The first football game on home turf is truly emblematic of the Thunderbird spirit that lasts throughout the year. For “superfans” like us, UBC had the perfect game day setup. The balmy 18 degree air was permeated with the rising excitement of a much-awaited Thunderbird season -- a chance to welcome in this year’s athletics with a UBC-style party.
It was the kind of day on campus where you would be in the vast minority if you didn’t have a Thunderbird logo emblazoned across your shirt. A rowdy pre-game party in the newly-minted Student Union Building was the nesting ground for an infectious environment across campus -- Homecoming.
By three, the atmosphere in the Nest rose from an excitable buzz to an explosion of T-Bird fans ready to show off their spirit (the free beer didn’t hurt either). Amid a growing wave of blue and gold, UBC fans sipped on beer, waved flags and sang along to classic pump-up songs. Several hundred victory-thirsty fans gathered in the new SUB to prove their undying T-Bird pride -- but this was just the beginning.
The great Thunderbird trek spanned from the new SUB to Vanier and Totem residences before storming the gates of Thunderbird Stadium. Awash in dorm-days nostalgia, the veteran fans pulled new and inexperienced students into the ever-growing squad.
We paraded down West Mall in an unmistakeable block of blue and yellow garb yelling chants of “U-B-C." It was true block party and clear to anyone watching that the 2015 Thunderbird fans had arrived in style.
The fans that we spoke with emphasized that generating school spirit on campus is a continuous focus for many campus organizations such as the Calendar, the Greek system and UBC Athletics (of course). It seems these groups are more often linking parties in tandem with sporting events at UBC. After all, we’re all Thunderbirds and we all have a role in contributing to school spirit. As longtime “superfans” having attended every single T-Birds basketball game over the past two years, this year’s Homecoming celebration is an optimistic sign to us. It was a strong indicator of the storm coming to UBC’s varsity teams this season.
During the trek, we caught up with AMS President Aaron Bailey who reminded us “That our [athletic] program is amazing. We’re the winningest team in the CIS, historically speaking, and nobody knows that.” Bailey continued by explaining that for other large schools in Canada, there are huge alumni connections. For us at UBC, this can be a way “to engage more holistically with the community.”
As for the game itself, we had never seen the stadium as packed as it was this year (neither had anyone else since 1989) and this only added to the already buzzing pre-kickoff vibes. The usually empty emerald hill opposite the stands was bathed in blue and gold. Spontaneous “Let’s Go T-Birds” chants erupted in the crowd and fans exploded when the team marched through the stadium’s main hallway before the game.
The raucous cheers from the stadium, the drum beat spurring the "U-B-C" chants from the marching band and the bleachers filling with chaotic euphoria were all fuelled by the T-Birds three touchdowns in the first half. We were blown away by the fan engagement in every play. Students and alumni were absorbed in seeing every catch and purely satisfied when another crushing T-Bird tackle was delivered.
No matter what, UBC fans were there for the team. We cheered them on for the big plays and encouraged them when they needed a boost in momentum. As the night continued, it was a picturesque setting. The sun set over the field with rays of light so gold they matched our team’s colours. The Thunderbirds’ tireless efforts brought individual fans together in one emphatic sense of unity.
At the end of the night, people were ecstatic over UBC’s victory. But what’s more exciting is the anticipation for the entire season of varsity sports that lies ahead. The homecoming game symbolically kicks off the entire athletic schedule. Wherever Thunderbirds play, Thunder-fans will be right there with them. It’s what’s necessary to feed the hunger of any UBC "superfan" and our athletes who feed off that same energy.