By Luke Robinson
My friends and I sat in the stands of Sanford Stadium on the campus of the University of Georgia on a wet, dreary day last October. It had rained all day. Hard and consistently. Noah’s Ark hard. Forrest Gump consistent.
It was literally wetter than an underwater porno.
We were perched 873 rows above the field. The grooves in the aluminum bleachers were like tiiiiiiiiiiny Olympic swimming pools just waiting for our already-soaked butts to take another plunge. Oddly, it was kind of hot, too, like when you get in your car quickly after a surprise summer storm.
The only saving grace was that our team, the University of Alabama, was slapping the home-standing Bulldogs all over the field. Luckily, that fact alone allowed us to block out the ever-present precipitation. That and—just maybe—an extra “kick” or two in our concession drinks.
The game was clearly won by the appropriately named Tide early in the third quarter when the scoreboard read “Alabama 31, Georgia 3.” Understandably, UGA fans began leaving in droves. I assume by fishing boat.
But there was one Bulldog supporter who stayed right beside us with his wife and two young children. He stoically stared in deep concentration at the field like he was reading a grassy eye chart. The family didn’t speak much. The wife was tapping away on her phone, the kids were quietly fidgeting, and the husband just sat silently. Then, when ’Bama tacked on another TD to increase the lead, one of the sons had the brass cojones to ask the man, “Hey, Daddy…Can we please go now?”
The man didn’t move. He didn’t even acknowledge the child for a moment. He then scowled and said (in an unusually loud voice), “No, son. The players are here, so we are here!” The son slinked off to fidget some more. The wife rolled her eyes (probably…I didn’t actually see that part.) The dad just continued staring.
I am betting the father said what he said in an increased volume so the Alabama faithful surrounding him would think, “That’s a good fan.” Instead, I thought, “Are you nuts?!” Let’s get real here: forcing yourself to sit through a thrashing of your favorite team isn’t all that noble. Frankly, unless your child is on the team (or you are hoping for some sort of backdoor cover of a 10-point teaser), it’s crazy.
Look, the players are contractually obligated to stay no matter the score. They signed scholarship papers and stuff. You are just a dude who bought tickets. When it’s raining like the James Spann-apocalypse, your family is miserable, and your team is losing by 35 in the third quarter, it is totally cool to head home to get chores done or do that wall-mounted crossword your mother-in-law ordered for you from Skymall four years ago.
You’re busy. I get it.
I am not advocating fair-weather-fan-ism here, just common sense. Don’t leave a 20-17 game with three minutes left or anything. However, you are no less of a fan if you try to get home to the comfort of your recliner early or take care of a few “honey-do”s in lieu of sitting through a blowout. It just makes you practical. That laundry ain’t going to wash itself, man!
Does leaving early mean you may miss a once-in-a-lifetime comeback? Perhaps. Stranger things have happened. But the odds are much greater that you’ll just raise your blood pressure as your team will almost certainly fall short, making you even madder than before.
I realize this sentiment may be unpopular in our loyalty-comes-first, sports-centric culture. “Vol For Life,” “Tide Till I Die,” and “AUburn Fan ForAUver No MAUtter WhAUt” are all popular bumper stickers (probably…again, I have never actually seen these.) Think about it this way though: Recruits “flip” commitments routinely. Players leave as transfers or free agents all of the time. Coaches switch programs constantly. Hell, whole teams leave cities on occasion! Considering those aforementioned facts and given we are a nation where the divorce rate is a tick over 50 percent, why are those people who get a jump on traffic during a game that is already decided considered “uncommitted fans”?
So I am giving you, dude who feels obligated to watch his favorite team take a whuppin’, permission: The next time your squad plays like crap and is ruining your Saturday, you have every right to head to the house early.
You got shit to do.