This weekend starts the college football season or, as I prefer to call it, the One True Sport which means it’s time to review the rules of college football for fans. Yes, there are rules, honestly how did you get to this age without knowing that?!
First, there’s no such thing as a spectator at a college football game–it’s a full participation full contact experience. You’re there to cheer your team on, pretend you remember the words to the Alma Mater (except at Notre Dame, they know it) and release a lot of tension; following these few simple rules will make it all easier.
Primary Team Allegiance: your college football loyalties follow your undergraduate degree. If your team sucks, sorry, you’re stuck with it. No cheating and using your graduate school–it’s your undergraduate school and there’s an end to it. No switching around if you transferred either, it’s the school on your diploma. If you transferred to Michigan from Ohio and finished up at Michigan during the Brady Hoke years then you had to ride it out until Harbaugh came on the scene–no switching sides and cheering for the Buckeyes until the Wolverines get good again. If you went to IU Bloomington then remember they generally kick ass at basketball. BTW, you are not obligated to follow your graduate school’s team at all. If your college doesn’t have a team or if you didn’t attend college you are free to follow any team you wish but once you’ve made your choice that’s it. It’s your team now. Choose wisely. (Indiana Jones Last Crusade–I’m faculty emerita, I can quote the classics.)
Secondary Team Allegiance: This is a bit more flexible. If you work for a college or university then you should take them on as your team 2 or at least not root against them where people can hear you. Basically, you can pick any team you want for your secondary team and you can switch as much as you like. If you worked for the University of Spoiled Children (USC) and get a job at Cal Tech then you can ignore USC. This means that yes, if you are that good person who wants to support the league then you can cheer for THE Ohio State University if they make the playoffs and you’re a die-hard Terrapin fan. Sadly, I personally am not that good person.
When BOTH your teams play each other: It’s tough, I’ve been there. Michigan grad working for Notre Dame. You might just want to stay home or, do what I did and let everyone know, up front, that you’re going to cheer every good play no matter who makes it. I wore one Block M earring and one interlocked ND earring. Really, I did, there are witnesses. The school colors for both universities were close enough that I didn’t have to Frankenstein a t-shirt. The only year I didn’t cheer all good plays was when Michigan really needed to get a new coach and I figured that a loss to Notre Dame would help that process along. Just realize that you’re going to take a lot of guff from all sides.
National Anthem: Take your hat off and stand (If you can) sing unless it’s being lead by some singer who is all about personal style and wastes everyone’s time with a crap load of pentatonics. Yes sweetie, you can sign one, three, five intervals. Great, congratulations, have a cookie. If you’re the one organizing the national anthem for the love of gawd it’s OUR national anthem, not an audition tape for ‘America’s Got Talent’. The people in the stands aren’t there to be backup singers.
Protests: if you’re protesting and the National Anthem is your platform then make it 1) silent and 2) clear. Don’t blow your vuvuzela, just take a knee or turn your back or something. If all you do is stay seated or keep walking to your seat with a soft pretzel and overpriced pop we’ll assume you’re an asshole, not a patriot exercising your 1st amendment rights.
Bands: Hey, the bands work hard, they don’t get paid, they love their school, too. Never, ever boo the band. Seriously, don’t, just don’t.
Last seconds field goal: It took the team a whole four quarters to get to the point where a field goal wins, ties or loses the game. Don’t take it out on field goal kicker.
They and We: If you say “we won” then it’s also “we lost”. None of this we won and they lost. It’s either your team or it isn’t. Learn it, live it.
Leaving early: This isn’t a rule as much as a dignity-saving tactic. If you KNOW, up front, that you’re going to leave early let the people around you know. You’ll get razzed anyway if your team is losing but at least you’ve got plausible deniability.
Remember: it’s a game, enjoy it, appreciate the skill and grace of disciplined athletes performing the skills they’ve trained for, shout your approval and groan your disappointment. Don’t be an obnoxious jerk no matter the score or how bad the officials are. No one is snubbing out cigarettes on your mother’s arm and no one’s kitten is going to die because your team lost. You’re there to have a good time and release a lot of frustration and stress hollering about something that ultimately doesn’t “pick your pocket or break your leg” as Jefferson put it.
Eat the loaded tater tots, happy trash talk with your seat mates, wear your spirit gear and follow the rules.