College football games attract thousands of fans. Not all are there for the football. Pick at random 12 fans in the stands, and you’ll find they’re there for reasons as varied as the seasons. By that standard, you can actually classify college football fans as you would holidays. Here’s a quick guide to today’s fan, as defined by those special days on the calendar.
You greet game day with the giddiness of a six-year-old girl expecting a pony downstairs on Christmas morn. Throughout breakfast and shower you’re humming fight songs like carols. You’re decorated in school colors, as are your family, your yard and, quite possibly, your dog. On the way to the stadium your car flies more flags then the UN building, and your collection of car magnets threaten to pull street signs out the ground. You greet everyone – even opposing fans – with a huge smile, high five and an occasional akward chest bump. It’s game day, baby. Wooooooooooo. Every play is a present. Fumble? For me? That’s okay. It’s the thought that counts. Touchdown! Just what I always wanted! Win or lose you go home happy. You may not have gotten the exact gift for which you asked, but Coach Santa comes again next week. God bless us, everyone.
Every home game you become TGI Saturdays. You get to the stadium as early as possible. Before the engine cools you have the grill hot. If the smell of chicken, steak and bratwurst doesn’t draw attention, your setup does – tent, lights, TV, 25 feet high flag poles and AC/DC in the speakers. You expect next year to have amitronic fieldgoal posts. You cook enough to feed 11 William Perrys, and invite anyone who passes by to grab a plate. You talk smack, pat friends on the back and stay on the attack with opposing fans, jestfully. When you’ve cut loose your last burp all is right with the world. In the stadium you kick back and watch some football free of commercials or nagging to do the dishes. You’re not too vocal or interested, but you feel fine. The pregame was the meal. This is all dessert.
Valentine’s Day fans
You’re at the game for one reason – you were dragged there by your significant misguided other. Exhibit A, my wife. She cares not for sports, especially football, but she cares for me and knows I enjoy it. So she goes to the occasional game more out of emotional obligation than fanatical motivation. She cheers when I cheer, boos when I boo, and attempts to keep at a minimum questions like, “why isn’t there a fifth down?” and “can we go now?” This day also covers the young lovers in the stands on a date .. or proposal (that photo is from NC State’s season opener). Football games are an opportunity to break the cliché of dinner and a movie, and the outcome on the field carries less significance than the outcome back at the apartment. Just beware the personal foul.
Wedding Day fans
It’s three minutes to kickoff and you’re already hoarse. You are so nervous. Your team has got to win this game – it’s just GOT TO – or you’ll burst into tears and run to your bedroom in wet-eyed hysterics. Everything about this day has to be perfect. Every pass. Every throw. Every kick. GET ‘EM! I SAID GET ‘EM, CAN’T YOU F’N HEAR ME!! DAMN! Even when your team’s up 20 with six minutes to go you’ve got no confidence in a win. You expect to be stoodup, not because the team’s weak but because your temperment is. Should they punt or go for it. Punt or go? Punt or go? You can’t decide so you cover your eyes and pray. You peek through your fingers. They’re going for it!! YES!!! YES!! YES!!! But oh no, there’s still four minutes to go .. oh woe is me …woe is me! I just wish this was over with …
Your team is dead. Hasn’t had a winning season since Clinton. Yet you have faith. Today could be the day the program rises again. You trudge to the stadium more out of ritual than desire, much like you do the annual sunrise service. Once the game starts you seek some sign your faith is not misplaced. But you’re also a sadomasicist, secretly reveling in each fumble and miscue. You need the pain to make your faith more precious. You stick around through the third quarter, but duck out midway through the fourth when the coach isn’t looking. Unless your team is leading. Then you get loud and proud. This could be it! It isn’t. But still you believe. Some call you a fool, but you ignore them. Football is the true god, not that damn Easter Bunny of a basketball program with its colorful basket of trophies and Final Fours. One day you’ll witness that gridiron resurrection. One day ….
It’s not a football game, it’s a costume contest! Giant puff ball wigs. Letters on your bare chest. A full-body keg outfit. School colored mardi gra beads worn al la Mr. T. You’ve done it all. You love your team as much as you love attention. You’re a famous symbol of school spirit and people enjoy shoving free food and drink your way, just for you being you. Every camera finds you, and you’ve stared in half a dozen local television highlight packages. You’re good natured when drunk or supremely extroverted when sober. Either way, you make your presence known. You are never forgotten … until you outgrow college games and move on to the NFL. Then someone more outrageous takes your place.
Spring Break fans, male
The football field’s a beach and man the women are fine! You’ve been drinking since the night before and your breath could bleach Chris Fowler’s hair. You also haven’t yet met an alcohol prohibition you couldn’t beat, as evidenced by the four airplane bottles hidden in your boxer briefs and the two bottles in your woman’s ponytails. Sample game quote “Go Cocks! GOOO!!! COCKS!!! WHOOOOOOO! Whoa, that girl is hot! Dude, check her out. Damn! Go Cocks. GOOOOO COCKS!! YEAH! YEAH! … I think I’m gonna pass out. RALPH!! .. gasp .. gasp .. I’m okay. Whew. Gimmie another one … GOOOOOOOO! CCOOOCCKKKSS” You don’t remember the game, much less your name. You were there to see and be seen in that ancient college mating ritual of getting f’ed up and lookin to hookup. I hate you all.
Spring Break fans, female
Much the same as male, only you’re half naked and tan. I love you all.
St. Patrick’s Day fans
Similar to Spring Break males, only you’re over the age of 30 and not an embarrassment.
Cinco de Mayo fans
You’ll go to any game anywhere just for the atmosphere, even if you have no clue as to the history of the programs or their rivalry. You just love football and beer.
Veterans Day fans
Football is a metaphor for war. You revel in the violence. You follow each play with the intensity of a NASCAR fan watching a race, just waiting for that special moment the linebacker gets loose and puts the tailback in the wall. There it is! Wow. Did you hear that! But wait! If it was one of your players, you put your cap to your heart. If it was an opponent – Hell yeah! Our house, baby! For that day’s opponent is your sworn enemy. Their fans are Al-Qaeda in fleece. They are shown no respect. You vandalize their vehicles, curse their children and threaten harm at a moment’s notice. None of it is a joke. You’re dead serious. And you scare me.
Memorial Day fans
You attend every game, home and away. Former players are your heroes. You collect media guides, which you hold with the same reverence due the flag. Ticket stubs are framed with the care of medals. You can recount the most obscure players and plays at a moment’s notice, and do so often and without prompting. You are also unfailingly supportive of the coach and the program, no matter the record or scandal. To be otherwise would dishonor the program, and that you would never do. Besides, often you are the scandal.
Devil’s Night fans
You aren’t great in number, but I’ve witnessed your acts. You are the buzzards which circle the stadium during the game. Kickoff is nothing more than a dark porch light with no cars in the driveway. You steal what you can, destroy what you find and basically find pleasure in destruction. You occasionally sneak into the stadium, but only to punk out. If the game ends in a goalpost-breaking frenzy, you use the celebratory crowd as a mask to go Jackass on anyone and anything. You all deserve to die, and I hope you all burn in hell. Odds are, you hope so as well.
Tax Day fans
The ball is on the 8-yard-line on third down and you fear the worst because the offense is a sorry 4-of-24 on third-down conversions this season. The QB is 4-of-12 passing and the TB is averaging just 2.3 yards a play, while damnit the tight end has dropped one pass and ran out of bounds with another and the fullback is worthless cause he weighs only 235 and runs a 4.9 in the 40 and will never break that defensive line and its average weight of 320, give or take an outside tackle. That’s the largest line your team’s been up against since 1999 when they played that squad from upstate in the sixth game of the season while 4-1 and won 21-20. You mentally – and often scriptally – catalogue every play and game nuance. After the whistle you rush home against an imaginary deadline to be the first to note on the message board DID YOU SEE THAT PLAY in the second quarter when the linebacker dropped back two yards and the center didn’t see him, resulting in a tackle for loss of 2.3 yards, which dropped the team’s average yards per play to 3.4, last in the league at that point in time. That coach ought to be fired! Fired, I type!
Labor Day fans
This is a shout-out to those who work the games. Most of the home team beat reporters and photographers love the squad like a mistress, but have to act uncommitted when the wife (ie. press box bosses) pass by. . They can’t cheer or wear their favorite shirt, the one they snagged free from the leftovers at the end of last season, but they wink when the home team scores and grimace when the visitors break off a 65-yard gain. They’re gentle with the team after a loss, unless they want the coach fired. Then the sixth sack of the game will run five columns on the front page of the sports section with a capped headline in bold playing off the words “Beat down.” Weep for them. It’s a lonely life.
UPDATE: Thanks Will! In return I’ll pull for Illinois tomorrow. Let’s see. Who are they playing. Hmmm. Syracuse, whose fan board also linked here, thanks to Deadspin. Geez … what to do. What to do. I guess I’ll root for the Buzzsaw Sunday instead.