“Become Badger Basketball’s Bestie”

In the wake of Badger Basketball’s run to the NCAA championship, I came across an article one of my Facebook friends had shared titled: “How to become best friends with the B-Bball team.” Or something.

To become their friends they recommended:

-live near the kohl center

-take bullshit classes

-be one of their note-takers

-and maybe one other stupid thing that is very unlikely to make you friends with them.

As a student athlete playing a very low profile sport that the student body could not give two shits about, I resent this article. Yes. I understand comparing women’s rowing to one of the winningest men’s basketball teams our university has ever seen is laughable. That’s not what I’m trying to do.

But regardless, here’s what bugs me about the article:

Being a rower provides ample opportunity to observe other student athletes in their natural habitats (Academic center, free breakfast etc.). These common areas are filled with the biggest egos I have ever encountered.

A couple of my teammates were waiting in an out-the-door line at Qdoba a couple of weeks ago when one of the starters on the basketball team walked in. He and his friend went directly to the front of the line, got their food and no one said anything (except for my teammates who followed them out of Qdoba yelling at them). If you have the athletic skill to back up your ego, great. Good for you. That doesn’t give you a hall pass to be a shitty person.

I was also bothered by the advice to take bullshit classes. The blogger justified basketball players getting through school by skimming through most of their academic responsibilities. This is offensive. Partially because one of my double majors is the same as many bballers, but also because it makes it sound like athletes are just hanging out on campus chillin. The big three sports (football, basketball, hockey) don’t just get handed a diploma at the end of their academic career. They have mandatory study hours and tutors pretty much daily and are held to the same standards as all other students. Even if they’re not all engineers, the fact that they are doing the exact same classes as normal students PLUS at least two practices a day and competitions is insane. Add on film watching, travel, missing class, the pressure of being a campus celeb, the duty to uphold the reputation of Wisconsin on the national stage and being talked about positively or negatively on SportsCenter while they’re trying to enjoy their breakfast is a lot for anyone to handle. Athletes work hard, especially those playing the big three.

Additionally, the practices that take up most of their time are not your average workout at the SERF. When athletes talk about practice, they’re not talking about 30 minutes on the elliptical and then a casual chat with their bestie as they do a couple of reps on the leg machine and check out the hotties in the weight room. We’re talking about practices that push physical limits they didn’t even know they had and mentally break them down little by little. I can only vouch for rowing, but even the easiest days of practice are harder than the hardest day of high school sports ever was. And did I mention they start at 6:15 am? I go to bed at approximately the same time as I did in elementary school. In college.

Andddd lastly I will isolate myself from the student athlete community and complain about how much other athletes hate rowers. There are tons of us running around in obnoxious red coats in the winter, eating all of their food and apparently sucking the budget out of the athletic department. Sorry athletic department. If it makes you feel any better, we know no one really gives a shit about us.

It’s easy to say that everyone hates rowers because they just don’t get it. I sound like an angsty high schooler, but everyone has been humiliated enough in gym class doing XYZ sport to know it takes major skill to excel in pretty much everything. Most people have NO IDEA how hard rowing is. On the first day of rowing one girl told me she was a power lifter in high school and thought she was perfect for rowing because she “was really strong, but had no cardio abilities.” ROWING IS A LEG SPORT. YOU CROSS YOUR ANEROBIC THRESHOLD MOST DAYS. THE ENTIRE THING IS CARDIO.  AHH. It’s just like…really hard…ok?

So we kill ourselves doing workouts that people assume only require strong arms for and we get hate because most of us are walk-ons and have only rowed since we started college. The rowing team asks every tall girl at registration if they’re interested in rowing. It seems like anyone could do it. They all show up on the first day, but few stick around. Our team doesn’t have, or even need to make cuts because the masses that show up to the informational meeting end up cutting themselves when they realize the level of dedication, time and true grit it takes to make it on the team.

I’m okay with not having articles about “How to be friends with the open weight women’s rowing team” (buy them copious amounts of food and massage the knot out of their back would pretty much sum it up). Rowing is bad spectator sport. It is elitist, boring, outside, repetitive blah, blah, blah, you’d rather watch basketball. I get it. I think I would too.

But when you hear about a track girl claiming that “all rowers are fat sluts” (REAL QUOTE, NO JOKE), it makes me cringe.  We get that reputation after one of our rowers begins a relationship with a guy the track girl hooked up with once. But hockey, football and basketball players can walk into a bar, point at a girl, take her home with them and THE GIRL will brag about getting with them to their friends the next day. Cool. I am of course overgeneralizing, most of the guys on these teams are wonderful. BUT. Like the one girl who stereotyped all female rowers as “fat sluts” I will lump all male athletes into the category of “egotistical horn-dogs.”

I think that instead of providing a list of ways to help people seek the friendship of the basketball team, because they are on the basketball team, people should make their friends based on their personality. Everyone at Madison wants to be Nigel Hayes’s friend after his NCAA press conferences because of how f*cking charming he is (myself included). Nevertheless, going out of your way to cross paths with and attempt to befriend him on campus is lame. Don’t be a jersey chaser. Don’t be weird. Respect their privacy. Be a cool person and it’ll all fall into place.

BUT if you want to see some impressive back muscles on men in spandex shorts–and nothing else– or just make some killer friends, you don’t need to be in easy classes, a note taker or live near the Kohl center. Just bring a sheet cake to Porter Boathouse and you’ll instantly have at least 100 rowers flocking to you. It’s seriously that easy.

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