At the risk of sounding like the leader of GET OFF MY LAWN Twitter, it’s time we examine the practices of the fans at Autzen, in particular, the lackadaisical arrive late/leave early crowd.
Like many of you, I have noticed all too often in the past few years that the stadium is late to fill & early to empty. There are many opinions on this, & the following ones in this editorial are mine, but maybe some of yours as well. Agree, disagree, comment among yourselves, @ me, whatever you want to do. Let us begin.
We’ll start with the excuses most often heard for arriving late/leaving early:
TRAFFIC: It’s no secret that the majority of the 50,000-60,000 in attendance on game days don’t reside in the immediate vicinity of Eugene/Springfield. I-5 can be a bear, especially on days when Oregon State also has a home game. Sometimes it’s a late kick. Sometimes it’s a game that’s out of hand, whether is be a blowout win or a blowout loss. I get it, my drive is a minimum 2 hours in optimal conditions from Portland to Eugene. Others may drive from as far away as Seattle on game day, nearly 5 hours each way. A game that has lost its intrigue is an easy one to want to bail out early & get home to a warm bed ASAP.
EMPLOYMENT: No doubt that some folks don’t have the luxury of weekends off. With that there is of course an expected level of leaving for those who see a game that is in hand one way or the other & need to be home for their work the next day. Completely understandable.
WINNING/LOSING: This one is simple, if you’re down big late, why stay? If you’re up big late, why stay?
SCHOOL IN SESSION/NOT IN SESSION: We hear these excuses both in the early September games & then in the mid to late season games. In September, the “reason” the student section is so slow to fill (if at all) is that school doesn’t start for several more weeks. Okay, true. But then explain why those who show up then leave early, often before the end of the 3rd quarter. When October/November comes, the “reason” becomes classes, homework, etc.
Last night, it became apparent that this issue hit a tipping point, with players & fans alike griping, mentioning, outright lambasting those who left early in a game that offensively wasn’t very entertaining, but defensively was impressive. The message we as fans send to those young men on the field when we show up late & we leave early is “Thanks for playing, but you no longer mean much to me. Bye.”. Those young men on the field play from the first whistle to the last whistle. They don’t get the luxury of leaving early. They don’t get the choice of simply packing it in & walking away. 90% of them will never hear their plays cheered or their names chanted on Sundays in the NFL, for them, college is often the last shot at glory after sometimes more than a decade playing the game. We owe it to them to support them. They aren’t paid for what they do, though they should be, but that’s another issue entirely. We shouldn’t be seeing this from players https://twitter.com/cyri3e/status/916870233008177152, https://twitter.com/JenBeyrle/status/916880886452281344. It shouldn’t be mentioned by the Fox broadcasters that the student section has left at the start of the 4th quarter. That’s embarrassing. From a recruiting standpoint, would you want to play for a school whose fans abandon you at the first sign of trouble? Would you want to suit up in front of people who only care for you as long as you’re successful?
One gripe in particular resides with the student section, @AutzenStudents or @OregonPitCrew. The collection of the student body who tout themselves as die hard fans, there rain or shine, night or day, to Roar The Praises of Her Warriors. This section is directed at you. I implore you to listen & think. Last night, this no longer became about old heads like myself bitching about them darn young whippersnappers. Those football players, those who are your peers in school, they noticed you left them. They said so. It was absolutely embarrassing to see the student section near empty with a full quarter remaining. The time for excuses is over. If people can drive from Portland, Salem, Seattle, The Dalles, Bend, on gamedays, EVERY gameday, you can be bothered to walk from Taylor’s & be on time & you can stay until the end too. If you don’t want to be there, don’t show up to begin with. Don’t try to get tickets. Don’t take the opportunity away from other students willing to go & stay just so you can get that sweet Snapchat post to say you were there & then bail after SHOUT!. Those players on the field, the ones wearing your school colors, they’re playing not only for themselves, but for you & your institution too. From whistle to whistle, they’re out there representing you. You in turn represent them, you are supposed to be some of their most ardent & boisterous supporters. It’s supposed to be a symbiotic relationship. It has become apparent in the past decade that among all fans, but often students in particular, a feeling of entitlement. This entitlement has lead to indifference. The notion that your team doesn’t deserve your support unless it is winning is the worst attitude possible. I implore you to read your history on the football program & realize just how good you really have it. You look at 9-4 as a miserable failure of a season. We’re a victim of our own success. Please, find perspective to know where we were & where we are. The hard work it took to get there & how difficult it is to sustain long term success in college athletics.
All too often last night I saw comments defending those who left early. From the commute, to not being in the game late, to if we aren’t winning why watch? I guess it comes down to how you want to define being a fan, you know short for “fanatic”. If beating traffic out is your priority, so be it, but those young men on the field noticed & you sent a clear message to them where they & their play land with you. There’s no arguing that last night in particular, the offense was putrid. However, those defensive players still deserve your adulation for the level of play they have shown that was absent last season. If you only choose to watch when the team is winning, maybe “fan” is the wrong term to use for yourself. Might I suggest “casual follower” of the team?
Lastly, fandom is certainly not a one size fits all thing. You’re open to define it how you wish, but when the lack of support reaches the players & they voice their thoughts on it, that reflects on all of us. Nobody is saying every second of every game you should be standing, cheering, yelling. Nobody is demanding you give your outright & utmost attention to every play there is, but think about how your absence & indifference feels to those on that field representing you. They notice. They have now said so. They won’t always be perfect, they won’t always make us proud, but so long as they are giving their best efforts, they deserve ours as well. That’s how we can #DoSomething & Make Autzen Great Again.