Hello-hello, all. The Consort here striding confidently mikeside while The (lovely and endlessly talented) Princess continues her search for the perfect apple cider. Today we’ll be discussing something near and dear to my heart: college football. But we won’t be bogged down by the ins-and-outs of the game. We’re drinking and tailgating!
The Prepatorium is in the shadow of a major Big 10 university. Football Saturdays are a big, loud deal. The tailgating begins five hours before kick-off and that’s only because the start time for the parties was restricted by the school. I can recall when a major booster would bring two motor homes to the parking lot and create a compound. One motor home was for general use and the other was the women’s washroom. An elegant solution to one of life’s challenges: When you gotta go – where are you gonna go? But I digress. This tailgate party scene is repeated on campuses around the country. Auburn’s tailgating is legendary. The extravagance at LSU and THE Ohio State University (as they say) will bring tears to your eyes. At Georgia the Dawgs woof loudly but then something odd has been happening with the student body. They’re not going in the stadium to watch the game.
Recently The Wall Street Journal published an eye-opening article about this phenomenon. And it’s just not Georgia. The Journal checked a number of SEC schools and found student attendance slipping. The reasons are varied, speculative and interesting. Some students said bandwidth issues inside the stadium restricted use of their mobile devices. Others were more comfortable at their tailgate watching the game on high-definition televisions with all the food and drink they wanted within easy reach.
I am torn on this. It’s jarring to go to a live athletic event and miss the replays from five different angles we’ve come to expect on television. I can’t help feeling like I’ve missed some of the subtle nuances of a game if I can’t see the close-up shots of the participants. Sure, I have to put up with the insipid comments from the broadcasters. Is that any worse than the drunken know-it-all two seats over in my section? But the real issue to me is something bigger.
There is an exciting sense of participation among the people inside a stadium. That group-sense is lost when passively watching a game on television. That sense of belonging, of being part of something bigger than yourself, is why we are passionate about sports teams. There are moments that television is too small to capture. The raw emotion when the Michigan Wolverines pour out of the tunnel into a stadium packed with 115,000 screaming fans.
Or when Traveler, the magnificent white horse, leads the USC Trojans on the field.
Who could ever forget watching the War Eagle soar into the stadium at Auburn?
Those moments are shown on television but experienced live. One thing that is almost never shown on television these days? Those incredible marching bands.
They wash over the people in the stadium and are part of traditions that go back generations.
But traditions have arcs, too. I hope this generation of students will drag themselves away from their tailgate and experience the game inside the stadium. If for no other reason than to take a selfie to send home to Mom and Dad.
Thanks for indulging me. Some of you might say this rant is proof that I should have used a helmet when I played football. That may be true. The Princess will return after the weekend and we’ll all be better for that. Meanwhile, please take care of your waitperson today because they’re working hard for you. Good night, everyone!