Every Thursday night I gather up my things, get in my car, and head to Systems Thinking in Project Management. What's different about this particular class is that it's held not in the business building, or the language building, or the lab building. It's held in the University Center at FSU, better known to pretty much everyone as Doak Campbell Stadium.
Each week as I park my car and make my way into the building my eyes slowly, instinctively, unstoppably work their way up the side of the massive brick facade, always in awe of what lies before them. I've always had a strange sort of attachment to the stadium-- it's by far my most photographed part of campus, and when I created a video for a Kickstarter project, about a third of the shots were in and around the building.
It's a nine-story brick oval, pockmarked with windows, gates, stained glass, clocks, and history. It's ringed by four statues telling a story of sportsmanship and ancestry, both at Florida State and in the Seminole Tribe of Florida. It's big. Ludicrously imposing. It takes up your entire field of view.
Common sense tells me that duh, Doak is supposed to be awe-inspiring. Despite our basketball team's terrific season Florida State is still a football school, and having an elaborate, intimidating stadium is a statement to our opponents. It says "This is our house. Come get some." (Not to mention Doak makes for great TV when ESPN rolls into town.)
But it's more than that. As my eyes drift ever higher up the red bricks and windows glimmering in the sunset, I realize that my awe is more than just what the stadium means to the university-- it's what it means to me.
To me, Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium means baking in the sun during a scorching September noon game and the awkward sunburn that always follows. It means grilling steaks and downing beers before the long walk from my house to the gate. It means bundling up for a blustery night game in November. It means garnet and gold. It means Florida. Miami. Clemson.
It's that massive concussion of sound that erupts from 82,000 people when we make a key play. It's the crushing, suffocating silence that pounds your eardrums as we kick a last-second field goal. It's the jubilation or sadness I share with friends I've never met, our victories sweetened and our defeats mellowed as we all file out of the stands together.
I've never been told these are important, and I've never even given conscious thought to them before recently. These traditions have grown and been nurtured by the collective unconscious of the students, alumni, and fans, and it's those shared, unspoken, common traditions that make me most proud to be a Seminole.
Last semester I interviewed a bunch of FSU students while doing research for a class project. When asked why they chose to attend Florida State, one of the most common responses I got was a feeling of Seminole pride. Belonging to something great and storied was enough to sway their decision. Regardless of the down years our football team has had, the unspoken bond among Seminoles has stood the test of time.
And that pride isn't just confined to the stands of Doak Campbell, or the Tallahassee city limits, or even the state of Florida. Last fall I was in New York City the day of the Duke game, and my friends and I stumbled across a bar with a giant inflatable Seminole in front. We decided to take a look inside, and we found the place packed with Seminole memorabilia and fans! The crazy part is I recognized a few people I had randomly seen on the subway earlier that day; all of these seemingly disparate people had been brought together by our common pride.
And there it is: scale, tradition, and pride. These building blocks of our tribe bond us together, whether we make the trek to Doak every weekend or meet up with our fellow Noles all across the country. It's why I go to Florida State, and in a way, always will.