Stanford–Eloquent and Unconventional

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend some time in northern California with the eccentric students of Stanford University, as their football team took on the Washington State Cougars. I had been invited countless times to go up there for the weekender while a student at ‘SC, but never could make it. I wish I had gone up there sooner. Not only was the campus majestic, the city of Palo Alto was just as captivating. The whole town gave off a classy appeal, but with a friendly, down to earth vibe. Nothing short of the quintessential ivy-league ambiance…guys wore polos, dockers and loafers and the women were tailored head to toe in everything brand name. Stanford exemplified all that I imagined and more, high class.

Until I met the marching band, of course. It was alumni weekend, which meant band members were a mixture of students and former students taking out pent up aggression on their instrument of choice. I have never seen so much energy and excitement in a condensed amount of space. They were dancing, laughing and singing on the practice field all while playing ludicrous rock music and in no way listening or acting like they cared about authority. I thought I was watching a re-enactment of Woodstock. This band was neither boring nor run of the mill. I couldn’t take my eyes off the wacky dressed, student-run band. This is the same band that was banned from the University of Notre Dame in 1991 after a drum major dressed as a nun and conducted the band using a wooden cross as a baton during half time.

Another imperative component to Stanford’s DNA is their athletics (Cardinal’s football team is currently ranked 13th in the nation)…my first day on campus allowed me to observe ‘Ultimate’ Frisbee practice, one of Stanford’s many intramural sports they offer on campus including flag football, wallyball, indoor soccer, table tennis, billiards and a fan favorite—foosball. The practice consisted of running intense routes much like that of a football practice where there was one on one receiver verse defender, often resulting in a dive on the wet, muddy grass to catch the flying disc. The next day I got up early and checked out Stanford’s lofty tailgates. I had been to several USC/Stanford games so I had a notion of what I might be getting myself into. I explored The Chuck Taylor Grove which was where most of the Alumni posted up. One woman described the aura of Stanford’s tailgates similar to that of USC’s (she said it, not me, don’t kill the messenger). It was here you found elaborately decorated RV’s, red wine, pesto flavored brie, shrimp kabobs and homemade snicker doodles. After I filled my tummy up on the good stuff, I then trekked over in front of Gate 13—where students, loud music and ketchup covered dogs could be found. It was a sea of students excited about football and your usual dancing, intricately dressed goofballs trying to keep the tailgates interesting. I can appreciate that.

Overall Stanford was an enjoyable place and bared resemblance to that of another private university I have familiarity with. Stanford shared camaraderie, vitality and a love for their school. The people of Stanford work hard and play harder…in a preppy kind of way. I guess in a way, it felt like home.