By Bruce Garlinghouse
Are you ready for some futbol?
Bright lights and the banging of drums. Rowdy college males in nothing more than a
kilt and body paint. Packs of students filling the sidewalks.
Aww, college futbol.
Yes, futbol, not to be mistaken with its more popular brother, football.
And while September marks the beginning of both sports seasons, it is futbol that UP students bleed purple for.
Those of you returning know this. You are aware of the two women's national championships in the last decade and their appearances in the top ten year after year.
You know the University of Portland has produced some of the best soccer players in the world, including three-time U.S. Soccer Player of the Year Kasey Keller and Christine Sinclair, a member of Canada's 25 most influential athletes.
You probably know it was Portland graduate Megan Rapinoe's foot that was behind one of the most memorable goals in U.S. soccer history, a ball that found the head of Abby Wambach in the final seconds against rival Brazil and served as a catalyst for an unlikely World Cup Final run.
To you, it's not strange that every year, bigger, more nationally recognized universities travel great distances to our tiny campus in the Pacific Northwest.
Florida state and Washington State have already visited, with Stanford and USC coming for the Nike Invitational.
Those of you new to campus who made the initiatory walk with your dorm to hallowed Merlo field last Friday, when the women faced Washington State, have realized that it is futbol, not football, that reigns over these lands.
No, we don't have tailgate parties lining neighborhood streets. When I tell my high school friends we have one party before the games, they are first shocked and then laugh.
Corso and the College Game Day gang won't ever visit us on campus so head down to Eugene if you want to see him put a mascots head on himself.
ESPN won't ever dedicate hours upon hours of analysis or game coverage to college soccer. And unless someone one-ups Wayne Rooney's bicycle kick from last spring, you would be hard pressed to find any women's college soccer highlights in the top 10, even though it produces plenty of candidates.
Merlo can't hold 70,000 people. It can't even hold 7,000.
But if you wanted all those things, you wouldn't have decided on the University of Portland. You would have gone with the University of Oregon or Oregon State or Washington.
Chances are, UP's sports atmosphere played a small part in your decision.
You chose a small school because you wanted smaller classes, more time with professors and a quality education. And in that regard, you made an excellent choice.
And as college football returns and your friends that go to large football schools tell you how crazy the game was Saturday, you may be questioning your college decision as if you are being robbed of a necessary college experience. Don't be ashamed. I was one of those people too.
So when I visited a friend at the University of Wisconsin to see the Badgers face the Ohio State Buckeyes last fall, I was almost sure my questioning would turn into full blown regret.
But it didn't. It made me realize what is so special about college sports. I saw what compels the Villa Drum Squad to paint their bodies and wear kilts. I understand why a student body loves a sport that receives very little exposure in this country. And that is pride.
Pride in a school and pride in the teams that represent it.
Pride in a group of women that follow the golden rule of sports. A team that wins.