As a college sophomore I witnessed one of the most ridiculous football games you will ever see. In 2005, The University of Oregon beat then 18th ranked Oklahoma in a game that left both sets of fans complaining about the refs after an historic comeback by my Ducks. Down 13 points, our quarterback threw his second pick of the quarter. Thousands headed to the exits. After Oregon made its comeback, punctuated by a wacky onside kick and field goal block, those that remained mobbed the field and the players. Those who left missed a monumental moment, and a turning point in the program – plus they had to live a lie that they were there.
Those fans who deserted the team violated one of my long-held Pillars of Sports Fandom. I have developed these after years of following mostly terrible teams in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve sat through epic collapses and winless seasons, and through it all, I have remained loyal. And it made those rare moments of joy all the better. Here is my secret recipe for being the best sports fan you can be. If I could describe these pillars in one sentence it would be, “be passionate, but don’t be an asshole.”
KNOW YOUR TEAM
I’m not talking about just knowing whether the guys in the white uniforms or the black ones are on your team. True fans possess intimate knowledge of pivotal games and important traditions in their team’s history. At the University of Oregon, prior to each game, a highlight package of some of the team’s most important moments fires up the crowd (Kenny Wheaton’s gonna score!). At the University of Michigan, the players run out and slap a banner that reads “Go Blue”. These pre-game rituals add to the team’s, and stadium’s, overall mystique. The duty of enhancing these traditions falls squarely on the fans.
RESPECT THE VISITORS
Yeah, I know, they are wearing the wrong color, and are probably the worst people ever – you know, the kind with three popped-collar polo shirts, talking on their cell phone during the game – but we are here to watch the teams duke it out, not a bunch of fans three or four beers deep before the game even starts.
DON’T BOO THE BOYS
This one fits the “don’t be an asshole,” part of the speech. Sure, that promised free agent might be stinking it up, looking like he’d rather be at the buffet line than on the court, but why is that the rest of the team’s fault? Show the adequate respect to the guys putting their bodies on the line to entertain you. I hear what you are saying: these guys make millions, I can boo whoever I want. You sure can, but what’s the point of pinning your emotions on these guys if you are just going to turn on them when the chips are down?
NEVER LEAVE EARLY
And of course the most important one: Never leave early. You can do all of the above, but if you are that guy who bolts with three minutes left and your boys are down a few points or runs, your fan card will be confiscated at the gate. Just stay a few extra minutes. The traffic is going to horrible either way. Who knows, you might get to be a part of history.
Nat is way too big of a sports fan, who can’t wait for football to start. Even if it means no more sun.