Clark Is Like Buffalo Because Everyone Likes The Same Football Team As Me
I’m going to try my luck with another extended metaphor. My mom doesn’t think it’ll work. LET’S SHOW HER.
So this weekend was Fall Break, during which we get a whopping two days off from classes. (Try to contain yourselves, kids.) For me, this meant a short trip home to Long Island, during which I took an even shorter trip up to Buffalo, an annual journey that I make with my dad.
This yearly pilgrimage to the City of Good Neighbors has three goals, presented to you in the form of a numbered list:
1. Viewing a Buffalo Bills football game. This week’s was a real nail-biter, and in true Bills fashion, was almost a thrilling victory that ended instead in terrible, soul-crushing defeat.
2. Eating delicious chicken wings at Duff’s.
3. Seeing some of my parents’ old college friends, who are just really lovely people. (Shoutout to Jeff and Karen. You guys rock.)
But apart from these three goals, the Buffalo trip carries with it a fourth, sort of intangible goal, which is to be part of a special community that I didn’t have growing up.
On Long Island, if you like football, you probably like the Jets or the Giants. Now, for reasons perhaps too political to discuss in a blog post, I root for New York’s only football team, the Buffalo Bills. But since everyone around me growing up liked the Jets and the Giants, I never had anyone to talk to about my favorite players (e.g. Doug Flutie), and I was often ridiculed by other third-graders for rooting for a team that played “stupidly bad.”
So when I go to Buffalo, I get really excited, because the entire city just loves the Bills. Everywhere you go, there are Bills hats, and Bills Jerseys, and small children in Bills footie-pajamas. Especially because I now go to school in Patriots territory (which often feels like the worst thing ever), I appreciate this yearly sense of football-related belonging.
The other thing that was sort of lonely about Long Island was that I was in an intellectual minority. Only a small percentage of students at my high school were especially engaged. Many students at Plainview Old-Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School took AP and Honors classes, but there’s a big difference between sitting in those classes and being seriously engaged with the material, grappling with it, and questioning it.
That was a small population at my high school.
At Clark, though, it’s a majority. When we are assigned readings for class, our discussion of the material is rarely “what does this author mean?” It’s instead “well, the author means this, but that doesn’t really hold up for [list of reasons], especially if you consider it in the context of [some current event, a classmate's comment, some other reading].” Granted, not every response in class is like that, but that’s the general mentality a lot of the time.
Clark students are questioners. At Clark, an idea isn’t something that you watch go by you, it’s something that you stop at and consider and really try to get to the bottom of. We don’t learn much about a given topic without getting to the seamy underbelly of the matter. These are the really hard questions that, in a generation or two, will be left up to us to solve.
When I go up to Buffalo, I’m reminded of how nice it feels to belong sometimes, and how grateful I am that I’ve found that kind of belonging at Clark.