I never understood homecoming in high school.
Maybe it was just that I hated school dances. Maybe it was that my high school was very bad at football and consistently lost its homecoming game. Maybe it was the weird dress days. I’m not really sure.
At the end of the day though, I know one question is at the heart of my confusion about homecoming’s significance: Why would anyone want to “come home” to their high school?
Home is a strange place. Growing up, home was our parents house. It was the place we ate our meals and slept at night. Then we got to college, and home became something completely different. Sure, we sleep in our dorm or apartment beds most every night, but this place is not home in the same way our parent’s house was.
When I spent a semester at HUG a year ago, home took on another meaning. I learned how to be “at home” with people, not with a place.
Coming back from that semester, I created a new definition of home. It isn’t a physical place, or even the place where you are most comfortable. Home is the place where you know you are not alone.
This weekend, alumni more than 50 years removed from their days at Harding will return to see old friends, recount fond memories and remember they are not alone.
That same feeling can be felt on the field as well as off. Players will consistently admit they play better at home because of the support they feel from their fans.
Even the fans can feel that same sense of unity when cheering for their favorite teams. There is something about sports that brings people together and reminds them they are not alone. Win or lose, entire communities can be strengthened by their common love for a local team.
In New Orleans, following Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Saints were temporarily forced to move to San Antonio and Oklahoma City because their stadium, the Superdome, was being used as a relief shelter. The community was in shambles. Riots filled the streets as the city fell under martial law. The community was begging for something to bring it back to normalcy.
More than a year after the hurricane, on a Monday night in the Big Easy, the Saints finally returned home. The streets were filled with exuberant fans ready to see their team take the field against the rival Falcons.
Early in the game, safety Steve Gleason blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown. A city rejoiced. I watched family members and friends weep.
For one night, New Orleans was rebuilt, and many of its residents felt they were finally home.
In cities like St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland, fans will never get that same luxury. Owners reached deals to move the Rams, Chargers and Raiders, and in the process, they have robbed the communities of the home that so many have come to know: the place where they do not feel alone.
American sports fans are having their “homes” foreclosed and being forced to relocate their fandom. If this continues, communities bound in common support of sports will falter.
It is time to bring sports franchises home. Seattle needs the SuperSonics. Montreal needs the Expos. And sports fans across the country need the chance to come home.