Here's To You Mr. Texas Fan
I love Mack Brown. Some people who do not follow the Texas program as closely accuse him of being an excellent recruiter but a bad game day coach. I do not agree. Brown has a long history of turning programs around. He has been successful at every coaching level and has two national championship rings to show for it. The guy is a proven winner.
But, I must object to Coach Brown's assessment of Texas fans.
During his press conference, Brown had this to offer: "I spent three years at Iowa State and my knowledge of the history of the University of Iowa football program really grew. I think there were 19 years of losing seasons and they filled it up every week. I can say that is one thing we don't have in common at The University of Texas. Ours wouldn't come if we lost for 19 years."
These comments play into the common theory that Iowa and Nebraska have the best college football fans anywhere. Having traveled to a Nebraska game, I cannot disagree. Nebraska fans are friendly, walking encyclopedias of college football and extremely loyal. Texas fans are angry after a loss and Nebraska fans are simply disappointed. I have never been to Iowa so I do not have firsthand knowledge of their home demeanor. But, if they are on par with the Iowa State fans that travel to Austin, I would not protest on the label.
The other side of these comments is that Texas fans do not offer the same amount of loyalty to their team. We do not show our support if a poor product takes the field. (This is called a "fairweather fan" in aggy speak) I do not dispute this. Before 1998, it was relatively easy to walk up to DKR stadium and buy a ticket. HEB, Austin's biggest grocer, used to have $5 ticket specials for the recently demolished north endzone. Big 12/Southwest Conference championships aside, Texas was pretty bad in the 90's. This was punctuated by the lack of fan support on game day.
But, Coach Brown is making an unfair comparison with the programs. For starters, the ISU and Iowa stadiums seat far less people than DKR does. If you took Texas' worst years of attendance you would still overflow either of the two. So, in essence, the same claim would be said about Texas fans if they downsized the capacity of DKR.
Perhaps, more importantly, the field of play is not on par.
During the course of a college football season, residents of Texas can attend or watch MLB playoffs, NBA games from 3 state teams, NFL games from 2 state teams including an elongated preseason, Dallas Stars hockey and minor league affiliates and even soccer games. If you are a resident in Iowa or Nebraska, you do not have these conflicts of interest. While I do not doubt that professional loyalties are bound within these states, it isn't the same as having a team to call your own. College football is all that they have to cling to...win or lose. I do not think that it makes you any less of a fan if you watch the Horns play on television and actually spend money to attend a Spurs game the next night. After all, football is much better on a 52" HDTV. Sure, the overall experience isn't the same, but a 4-yard run doesn't look like an armegeddon from the stands. (Nor can you pause it or conduct a self-paced review) If you are going to spend a truckload of money on the equipment for the sole purpose of sports entertainment, why not put it to use?
If you live outside the greater Austin area, the problem further compounds.
If I want to take my two sons to see the Horns in action I have to budget for the following: 3 tickets for $165 ($55 per for a "cheap" game against a tune-up opponent), $60 for gas roundtrip, $20 for stadium parking, $15 for bottled water/hot chocolate depending on the game and $30 for food if we sneak in some generic stuff. That is a net total of $300. Forget the added costs of staying at a roach motel or even purchasing souvenirs. This is strictly for a daytrip. (Not to mention the 6+ hours of driving to and from Austin with an 8 year old and a 6 year old in the backseat) Over the course of 6 home games a person such as myself would spend $1,800 to see the Longhorns play. Mind you, this is a low estimate considering the hike conference opponents and rivals deliver on ticket prices assuming that you could find them at face value. We won't even get to the added expenses of traveling to a road game.
The fact that I do not have disposable income to commit to this when the product on the field is of poor quality makes me a bad fan?
I have never heard of anyone going to Las Vegas with the notion that they are going to just throw their money away gambling. Not lose their income on a blown roulette strategy, but simply hand over their money to the front desk and be on their way. If I am going to spend a sizable amount, I want at least a possibility of a return on my investment. If you cannot offer me this, I will find someone that can. (See Texas' professional distractions) This doesn't mean that I am not passionate about you. This means that I am not willing to monetarily support your efforts as a fan if you are not willing to give me effort as a team. 19 straight years of losing seasons only validates the fact that you showed up. It does not constitute an effort.
This is a common occurrence across the board. When the Dallas Mavericks were winning 13 games a season, attendance records weren't exactly being shattered. I remember throwing tantrums when Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys because games were subject to a broadcast blackout due to poor attendance. Rangers' owner Tom Hicks has made a commitment to not overspend on talent as a direct result of fans not opening their wallets in the second half of the season. This is just in Dallas where we are spoiled with representatives in all major professional sports and the championship aura that surrounds them.
So Coach Brown, yes we have become a little spoiled. But, then again, so have you.