There’s been lots of talk this week about Gary Patterson’s comments since the SMU game. While some have focused on the play-calling and the future of Sonny Cumbie’s job, others have focused on Patterson’s comments regarding the crowd—or lack thereof. And while this is something that gets brought up every season, his comments had a little extra spice thrown into them this time. I mean, it makes sense. We got beat at home by a coach we used to call ours. That hurts. But I ask you: What if Gary Patterson is…dare I say it…right??
Yes, I’m about to go on a bit of a rant here. But I’m the old lady on staff, so I take that as my right to rant occasionally. To be a called a “Football School” (or any other sport school, for that matter), you have to have:
1. A good team.
2. A good crowd.
Don’t start commenting yet about item #2 on my list. We’ll get there. Let’s start with #1. Yes, I know, there are plenty of us alumni who moan and groan about how awful our team was years and years ago in other conferences, with other quarterbacks, and at certain bowl games (RIP 2001 Galleryfurniture.com Bowl). But that’s not exactly what I’m talking about. In more recent years, Patterson has put together a team, a group of coaches, and a recruiting program that’s top-notch. We’ve seen our share of Moments: the Rose Bowl, beating Oklahoma, the Alamo Bowl comeback, and more. Recruiting is always key to having a good team, and having the right staff to maintain that team is vital.
So what about item #2? Why is a crowd such a big deal? Does it really make that big a difference?
“If you build it, they will come.” While that famous line is from a baseball movie, the same idea goes for just about anything—build something nice, and people will want to go to it. It’s why movie theaters have recliners and serve meals, why people flock to places like Disney World year after year, and why my nail place literally has a full service bar now. Here are the complaints we’ve heard about Amon G. Carter over the years:
1. Stadium is too small
2. Jumbo screens too small
3. No alcohol in the stadium
4. Crappy stadium food
5. Expensive tickets
6. Expensive parking
7. An athletic facility that isn’t conducive to recruiting big players
8. People leaving the game at halftime to go tailgate and never coming back
So let’s look at where we’re at now:
1. A new stadium that’s ever-expanding because we literally don’t know when to stop but it’ll be really nice when it’s finished
2. A new GIGANTO-screen so we can see the players’ fingernails on replays
3. Alcohol in the stadium, reasonably priced
4. Gourmet food in addition to the hot dogs, pretzels, and sodas
5. I’m not sure I’ll ever be happy with ticket prices, but that $20 offer got my butt into the stadium last weekend (even though it cost me a cool $100 for babysitting, plus pizza for the babysitter and kids, and food for hubby and I at the game).
6. I happily paid $20 to park at Paschal High School, where buses are frequent and air conditioned
7. An athletic center that includes top-notch training and weight rooms, state-of-the-art locker rooms, and a new viewing area for super-important people with lots of money. Plus NFL alums.
8. LET’S TALK ABOUT THIS.
To be honest, the stadium wasn’t filled at the start of the game. Want proof? Here you go:
For those of you who want to argue that “everyone” skips the National Anthem, fine. Here’s a look at the Riff Ram video and banners:
Going into the 4th quarter, we were down by 7. SMU hadn’t scored the entire 3rd quarter. We made some great plays, and some great stops. With 9 minutes to go, there were even fewer people left in the stadium. We were still down by 7. With 3 minutes left, we were down by 3. I texted the babysitter to extend her by half an hour so we could stay. But the student section was nearly empty. And fans were filing out all over the stadium. And Patterson was right—their student section was brimming with students, who were happily throwing confetti onto our field.
So where did the Frog fans go? And why?? What more do we expect at this point? Armchairs (plenty of you want to be armchair quarterback every week, so maybe you really do want those)? Full-time wait staff hiking up the ramp to the 400 section to bring you your food? Gordon Ramsey grilling hot dogs?
Because if you come back at me with the phrase, “A winning team” or something like it, then you’re not a true Frog fan. True Frog fans are the ones who stick with this team through thick and thin. True Frog fans will trust their head coach to lead us through freshmen quarterbacks, receivers with slippery hands, and so many injuries that I consider inquiring about my NCAA eligibility status. True Frog fans don’t always make it to the stadium or to the games, because…well, LIFE…but if they do, then they walk in that stadium and stay for the whole game. True Frog fans were the family in front of us last week with organic dried mango, coloring books, and books fresh from the book fair for their young daughters. And the man behind us who brought his wife and taught her what to look for in each play, who to watch, and why it sucked when we were playing a stellar hurry-up offense and the SMU guy went down with fake cramps. True Frog fans were the elderly couple sharing a bucket of popcorn and telling us about their travels all over the U.S. and how they were planning their trip to the Kansas State game this season. And true Frog fans are the moms who haul the clear bags filled with 5 hours worth of diapers, formula, bottles, teethers, and (sometimes) hair bows, to keep the littlest Frogs entertained and happy. I see you. And I appreciate you.
So for all you spoiled “fans” who are upset because a bunch of 18-to-23-year-olds had a rough game, and you felt that was reason enough to go home or back to your dorm early, suck it up. If we want to be a true “Football school” then we need to have high expectations of our team and staff, but they also need to have high expectations of us. The SEC has banned in-and-out privileges for years (which, you could argue, allows ticket prices to be lower with less security staff needed at the gates, but I digress). If we want to call ourselves high-caliber, then we must act like it. Everybody counts at these games. Let me say it again: Every. Body. Counts. Every purple shirt that outnumbers the red, orange, or green shirts. Every voice cheering louder than a visiting fan. Every student heckling the opposing team’s players when our defense stops them on 4th and 1.
And on a final note, let’s talk about those 18-to-23-year-olds. From the time they learn to walk, we cheer for our kids. And we teach our kids to cheer. They cheer for each other, and they cheer for their team. Some of them even become literal cheerleaders, learning stunts, holding signs, and yelling into megaphones. Some hold poms, buy dance shoes, and sparkly costumes. Parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles file into roadside “stadiums” and onto wooden benches that have seen way too many butts over the years. They watch and scream and take videos of children playing a sport. And they cheer.
And those players work hard. So hard we’re considering paying to wear their names on our backs. They juggle classes, workouts, and trips to the trainer for supplements. They go to tutoring to stay eligible. They tape ankles and wrists, and Google symptoms to see if that pain in their knee is something they should mention to the training staff. And at the end of the week, they put on that jersey and they prepare to go to battle. For us. For a school that tells them it believes in them. That Frog fans believe in them. Because playing for a silent crowd is no fun. Hearing chants of “SMU” over your own team is no fun. Making a fantastic play, then looking up and seeing their fans in the stands instead of yours is no fun. These players work hard through spring, summer, and fall to show their commitment to us. So let’s prove our commitment to them. Let’s show up for them the way they show up for us—week after week for all four quarters. Now let’s go beat Kansas.