"The students left early!" "There’s no one in the stands!" "How can they not dress appropriately?" "OMG, they booed at halftime!" "The players will think that’s directed at them!" "This will hurt recruiting!" "They’re harming the program!"
This is more or less an accurate summary of my twitter timeline this week. And let me be clear, all of these things are definitely true statements. A packed loud cheering crowd appropriately clad for the elements that stays until and beyond the end of each game is in the best interest of fans, players, coaches, and everyone else who even casually likes Auburn Tigers athletics. My displeasure comes not from the veracity of these tweets but their misplaced emphasis.
OK boomers, yes, the kids messed up but here’s the deal: they freaking know that. Youthful indiscretions happen. They will live and learn. They’re gonna bundle up for Georgia. Quit beating them up about it. Your tweets at their expense are neither funny nor helpful. As a matter of fact, you may drive some of this generation to direct their attention to thousands of other potential pursuits other than college football fandom. We’re constantly recruiting the next class of players, but don’t forget we’re also constantly recruiting the next generation of fans.
The audience/performer dynamic is volatile and powerful. In the best cases, each side feeds off the other to create an amazing feedback loop of energy, and in the worse cases mutual recriminations lead to ugly confrontations. Both sides are responsible for the gig’s vibe, but they are not equally responsible, especially when one side is shelling out a lot of money to the other. If you’ve ever been in a band or done stand up, you know you’ve got to win the crowd over. Hopefully they give you something to start with and some gigs are easier or harder than others, but you know it’s on you to go out there and win the crowd even if the place is full of your avowed fans. Football is decidedly easier in this regard that the other examples I’ve offered, but the difference is one of degree not kind.
Auburn scored 20 points against Ole Miss. Fair to say, this was far less than anyone expected. But excuses abound. "500+ yards of offense!" "It was just missed field goals and a fumble!" "This was a fluke!" Again, these are all very true statements, but I don’t understand why reasonable excuses come so easily for the performer but not for the paying audience. It was cold. It was an opponent who’s not going to a bowl game this year. The game was kind of boring. And the final score, win or lose, was embarrassing. Yards gained don’t excite fans; touchdowns excite fans and they were in short supply Saturday night. Settling for field goals sucks. Missing them sucks even more. Repeatedly doing so is naturally going to cause some fan malaise to set in. To be clear I don’t exactly love the "put a better product on the field" rejoinder. It’s a little too reductionist and entitled for my taste and it ignores the fan’s role. But there is undeniably a kernel of truth to it and we should acknowledge that.
So no matter which camp you’re in, just calm down. As a good rule of thumb, if your tweet or post makes you feel superior to another group of Auburn fans, don’t click send, because a house divided against itself is not going to beat Georgia. And we need to beat Georgia.