I’ve been around college football stadiums (or is it stadia?) most of my life. Growing up in the shadow of Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama was a real treat for a boy raised on college football. Beginning in the sixth grade selling programs through many glorious days in the student section to now as a proud alumnus I can say with confidence that I know how to enjoy a day in the stadium. And one thing I cannot bear is bad behavior in the stands. I’ve seen my fair share of fights, loudmouths, passed out drunks, you name it.
Just this past weekend I was fortunate to receive a pair of tickets to a classic SEC game from a family friend. The seats are some of my favorites, in a good section of the stadium full of friends I love running into year after year. There we are, standing as the eagle is about to fly (one of the greatest traditions in all of college football). The band takes the field preparing to play God Bless America followed by The National Anthem where an entire choir 85,000 strong stands with hands on hearts and sings every word. No matter what happens during the next four quarters, this portion of game day never fails to bring a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. Well, on this particular Saturday a rather bossy female huffs up and barks “You’re in our seats.” Well, actually, we’re in our seats I prove as I show her our tickets. She then stands there with her back to me while she barks a few more orders – mind you, there has not been an apology offered – blocking my view and potentially spoiling my favorite moment. I leaned forward, and in the most polite tone I could muster, asked her to kindly adjust so that we could enjoy the show. She gave me such a look you would have thought I had spilled my drink on her. It was all I could do not to shake my shaker at her. Rude. Take special note of the row and seat on your ticket and the row number on the ground before you accuse someone of stealing your seat.
Here’s the deal. Game days bring together people from all walks of life, high, middle and low. I once took a young cousin from Charleston to a game and he remarked, “Man, the general public is disgusting.” His privileged upbringing notwithstanding the common denominator among the crowd is the love of the game. Some people are boozing, some are already drunk, some are old, young, rich, poor, well dressed and slovenly. It is definitely a slice of life’s rich pageant. But, there is one thing that should be common to all and that is respect for those around you. And please don’t talk to me about luxury boxes. I’ve been there. I like the roar of the crowd, the smell of the field and the sound of helmets making contact. If I wanted to sit in a comfortable chair, with air-conditioning and an open bar, I would stay at home.
I for one love to stand during a game. I am on my feet hooting for defense and praying for offense. I believe that if I’m not hoarse by the third quarter, I am not doing my job as a fan. I rejoice in a first down, a great catch and high five strangers for a touchdown. Hugs are not uncommon and I am not a hugger. But. If the people behind me are sitting, I sit. It’s called courtesy.
Then there are the types who think they are better coaches than those on the field and they proceed to yell at every play they don’t like. They repeat the same lines that we’ve all read in the newspaper that day as if they were their own pithy observations. I don’t mind an eagle eye that spots a penalty and informs us before the announcer does, but that’s about all of the amateur analysis one can take. Keep it zipped, brother. We know you missed your calling as a coach and a referee and we’re here for you.
Then there is always the redneck rowdy types who curse and taunt at the visiting guests and this is the worst offense one can imagine. These cavemen seem to take the game so personally that it makes the day unbearable for the rest of us. I always wonder if they are actual graduates of the college. Usually, sadly, they are not. This is what we call the Walmart Alumni, for that is where they purchase their game day gear and act ruder than any graduate ever would. If the rubes persist in being loud and vulgar, don’t ruin your day by engaging them. Simply call the police. Stadium security is usually quite adequate.
A few rules to make game day a more pleasant experience:
Arrive early enough to take your seat and not step on other people.
Notice your row and seat number carefully.
Talk to people with kindness and respect.
Stand when others stand, sit when others sit.
Try not to come and go from your seat all game long.
Watch your knees and don’t poke the back of the person in front of you.
Don’t be vulgar or profane.
Don’t announce a play by play.
Be discreet pouring your liquor. And for Pete’s sake, handle your liquor.
Try your damndest not to spill. No one wants to stand in syrupy Coca Cola for three hours.
Offer to fetch your row mates something from the concession stand.
Day games are hot. Hydrate, sunblock and pop your collar to avoid sunburned neck.
Dress nice, preferably a light blazer, button down and khakis.
Finally, enjoy. And remember, it’s only a game. The sun will still rise tomorrow, the world will not end and there’s always next Saturday.
and register to win a bow tie.
You know the drill. Advertisers want to know your business before they give us business.