Fear the Hats!
What an advantage we have, with Stetson University, DeLand's secret treasure, right on our boulevard. Proudly we drive out- of -towners to admire its campus, beautiful in a Florida kind of way. Walk around the college. Perhaps the high energy you'll feel is an amalgamation of all that brain power in one place. I wonder, if we harness it, will we be able to light half the houses in DeLand?
Most times, the college is invisible to us; they stay on their patch of the road, though sometimes you see coeds walking the few Mainstreet blocks to shop. For a college town, there isn't much interaction. Delandites, the us, are the townies; separate from the school, the them.
But suddenly, that changed; Stetson brought football back. (In reality, liberal arts colleges are scrambling for enrollment, and having sports teams may be the answer. ) That philosophy has worked, over 100 out of a 800 new freshman were ball players.
Ironically, as Stetson football grew its incoming class, it shrunk the town versus -university divide. Deland loves a good party, and the football season gave a reason to celebrate- with tailgating parties, pre-tailgating parties and post game parties. "Are you going to the game?" and "Where are your seats?" are the topics of most conversations.
In an astonishing turn of events, the advent of football at Stetson magnetized the them and us, and on game days, it becomes a we. The stadium (which I suggest should be called the Hat Box) is filled with cheering fans. For opening night, even in the pouring rain, over 4000 attended, decked out in green and white Stetson logos.
"Go Hatters!" the fans roar, even though most times, Stetson loses the game. Important to win? Maybe, in a couple of years. But DeLand loves throwing a party, especially as Stetson throws the ball down the field. See you at the next home game.