There’s a mystique about Western University. The hate thrown at Western is incomparable to any other university in Ontario, and possibly for good reason.
Chances are you’ve had an interaction with a Mustang, Western’s mascot, and those interactions probably were not very positive.
The London, Ont. university has gained a reputation for being cocky or snobby and there are certainly people who love going to Western for that very reason.
But is the school really that bad? I travelled to Western University to cover their Homecoming football match-up against the McMaster Marauders and I discovered that in reality, Western is not that much different than us.
My adventure on the campus began with a walk from a friend’s house through Western’s student housing area.
I knew the Western Homecoming parties would be something to experience, so I headed out early to soak in all the festivities.
Now, I am a huge Marauders fan, but I’m also supposed to be non-partisan while covering Mac athletics, so wearing Maroon and Grey is rather unprofessional.
And I’m not an idiot.
Wearing Mac colours would probably have only ended badly for me, so I chose to wear a black sweater.
I still stuck out in the sea of purple and white, but Western students only chastised me two times through my 20-minute walk, which was a pleasant surprise.
The stroll through the student housing area was not what I expected. It looked like a typical Homecoming event; lots of drinking, school spirit, and police cars.
By eleven o’clock, a good number of the students were pretty far into their drinks, evidenced by the red cups littered across every lawn and the near fights breaking out on the sidewalk.
I expected more from Western. As a school that was listed by Playboy Magazine as one of the top-10 party schools in North America, I thought there was going to be more of a spectacle from the Western student population, but McMaster offers the same Homecoming experience.
My first goal while arriving on campus was to find the real on-campus celebration but for whatever reason, there was no central party hosted by Western University.
There were speaker systems set up throughout the property, whether it was in front of their student centre or other parking lots littered throughout the spacious campus. It was difficult to get a vibe about how Mustangs celebrated their school, other than with dancing and day drinking.
I headed down to the football stadium to check out the facilities and get my credentials for the game and the atmosphere at the stadium amazed me. The grandstands at TD Waterhouse Stadium are unlike anything I’ve seen at a Canadian university.
After receiving my media pass, I took a walk through the main building at the stadium.
Walking through the hallways of the building, it’s easy to notice a much richer football history. The walls are lined with pictures, new and old, of former Mustangs donning Canadian Football League jerseys, or even in some cases, jerseys from the National Football League.
But football was not the only sport that gained the attention from the school and their alumni.
Before the kick-off, Western University inducted new members into the Mustang Hall of Fame and many of the alumni in the area stopped what they were doing to try and catch who was being honoured. They threw names of track athletes, swimmers and other sports around the way McMaster talks about Kyle Quinlan.
Hearing the names of athletes in rather B-list sports be thrown spoke to the pride Western instils in its students, both past and present.
As the game was about to begin, the buzz in TD Waterhouse Stadium was electric, with an official attendance of 10,900 ready to watch two CIS heavyweights battle.
It was easy to see that Western fans believed they would see their Mustangs defeat the No.1 team in Canada, and early on in the game, it looked like a realistic possibility.
When the Mustangs were winning, the only way to describe the atmosphere was NCAA-like. The line for the beer garden looked like it went on for miles, and it was hard to find someone who was not holding either a concession or a new piece of clothing from the Mustang fan wear tent.
But as the Marauders took control, the fan support wavered. The Western cheerleading squad gave their best effort to keep the fans into it, but the Marauders took the crowd out of the game with a number of deflating plays throughout the second quarter.
Although the game was a shellacking from the Marauders, the Western Mustang crowd did not waver.
Despite some of the pictures flying around Twitter and Facebook, McMaster did not out number the Western crowd. In the fourth quarter, some of the Western students left their seats, realizing the game was out of reach for the home team.
The journey home was easily the best part of the day. Watching the purple and white fans leave the stadium with their heads held low at their own Homecoming is one of the best feelings an OUA fan can have.
But I left the campus with a better sense of what Western students are really like. Yes, some of them are cocky and arrogant, but McMaster has those students too.
Are we really that different? I think McMaster students would like to think so. But I’m sceptical. I’ve got a newfound respect for those London, Ont. students. Western has tremendous support for their athletics programs, both before and after their time as a student.
I’m sure the “Wuck Festern” saying will live on forever, but all I’m saying is go to Western, and see what it’s like there. You might think twice.