Babe Ruth Baseball. Giving back is what Old Schoolers do, but that’s not the defining feature. It is Ripken’s two Hall of Fame awards, his 3,184 hits and his devotion to the game.

Take the one record that baseball nuts thought would never be broken: Lou Gehrig’s 2,130 consecutive games played streak. For more than 13 years, Ripken showed up at work every day, overjoyed that he had the chance to play the game. And when he finally broke the record, on Sept. 5, 1995, he took a walk around the park, shaking hands with everyone he could. And he kept playing, until he had played in 2,632 straight games.

Ripken was dedicated, and he never showboated or tried to show up others. Instead, he worked at being the best he could, studying hitters to make up for his lack of quickness and proving that he could break the mold. That’s Old School.

Old School is letting what you do on the field be the loudest thing you say. Terrell Owens, you’re not Old School. It’s about only making a statement on the field, and letting what you do between the lines be the only time I see your name in the news. Kobe, you’re not Old School. Nor is any member of the Portland ’Blazers.

Old School is showing emotion. But it is the emotion of Mark Fidrych, just happy to be out there, or Sammy Sosa, always smiling. When you start kicking cameramen, or trash-talking your opponents because that makes you smile, that’s the last time you can call yourself Old School.

Old School is the appreciation of the game, and the memory of those who were there before you. It’s finding out about the past and treating a sport and your opponents with respect. But mostly, it’s about having fun, and never losing the love that drew you to the game in the first place.

Here at Williams, we have that. Despite the idiocy of the NESCAC captain’s practice prohibition, hang out with any out-of-season athlete, and you’ll find them shooting hoops, swimming, playing pick-up soccer or just watching and talking about the games they love. We, at Williams, are Old School, and we should remain that way.

The day Coach Farley’s wide receiver pulls out a sharpie and signs the ball, then tosses it to his best friend, will be the day I stop watching Williams football. Or the day I come back to campus and find the baseball team working more on their dugout behavior than the rhythm of a double-play will be the day I disassociate myself completely from the athletics side of Williams.

Until then, I will be proud that we do what we do, and that we do it the right way. We are so Old School that we boast the first intercollegiate athletic event in history. And we won’t be stopping soon.

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