Forget cyber-Homecoming: Attend the real thing

Shira Kantor

The times they are a-changing. But the basic premise of Homecoming more or less remains the same.

Okay, maybe less.

Yes, the long arm of globalization and high-speed communication has reached even those archaic rituals of the University’s big welcome-back bash.

Thanks to the University of Minnesota Alumni Association’s Web site, you no longer have to be physically present to enjoy the camaraderie and wacky Homecoming antics sure to ensue at such a large coming-together of college folk.

All you have to do is log on to the site, point, click and voila – Virtual Homecoming. You can sit on your smelly, weathered futon and have just as much fun as all your ozone-breathing counterparts. Computer nerds, sloths and agoraphobics of the world rejoice.

I’ll admit I’m not the most fervent Homecoming participant, and I never have been. I’m not in a sorority (for good reason) nor a fraternity (for even better reason) and I don’t live in a residence hall or the Days Inn. I think I’ve seen Goldy Gopher once or twice, but it was probably the freaky, legless 2-D version plastered to the side of a Campus Connector, one arm flailing in mockery at the poor saps on the corner who couldn’t wedge their way onto the bus. So my spirited involvement is stifled at best. Regardless, it seems to me that digitized entertainment is something of a bizarre and lacking alternative to actual, visceral ballyhoo.

Sure, a voyeuristic approach to Homecoming has its advantages – you can paint your face and make up all the dopey cheers and songs you want without feeling self-conscious. And guess who wins all the contests and prizes, including – of course – the tiara? That’s right, you. The parade float could be a bit of a problem, but surely a Web-savvy guy or gal like yourself is smart enough to figure out how to fit a confetti-covered 1984 Winnebago in your living room. And, best of all, no one will make fun of you for being unhip. Unless they see you through the window. Then you’re screwed.

Which brings me back to my point. If you’re going to make any kind of overture to involve yourself in Homecoming at all, you might as well get out there and enjoy some real, live hootenanny. And from what I’m told, there will be much of that. Hootenanny, that is. And apparently people get dressed up pretty weird for Homecoming in public, anyway.

Naysayers – of which there are no doubt many – will likely throw in my face the obvious retort: “But what about out-of-towners who want to watch Minnesota’s Homecoming or catch up with old friends but can’t make it here to see the action live? Would not a Web site serve their needs?”

Well, my friends, they should have thought of that before they moved out of Minnesota.

Okay, that’s not fair. And the naysayers would probably throw out another question like, “What if they had to move for their job?” And then there would be this whole back-and-forth non-stop question cycle which would be incredibly pointless if nothing else. So I’ll just put an end to it now with this suggestion: e-mail. Come on, you’re online anyway, send your fellow alums a fun little note. Try to argue with that. You can’t. But I admire your effort, assuming you made one.

Beyond that, if the out-of-towners are really all that psyched about the celebration, they should just head out here. Minnesota’s not that bad. I can think of worse places to be. Like sitting on your smelly, weathered futon, for example.

Besides, how much excitement can one squeeze out of a virtual homecoming? Still photos and message boards hardly rival the raucousness of person-to-person interaction.

So, if you are indeed interested in Homecoming, I suggest forgoing the virtual events and giving the actual ones a try. The real-life version might not be so bad.


Shira Kantor welcomes comments at [email protected]