Tuesday, August 10, 2010

This Alma Matter Doesn’t Matter

One of the most influential times in a young person’s life, is attending university – or at least it was for me.

And NO, I’m not talking about the academic side of the coin – although that too is very important. I’m talking about all the other things that matter – like hanging out with classmates at the campus pub and debating some big mind over matter problem, joining a club or sporting event, or kissing the prof’s butt to get a good grade.

I never did the last item on that list. Honest.

But whatever you do aside from reading books, listening to professors with bated breath, or writing essays and exams, university life gives young people a chance to explore who they really are, so they can become somebody in our crazy world.

That’s what I took away from my university days. I’d never have been what I am now, had I not had that amazing opportunity.

So whenever I hear about something from my alma matter, my ears perk up. Even more so when there is something big and impressive happening on my former university campus.

Which just so happened this past weekend – I attended the Rogers Cup Tennis tournament held at the Rexall Tennis Center at York University.

Even back in the day when I was a student, they held part of the Canadian national tennis tournaments at my school.

Every summer they alternate between the men and the women’s tennis between Toronto and Montreal. This year it was the men’s tournament, so big name tennis celebs like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Daniel Nestor were lobbing and volleying on the courts here in Toronto. In Montreal, big name women’s tennis players this year include Serena and Venus Williams, Justine Henin and Maria Sharapova.

Just my luck, it rained for most of the day, but that wasn’t my big gripe. I was extremely proud, and maybe even a little teary-eyed as I stepped foot on my old university campus’ grounds. Fond memories of a time long ago, which led to me being who and what I am surfaced, and even despite the rain, it felt good to be there.

And you’d figure, with the world’s sport media in attendance, people from all over the world flooding the university campus, and even some non-tennis celebs wandering around to take in the matches, my university would be beaming proud.

They certainly beam when it comes time to remind me about donating to the alumni fund several times a year. I do participate in alumni events – I love my school.

But this year, there wasn’t much well-deserved beaming from my school – it was as if they just didn’t care.

There were big corporate logos plastered everywhere from all the media, private company and government sponsors – but the host facility, MY UNIVERSITY wasn’t being promoted. Not in the literature being handed out, the logos everywhere you looked, nadda, nothing.

I was very disappointed – especially in York University’s marketing program. If they can’t take advantage of an opportunity right on their doorstep, what good are they?

But I was even more disheartened by the greed of the big corporations which did get their logos everywhere, but kept the host’s logo out.

It was like barging into someone’s private party, and leaving without even thanking the host.

Years ago, Tennis Canada, which organizes the event, threatened York University to get a bigger stadium. When I was a student, the event went on at the National Tennis Center at York University, which saw the likes of legendary tennis players Bjorn Bork, John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl and others over the years.

Tennis Canada threatened to pull the event out of York University, if the university didn’t provide the pompous national tennis association a new stadium.
Sadly, York University caved, and built the spectacular venue which now houses the event – there are several indoor courts, along with the main stadium court, which dwarfs similar venues.

In the process of providing the land, and part of the funding for building their precious new stadium, Tennis Canada dropped the “at York University” from the name.

Guess having it named after a chain of Canadian drug stores – it is now known as the Rexall Tennis Centre – is more worthwhile, because big drug companies provide far more to society than a university.

I don’t know who I’m more frustrated with – my university for selling out, the big greedy corporations for buying out the space, or Tennis Canada for their part in ignoring their more than accommodating host.

But then these days, nothing is spared the corporate greed of bribery for naming of a sports stadium. There’s the Staples Center, The Rogers Centre, The Air Canada Center and many more.

It’s just strikingly sad when nothing is safe from being branded.

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