As the college football season approached and I checked the mailbox daily for season tickets to arrive, my thoughts turned to how I could navigate the clearly partisan environment in the best way for my kids, age 11 & 9. We've done a good job of that, in general, over the years but remain concerned that overly-passionate people say and do things in the heat of the moment that they would never do normally. I prefer my kids, or any others, not be exposed to ugly confrontations, obscene language or worse.
My son began attending Starpoint School at TCU in the fall of 2011 and we attended a few football games that season. Over the ensuing years, our attendance has gone from spotty to 100% and our group has grown from a scant handful to upwards of 20-30 each game, always in the South End Zone in the section just west of the tunnel and as close to the first row as we can get. The vast majority of the time the atmosphere has been idyllic (but occasionally pretty hot with those early season, early kick offs the first couple of years in the Big XII - - night games are so much better) but a few things have happened over the years.
One incident occurred during the OU game in 2014. OU was ranked 5th at the time if I remember correctly and TCU wasn't really expected to lose only 1 game that season. So, when TCU scored to go up by a touchdown or two, a nearby TCU fan got in the face of an OU fan, who didn't retaliate but didn't back down either. They separated slightly then the TCU fan turned to re-engage. I slid quickly in between them and others summoned nearby FWPD officers who promptly removed the aggressive TCU fan, who, by the way, was impaired enough that he resisted the officers at first also.
That and occasional outbursts of inappropriate language are it. In the overall scheme of things, that's not too bad but the OU memory comes to mind often anyway. When I was about my son's age, my dad & I encountered some really drunk guys while fishing. Even though nothing bad happened, I still remember it and that drives me to do what I can to avoid that type of memory for my kids.
We've traveled for the two Thanksgiving games in Austin and initial worries about the combo platter of big-time NCAA football and "Keep Austin Weird" proved unfounded. We had good experiences at both games. Once on vacation in Manhattan, my son was wearing a Texas Rangers t-shirt. A street vendor outside the Museum of Natural History noticed it and called out to my son. My first reaction was "uh oh, here we go" but the vendor, a Yankees fan of course, only good-naturedly razzed my son a little and laughed heartily when my son returned the favor.
So, as this season approached I read more & more comments - - and more comments with a harsh, mean-spirited slant - - from fans perhaps emboldened by the anonymity of online posts. How could I bring my kids into that environment but still keep it positive? Knowing I can only control my own behavior, I thought about a credo or manifesto that I could hold myself to, modeling the behavior I hoped for from myself and from others.
With that process already underway, I saw a post featuring an crude, obscene opinion about a rival school, on a TCU fan page on Facebook and I thought, "That's wrong. Too far." The fans of that rival school are people just like me and neither I nor they deserve that type of disrespect. I commented to that FB post and, as you'd expect, some people agreed and others didn't.
That incident compelled me to follow through with my thought of a manifesto and I shared it on FB on 8/31/16. Here it is, slightly edited from the original:
My Fan Manifesto
I will root for TCU against any and all opponents.
I will not denigrate those opponents or their fans.
I will not wish them ill will beyond the confines of them losing the game at hand, and, win or lose, I will offer a smile and a "maybe next time" shrug.
When I see opposing fans on or near campus, I will ask if they traveled for the game and, if so, I will thank them for coming to Fort Worth and, if not, I will thank them for visiting the campus.
In short, I will treat them how I would want to be treated. That's good advice that a friend of mine gave us all a while back.
I have lived by it in the early going this season to nice effect. I had a couple of nice exchanges with SDSU fans. At the Arkansas game, several groups of Arkansas fans sat nearby and, even in the midst of rooting for our respective teams, we chatted amiably and took group photos and such.
When a TCU fan's language crossed the line, I and others called him on it. He wasn't happy about it but he did clean up his language. When an Arkansas fan's language crossed the line, we called him out too. After the game, I approached him, offered a handshake and congratulations on their win. Then, I thanked him for respecting our request about his language. Guess what he did? He apologized. Sincerely. In that face-to-face moment, we saw how people really behave, with mutual respect and consideration.
As we left our seats for the main concourse, my son got & gave a couple of high-fives from Arkansas fans and exchanged "good game" and "see you next year" comments. We plan to offer more of this behavior to the world at large and hope and expect more to come back our way too.