Furman Fans, Are We Doing Our Best?
Furman spirit at games is lackluster — let's change that.
Sporting events should be some of the most exciting venues on campus, yet they are often scarcely attended or forgotten all-together. Why?
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To the average onlooker, Football appears to be the pride and joy of the South, the lifeblood of alums and locales alike. Committed fanatics feverishly anticipate gameday: whether it be tailgating under the Southern sun for hours on end or intensely watching every second of the matchup, passionate emotions underflow the entire escapade. I, too, have fallen victim to the college football attraction — between being on feet for all four quarters and watching my voice slowly dissipate as the game wanes on, I think I’ve fallen into the “rabid fan” category once or twice. Even if you’re just watching on TV, it is hard to miss the emotions radiating from the football stadiums of large SEC or ACC schools — electrifying energy, loud cheering, and rabid fans seem to be a norm at every game (well, every game pre-COVID).
Yet here at Furman, where almost two-thirds of students participate in intramural or club sports, our fanbase at football games is lackluster at best. This dichotomy is baffling —our recreational sports program is thriving, with more and more actives added yearly. If Furman students have so much enthusiasm for the club and intramural sports, why doesn't that passion transfer to our Division One athletic events as well, specifically football?
If those coming to Furman from northern regions of the country except to see the southern football spectacle often programmed on TV, they will be sorely disappointed by our home football games. Typically held in the middle of the afternoon, home games have a lax atmosphere, to say the least. Impartial attendees float in and out of the stadium throughout the event with few staying for the entire game. Truthfully, most attendees are drawn to the event more for the tailgating outside than the game itself. Some students venture down to the stadium only to never witness a minute of the game, as they become much too involved in their match of corn-hole outside to care about the fate of the fighting Paladins.
The above description pertains to football games pre-pandemic. The event now, if possible, is even less exciting. This year, there was a notable drop in the little school spirit that had previously existed at the events. Even during our homecoming game — in which the team fought for an overtime victory — students stayed in their seats. Some of this is surely due to the discontinuation of tailgating. Without that draw, students are just less likely to go to the games, period. And while Covid-19 restrictions have undoubtedly contributed to the now-sullen atmosphere that surrounds football games, I refuse to believe that the pandemic is entirely to blame.
Even before the pandemic, any casual observer would have noticed that students showed up in more significant and louder packs for soccer or rugby games. Men’s and women’s basketball games would get extremely hype, especially those at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena downtown. Even the rugby games, a club sport , had more spirit than the football games. From the games I attended my freshman year, I remember a crowd invested and engaged in the match. Attendees cheered the players on by name and recklessly, and hilariously, heckled the other team in a good-natured way. Essentially, the enthusiasm for athletics is available on Furman’s campus — I’ve seen it. Therefore, the question is not where can we get this enthusiasm but rather how can we translate the atmosphere of a Wofford-Furman basketball game, or ruby match on a Saturday afternoon, to all of our athletic events?
As we enter the Purple Phase, students now have more opportunities to show up for our campus teams. More tickets are coming available, events are opening up, and students, who have been griping all semester about a lack of activities, now have options. In a way, this is the perfect time to start forming a new, campus-wide approach to athletics. Talk about re-building connection — what better connection is there than loudly cheering on your school with your friends?
As we approach the final few weeks of school, let’s take advantage of the opportunities we have left. There are several opportunities left to go cheer on the Paladins, so I encourage you to grab a few friends, paint the top half of your face purple, wear an “FU COVID” mask, and show up for our teams. Let’s start to change campus culture, one event at a time.