Photo by Casey Miles

There was a plan, and it wasn’t an unreasonable plan. I had started planning for my fall study abroad to Ireland during spring semester, way earlier than I needed to. There was a list of things I needed to pack, places I wanted to visit and foods I had to try. There was also a list of things that I would be missing while I was halfway across the world for a whole semester.

Armed with my laptop and two mobile phones, I wasn’t too worried about missing things because I had planned to keep up. Little did I realize that though the internet is a magical source of all the facts, articles and videos any sports fan could wish for, keeping up online is just not the same as being on campus to watch in person. My plan to keep up with an entire season of Tech football, as well as all the other fall sports happening back on campus, was an utter failure.

The rush of pride that comes along with watching a football game from the Swarm section is nonexistent when you’re streaming the game on your laptop in the middle of the night and you have a 7 a.m. flight in a few hours. My plan to watch every televised game over the internet was foiled by poor connections and the existence of time zones. It turned into reading newspaper headlines and sports blogs while riding the train.

Last year, I constantly reminded my friends that our football performance would turn around in the 2016 season, that the growing pains that caused the Jackets to end the season with only three victories wouldn’t last for more than one season. Things did turn around, and I missed it.

Tech flew all the way to Dublin for their first win of the season, beat UGA for the second time since my freshman year and ended the season with a 9-4 record. Even though I managed to keep up with the season online, it still felt like I missed everything.

Sure, I fangirled over rugby, managed to watch some of a hurling match and got to experience the insanity that is Gaelic football, but I still felt like I missed out. I made it home in time for the TaxSlayer Bowl, but I wasn’t really feeling the spirit.

I didn’t watch Harrison Butker break Luke Manget’s record with 337 career points. I didn’t watch Justin Thomas’s last game donning the White and Gold. I didn’t even get that excited to see Demaryius Thomas and Adam Gotsis on the field when the Broncos destroyed the Raiders.

It wasn’t that I missed out on feeling proud of Tech and Tech’s athletes. The internet made it extremely easy to keep up with important headlines and sports statistics; I felt proud every time I read something positive.

It was the atmosphere I missed out on. No matter where I am in the world, it’s always made me feel proud to read about how successful Tech athletes have been. Tracking statistics, skimming blogs and filing other journalists’ opinions on Tech sports away in my head is something I can do from anywhere in the world.

The thing is, being a sports fan is more than being able to recall a whole set of scoring statistics or debate whether or not a team could have won if the last play of the second quarter had gone more smoothly. Being a sports fan is about contributing to the atmosphere we all know and love. It took flying halfway across the world for me to realize that the excitement about Tech sports is all about the atmosphere for me.

There’s something about waking up, eating a massive breakfast and standing in the sweltering heat with thousands of other people hoping for a Jackets victory. Something that feels like home.

Missing the game day atmosphere that was happening without me on campus didn’t prevent me from getting excited about Irish sports though. When Ireland beat the All Blacks at Soldier Field for the first time in 111 years, I was buzzing. Everyone on campus was. Irish people have an uncanny ability to make any atmosphere a good one, and sports are no exception. Jokes, light banter, delicious food and tons of national pride make being uninterested in Irish sports nearly impossible. While I’m happy to be back on campus to see Tech baseball welcome another world-class bunch of freshmen athletes, I’m missing Irish sports more than I expected.

I guess that brings me back to where I started. For all we talk about the play of Tech teams (and this section, of course, is no exception), perhaps what matters more is the time we spend watching them with our friends.

I’ll no longer take that aspect of Tech athletics for granted, regardless of our record at the end of the season or how we fare in the national rankings.