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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Least Classy Fans - Part Deux

Yost's post on the worst college fans stirred quite the debate here at the M Zone. He asked that some of the other contributors give their input. My rankings are easy.

1. Tosu. This is a one-horse race. Though I've only been to the 'Shoe twice, I share some experiences with Yost. And I, too, know and count among my friends some Tosu grads. But the experience that is Columbus is the only thing worse than an IRS audit or a full rectal exam.

There's a culture of hate that pervades the entire campus and city. They get more joy out of someone else's loss than they do out of their own victory. This was never more apparent to me than while watching the Buckeyes win the National Championship in the Fiesta Bowl in 2003. During the game, right after a great play by Tosu, they flashed to some of the Buckeye fans celebrating. Right in the middle was a young woman wearing a Fuck Michigan shirt, in maize and blue, no less. So here she spends a ton of money on tickets, flights, and a hotel to attend the biggest game for her school in her lifetime. And what is on her mind? Fuck Michigan. Pathetic.

As was pointed out in the comments of Yost's post by loyal M Zone reader Surrounded in Columbus, the problem is cultural. It's not as if 90% or even 50% of the fans want to kill you. But it's a higher percentage than at any sporting event I've attended. And I'm barely exaggerating when I say they want to kill you. As Surrounded pointed out, it's not everyone who will throw a beer bottle at you. But there are none - or at least far fewer than anywhere else - who will stand up and stop it from happening, or even express regret that it happened. It reminds me of the "All In The Family" episode when Archie meets Sammy Davis Jr. Neighbor Lionel was telling Sammy how, though Archie's a bigot, it's not as if he'd fire up a cross on your lawn. Sammy Davis' response was, "No, but if he saw one burning, he's liable to toast a marshmallow on it."

My experiences in Columbus have certainly scarred me, though I expect to be there again this November 18. I'm completely intimidated at this point. It's gotten so bad that when I go over to some of the Tosu message boards on line, I can feel my heart race, my palms sweat, and a general sense of fear come over me. I almost expect a beer bottle to come flying at me through my monitor. Maybe this is what they want, though I don't see what scaring some short, old, Jewish fan accomplishes. I certainly don't get that feeling when I go over to any other school's message boards.

2. I thought hard about which fans would be #2. I wanted to put Notre Dame here, since the rivalry is intense, but their fans have been nothing but courteous to me and my friends. I've had good experiences watching the Wolverines in Madison, Evanston, Champaign and even West Lafayette. Living in the Midwest, I know people from pretty much every Michigan opponent. I've never had any run-ins with any of them. So the Buckeyes stand alone in my rankings.

But a visit I made to East Lansing while I was in school illustrates the difference between a hated rival - Sparty - and the Buckeyes. It was 1989 and a couple of buddies and I trekked up to East Lansing to watch Bo and Perles square off. We had to get tickets from a scalper and we ended up smack dab in the middle of the student section. Now if this happened today, it'd be no problem. I'd lay low, cheer quietly and get out unscathed. But we were young and felt no reason to rein in our enthusiasm for the maize and blue. This didn't go over too well with the Sparty students around us. They were rude, angry, and slightly violent. But the guys weren't all that bad. There was one girl in front of us who took every opportunity to stand up and give one of us a full body check (we were all standing during the game). This was back when Sparty dominated Michigan in hockey and I could see why. Even her boyfriend was embarrassed at her behavior, though he couldn't help but laugh.

It was a tense battle, won when Tripp Welborne led the defense on an incredible goal line stand right in front of where we were standing. As the game ended, the three of us joined in on a rousing chorus of "The Victors." Did I mention we were right in the middle of the student section? Well most of the Sparty students headed back to their apartments to burn a couch or two. But one guy from way up lobbed a plastic cup full of soda at us. It didn't hit us, but came close enough so that when it exploded on impact, it drenched us with watered-down stadium Coke. The remaining students cheered. Being the young, cocky fans that we were, we made the "bring it on" motion with our hands even though the phrase "bring it on" hadn't really come into the lexicon yet. The plastic cups began to pour down. I couldn't believe how many there were and how many were still full of soda. At least I hope it was soda, because though none of us experienced a direct strike, we were hit by quite a bit of Coke (I hope) shrapnel. It was a very sticky ride home to Ann Arbor.

As we finally made our way out of the stadium - and continued to dodge some plastic cups - I can still recall an older lady leaning over a railing to get our attention and apologize for the behavior of the students. This really struck me. She didn't hit us with a "Fuck Michigan," a middle finger, or another Coke. She gave us a heartfelt apology. We let her know that we had it coming and since no one was hurt it was no big deal. As I reflect on my trips to Columbus, all while an adult, not a student, I can't even fathom a fan apologizing for the behavior of their worst fans. Or one standing up to another fan's boorish behavior. And that's what makes Columbus so unique.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

You certainly have a good grasp on the "Least Classy Fans" w/in the Big 10. But let us look to the ever insightful Kyle on Football to present to you the "Least Classy Fans of the Sec".I will leave the link for those that wish to read the whole blog:
http://www.xanga.com/tkyleking/319528093/item.html
But for those just wanting the gist I will 'cut and paste' from the original source...
And then there's Auburn.
Auburn's fans are in a class by themselves.
Actually, allow me to rephrase that. Auburn's fans are in a lack of class by themselves.
There is nothing about Auburn that is not wholly, utterly, entirely, and absolutely obnoxious. Their color scheme is obnoxious. Their fans are obnoxious. Their players are obnoxious. Their coaches are obnoxious. For crying out loud, their band is obnoxious.
As evidenced by its N.C.A.A. rap sheet, Auburn University had established itself as the S.E.C.'s least reputable member institution well before the Terry Bowden revelations and the Tommy Tuberville near-firing. Virtually everyone ever to have supported the miscreants from the Ugliest Village has been sneering, snide, condescending, or worse. I literally do not believe I have ever heard an Auburn fan utter so much as a single sentence in Athens that was not rude.
There's a word that captures perfectly what it means to be an Auburn fan. This is a family-friendly weblog, so I won't use the word, but I will give you a hint:
I don't think it's coincidental that Auburn fans celebrate their victories using toilet paper.

I think any fan of an SEC team will agree that Kyle is right on target.
Also checkout Kyle's comparison's of Ohio State and Auburn:
http://www.xanga.com/tkyleking?nextdate=1%2f28%2f2006+0%3a20%3a26.623&direction=n
Kyle is definitely the man.

If Auburn fans get wind of this post you bet that their gonna spew their classless bullshit until their cows come home.

surrounded in columbus said...

Benny,
kudos for any football post that includes photos of the cheerleaders of "Bring it On".

Anonymous said...

Looks like we have some leakage from that Auburn mascot post

BaggyPantsDevil said...

It’s funny how the Spartan Shower of Coke actually seems cute when compared to the numerous descriptions of Ohio State fan behavior.

Great pretext for posting cheerleader pictures, too. When I think of the phrase “bring it on” and cheerleaders, I don’t imagine using it in an antagonistic way.

Matthew Barker said...

Benny,

First of all, I'm an Ohio State fan and graduate. I have been attending football games at Ohio Stadium ever since I was six-years old. The first game I ever saw in person was the 1974 OSU-UM game.

On behalf of all Ohio State fans, I would like to apologize for any inappropriate actions towards Michigan fans. I have never witnessed anything malicious, but if I did I would not stand for it.

I have a four-year old son now, and I plan on taking him to games, just like my father did without worries.

Being a fan of the Buckeyes, I enjoy ribbing the Wolverines. But it's all good-natured fun, nothing mean or demeaning.

Also in the post you mentioned that you are Jewish. I grew up in Bexley, a suburb of Columbus, that is predominately Jewish. One of my first jobs as a teenager was working at a kosher supermarket in my neighborhood.

There were numerous instances of "hate" against the Bexley High School basketball team when I was in school. The team bus, as it was driving out of the parking lot after an away game, was pelted with bagels. Students from opposing schools cheering sections liked to throw pennies onto the floor when played was stopped.

Why all of the hate? It's a sporting event, it's suppose to be fun.

As a sports fan, as a Buckeye fan, and as a human being, I just wish people will realize that it's just a game played by students.

Thanks for you time,
Matthew Barker

Benny Friedman said...

Matthew, thanks for reading and thanks for the comments. Tosu fans have taken a lot of criticism here. We hope people don't think we're saying they're all bad or even most of them are bad. It's a minority of the fandom that act like jerks. What we've seen in our experiences in Columbus, though, is that there are too few fans like you who won't put up with the boorish behavior. Hopefully your son will follow your example.