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This Isn’t Really About The Fans

Call me cold-hearted. Call me anti-fun. As I watched college football this weekend and consumed the global social media conversation via Twitter, I walked away with one question: Am I the only person in the country that genuinely does not care that there are fans in the stands again?

FOX took a solid three minutes to show me a bunch of midwestern college students jumping up and down during Penn State’s win over Wisconsin. Gus Johnson called it “one of the most wonderful moments in college football.” Twitter users called it “awesome” and “glorious.” I thought it was a waste of my time as a viewer.

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I didn’t like House of Pain’s “Jump Around” when it came out in the early 90s. I don’t like it now. I’m not at all opposed to Wisconsin students participating in their tradition and having fun. Just don’t try to sell me that it is a spectacle to behold.

One thing that became clear as day during the first full weekend of action across college football is that whether we want to participate or not, college football fans are ground zero for the Covid culture war right now. It’s not surprising then that FOX was so eager to participate.

While I applaud the stadiums and schools making proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test mandatory for entry, I don’t watch games with the same sort of discomfort I did in 2020. I am glad people that want to go to games can. Everyone knows the risks and they know there is a vaccine available to them.

The fact that I am not one of those people dying to be there in person has nothing to do with the virus and everything to do with the fact that no seat inside a stadium offers the view my 90-inch television does. And at some point, unless you are attending one of your kid’s games, you become too old to sit on bleachers.

Do fans offer an atmosphere that the sport missed last year? Sure. Games were undeniably different in the PAC-12 and Big Ten, where no fans were in the stadium. But this idea that those were unwatchable because there were no fans in the stands is absurd…PAC-12 and Big Ten football are almost always unwatchable!

Kidding.

What is it that Senator and noted neighborhood punching bag Rand Paul accused people that wear masks of doing? Virtue signaling? That is what this fawning over fans in stands feels like. It is making sure your audience – be it on TV or Twitter – knows that what they are seeing is Americans celebrating their freedom.

I don’t doubt that from the perspectives of many of these broadcasters that their jobs are easier with crowd noise to play off of. Our own Andy Masur has written about how unsettling it can be to call games in a totally empty ballpark. There are just certain people, who spent 2020 as the stars of many an uncle’s Facebook content, whose excitement and relief are hard to take seriously.

FOX, ESPN and CBS will have plenty of human interest pieces ready to go for their pregame shows this season. They will highlight fans that missed each other for a whole year reuniting in the section where they both have season tickets. They will feature the tailgate chefs that didn’t have any mouths, familiar or brand new, to feed last year. Those things are all part of college football culture, especially in the South. I would expect to see features highlighting those sorts of community gatherings. What I don’t want to see is overstating what full stadiums mean to you or to sports simply to score points with a particular segment of the audience.

Everything is a culture war in America now. It is friggin’ boring. If you tell me it is great to see fans in the stands again, I will believe you. I will even agree with you. If you are going to pause your broadcast of a game to watch a bunch of kids jump and tell me how meaningful it is to fans of the sport, I am going to dismiss your opinion as an attempt to stoke flames that very few of us are interested in keeping alive.

Demetri Ravanos
Demetri Ravanos
Demetri Ravanos is a columnist and features writer for Barrett Media. He is also the creator of The Sports Podcast Festival, and a previous host on the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas in addition to hosting Panthers and College Football podcasts. His radio resume includes stops at WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos or reach him by email at [email protected].

2 COMMENTS

  1. I got through about three paragraphs before giving up. This is a stupider take than anything Screaming A Smith has come up with and that’s saying something. Jerks like you are why we can never have nice things in life.

  2. Maybe there is genuine excitement that people can get back to their normal pre covid lives. I am also one who stopped going to live sporting events prior to covid because the cost of tickets, parking, food etc. But we were locked down, scared, etc for over a year. Just enjoy it for the sports fan, not because it signals you are for fox or CNN, etc.

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