Widgets Magazine

Chen: Your University Needs You

At an institution that boasts an unparalleled combination of outstanding academics and top-notch athletics, it’s hard to imagine how fan attendance at sporting events can be so awful. But that’s the reality at Stanford. Don’t try to deny it — it’s god-awful.

I’ve never written a column about poor crowd attendance at Stanford athletic events, despite the fact that it’s baffled me for the past year. One, because I didn’t really think writing a column could make a difference. And two, it’s not always fun criticizing a community that you’re a part of.

But when the tickets for Friday’s Pac-12 Championship Game, a little over 48 hours away, still aren’t sold out yet, I feel obligated to address this issue, even if it is a vain attempt.

To be sure, I’m not the only writer trying to tackle this problem. My fellow desk editor Tom Taylor just yesterday narrated an inspiring tale of how he transformed his apathy towards Stanford football into a loyal following that few fans can match. My managing editor Miles Bennett-Smith also aptly expressed his disappointment with the poor crowd attendance this season. Both of them voiced their encouragements for greater fan support more eloquently than I ever could.

But I’m not here to give you the reasons for why you should go to the game. What I’m telling you instead is that unless you have a legitimate time commitment between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Friday night, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be at the game cheering on Stanford football.

The original price for a student ticket was $40. People complained. Thanks to a group of donors who subsidized the cost for student attendance, the price was reduced to $20. People are still complaining. The fan interest has become so pitiful that the Stanford Athletics Ticket Office has entirely abandoned the Red Zone loyalty point program, allowing all students to purchase tickets even if they didn’t attend a single game this season.

How is $20 too much to watch the No. 8 team in the nation play for the conference title at home? How is $20 too much to support your team as it tries to earn a Rose Bowl berth for the first time since 2000? I don’t think some students realize how privileged they are, that they can go to all of the Cardinal’s regular season home games for every sport at no cost. At Cal, a student season pass for football alone costs more than $100.

You’re too busy to go? If a Stanford professor has the time to go to every home game and cheer from the sidelines, then it’s certainly not too much for you to clear three hours from your schedule on one Friday night.

I understand that this year’s football season scheduling has been far from optimal. Half of this year’s six home games were played before school was even in session. Three huge games — USC, Oregon and UCLA — all took place either before school started or during break. And yes, the Pac-12 Network and Fox did screw us over with absurd noon kickoff times on multiple occasions. That’s not lost on me.

But none of that should matter come Friday night. The stakes couldn’t be any higher. The Cardinal had to upset two No. 2 teams in the country to get to this point and it’s very possible that Stanford might not have another chance to play in the Pac-12 Championship in your time on the Farm.

During Sunday’s press conference, both running back Stepfan Taylor and outside linebacker Chase Thomas, both team captains, expressed their hopes to see Stanford fans come out and show some support. Thomas also tweeted on Tuesday, “How is this game still not sold out … c’mon #NerdNation support your team and get to the game, we need you.”

Simply put, it’s an embarrassment for fans that players have to worry whether there will be enough of a crowd at the game to give them a respectable home-field advantage. The support should be there for the players without them having to ask repeatedly.

Heavy rain and wind is in the forecast for Friday night, but that’s no reason to bail. What, you’ve never been in the rain before? Cal loves to mockingly call Stanford fans fair-weather followers. Based on the crowd attendance this season, I’m starting to think that it’s not just a stereotype, that it’s actually true. I challenge you to prove otherwise.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t know anything about football or hate the sport with a passion.

It’s not just about football.

It’s about supporting your school. It’s about showing a little bit of school pride. It’s about being part of, and more importantly, contributing to something that’s bigger than yourself. If you can’t do something as simple as that, then honestly I don’t know how you can consider yourself to be part of the Stanford community.

The Pac-12 Championship Game is on Friday and your school is hosting it. So go.

George Chen will not be happy if he doesn’t see you there on Friday. Dare to email him with your excuses at gchen15@stanford.edu and follow him on Twitter @DailyGChen. 

About George Chen

George Chen is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily who writes football, football and more football. Previously he worked at The Daily as the President and Editor in Chief, Executive Editor, Managing Editor of Sports, the football beat reporter and a sports desk editor. George also co-authored The Daily's recent book documenting the rise of Stanford football, "Rags to Roses." He is a senior from Painted Post, NY majoring in Biology. To contact him, please email at gchen15@stanford.edu.
  • john

    I don’t know… I mean it’s great that Stanford is playing for the pac12 championship and all, but I also feel that Stanford is fine the way it is with not putting too much emphasis on athletics. I like the fact that students and student athletes are on the same level. Go to any other midwest school, and that’s simply not the case. We’re better for it. Keep Stanford nonchalant.

  • Pete

    It’s not a issue of putting an emphasis on academics or athletics but rather that of supporting the Stanford community. And what do you mean “keeping Stanford nonchalant.” Shying away from the limelight is definitely not characteristic of Stanford and I’m not sure why it’d want to.

  • Alicia

    Sorry for not going to football games, but honestly, I have better things to do. It’s week nine and I have to go into lab. Stop judging students who don’t make football their priority. We show Stanford pride in different, arguably better, ways.

  • Cam

    I’m flying in from 3,000 miles away, so don’t tell me it’s too frickin’ far to walk from west lag to the stadium, or that you have finals, or that it’s wet. Stop being babies and put on your big boy pants and watch some football – I promise, it won’t hurt you – and guess what – shock! horror! You may end up liking watching this game!

  • Brian

    It’s not a judgement. And if you take it that way, then maybe there is a reason for it. It’s an impassioned man challenging his peers to support each other. You say you show Stanford pride in different ways, and that’s fine because there are a lot of people doing great (non-athletic) things on this campus, but if there were ever a moment to support a group of players, neigh, Stanford students, this is the time. It may take weeks or years to come up with something in the lab, but in sport, it’s all about the moment. This is why George is saying that coming to the game is important. Not because he wants to chastise all who choose not to go, but because there is nothing quite like this one MOMENT that’s coming up on Friday. Not many things can bring a whole school together and this is one of them, and people like George, and myself, don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to be a part of that.

  • Alicia I’m not at all judging students who don’t make football their priority. In fact, students SHOULDN’T make football their priority. But I don’t think you’re making football a priority when you’re devoting three hours to it on only one Friday night. It’s a watershed moment for Stanford Athletics and it’s a great opportunity for you to support your classmates who happen to be on the football team. In my opinion, it’s a shame that there’s some people don’t want to take part in it because they might never get that chance again.

  • 2015

    I didn’t choose Stanford over other top-ranked options for the football program. While I can appreciate how well the team is doing, I came here to take care of business.

  • Alum

    I’m sorry but I agree with George here. There’s really no excuse to not go to this game. I’m flying from the east coast to attend this game. Maybe because I was attended Stanford during the “dark ages” of the football program when we won 2-3 games a year that I’m so passionate and proud about the recent success the team has had in recent years. AND IT’S ONLY THREE HOURS OF YOUR TIME. Three hours will NOT be the difference between getting an A and a B on your final exams and it will not make a difference on the job/internship opportunity you’re trying to get. We have to support ALL aspects of our great institution from the computer sciences department to the athletic department.

  • james

    “there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be at the game cheering on Stanford football.”

    Some people have no interest in football. It is illogical to project your interest on all other students at Stanford. I personally have no interest in watching football and your attempt to embarrass me won’t change that.

    Why don’t you insist all Stanford students go to all of the games of Stanford’s 20+ sports teams if you think watching sporting events is so important?

  • Jim

    Is George Chen still in high school, or did he simply never grow out of the “rah-rah, you’re a loser if you don’t go to the game” mentality? There are many activities at Stanford worth supporting or which can “bring people together,” and I don’t see why the football team is any more worthy of people’s time than the women’s field hockey team, the orchestra, the computer team, or somebody’s thesis defense. For the record, I like watching football. But if I wanted to be in an environment where people were peer-pressured to do what others told them, rather than growing to make choices based on their individual preferences, I’d be at Ohio State or Alabama rather than Stanford.

  • Spike

    Watching a football game probably isn’t as important as finding the cure for a disease, but it is a hell of a lot more fun! Take that from a guy that has been stumped twice in his life when queried, “What do you do for fun?” Mr. Responsible dug deep twice, but came up dry both times! No more. Being with friends, laughing and generally enjoying life are more important than getting in a little more lab time. You may even make new friends or create an opportunity that wouldn’t have been possible had you stayed away. Lots of people and noise make you uncomfortable? Socially awkward? I’ve got news for you, there are more than a few of us that come from that background. They don’t call us “nerd nation” for nothing. Come on out to the game. Live a little. The sky won’t fall. Those discoveries boxed up in your mind might just be released with a little R & R…

  • David

    Get over yourself

  • It would be great if all Stanford students could go to all of the games of Stanford’s 20+ sports teams, but I know realistically that’s just not possible. My main point is that the Pac-12 Championship Game provides students a great opportunity to go out there and support their school. As I’ve mentioned, it’s not just about football. More students should be supporting groups like the field hockey team, or a cappella groups, or the orchestra. But Friday’s game serves as a great example because it’s truly a special/rare moment for the school. If people don’t want to support our in school even in something as unique as the Pac-12 Championship Game, how can we expect them to support other groups? The action has to start somewhere.

  • I agree with the vast majority of this article. It’s not privileging sports to go out and support your mates, and it could be a potential gateway for people to start visiting other sports. The only thing I would disagree with is the money. For a lost of us, even a sum like twenty dollars can be a burden- just because it’s different at other schools doesn’t change the fact that some people just can’t spare the cash. I also understand anemic turnout for a school this relatively small, we certainly aren’t Cal, ‘Bama, or Ohio.

    In all, thanks for the column- not many people realize what a big game this is in our school’s history. As a rugby player I know how difficult contact sports are. Our boys definitely worked themselves hard to get this far, all while balancing Stanford’s academics. No basket-weaving majors on our team.

  • Lily

    When I was a student on The Farm, the football program was mediocre at best, and in the ensuing years, became absolutely abysmal. Stanford was the doormat and the laughing stock of the Pac-10. No one was surprised because everyone assumed that smart kids couldn’t play football anyway; we were like the wimpy but affable ninth grader who, out of sympathy, was allowed to take the field with the big guys–the football powerhouses like USC and Notre Dame–but was supposed to just stay out of everyone’s way.

    But Stanford is about excellence in all things and this is THE TIME to show the entire nation (and especially colleges who are rabid about football but could care less about the quality of students who represent their school) that Stanford University is not only great in the classroom, but we are great period. Who in the nation cares that Stanford has held the Sears Cup, given to the college with the most success in athletics, for 18 consecutive years? Rightly or wrongly, football and men’s basketball are the most visible
    of college sports and that’s what ignorant people will judge a school’s
    athletic programs on. Somehow people wrongly assume that erudition is contrary to excellence in sports such as football or basketball, as if those athletes should be stupider than most. So I love that Jim Harbaugh gave his student-athletes “permission” to play smash-mouth, physical football, saying that we bow to no program.

    I am so proud that our football players sound articulate and intelligent when interviewed, that we recruit scholar-athletes who are realistically looking at life beyond football, and that they represent Stanford University so well that commentators and fans of opposing teams alike say our athletes are classy; we wouldn’t expect them to be otherwise because they are true “Stanford men.” As an alum, I appreciate that we have not compromised our high standards just to field a competitive football team. I also appreciate that our fans are classy and not full of vitriol when an opposing team outplays us.

    This Friday means so much more that a Pac-12 Championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl. This Friday is a moral triumph for what Stanford University is all about: excellence, character, and integrity not only in the classroom but on the field. This Friday is an opportunity to show all those rabid football fans from schools with lesser expectations of their students that academic rigor does not negate being able to play against “the big boys” on their turf and still come out on top. Please, if you are on The Farm this Friday, come out and show your support for our student-athletes and our university on this most high-profile of stages. Come and show the nation what Stanford is truly about: excellence in all things.

    Go Card!

  • Matt

    Not gonna lie, I bought a ticket after reading this post. More convincing than the article itself. Thank you for writing this!

  • bittergradguy

    Going into lab. Setting my 6 hour experiment to start at 4PM. Showing Stanford Pride by attending this game and curing cancer at the same bloody time. Ppowning this undergrad by showing how it’s done.

  • Student

    I concur. $20 may seem like a great deal, but it is still a large sum for some people. My dad, for instance, would have to work for more than 2 hours to even make that much. As meaningful as this game is, every bit of money saved goes a long way.

  • Miles Bennett-Smith

    I will never knock anybody for not wanting to go watch a football game. It is a wonderful thing to live in a country with much more individual freedom of expression and relative safety. Go out and do whatever it is you want to do. There are surely very entertaining things to do on a Friday afternoon and it will likely be pouring rain and cold and the game will take over 3 hours. Those are all reasons not to go, as is the argument that you have to cure cancer or practice the violin or write an essay. But in my opinion, if you go through life stuck in a lab that doesn’t allow you to leave for a little evening with classmates and comrades united in one cause that is cheering on a physical token of Stanford University, I think that is unfortunate. If you value doing 3 hours of schoolwork on a Friday night over this game, then you are to be commended for your drive and work ethic but I also think at some point in your life somebody is going to have to let you know that life is also meant to be enjoyed and this is just one of many chances you’ll have to enjoy it. I’ll have a ton of homework this weekend and lots of studying to do, and I will do some of it before the game and some of it after the game, and realize that maybe I can shift some other events around to find an extra hour to study and accept that I have lost two hours of studying. Hopefully it will not kill me or any of us. Conflicts are unavoidable, and I have them all the time. That’s why it is hard to go to every sporting event. I try to make it out to as many as I can, especially this year since it will be my last on campus as an undergrad. But don’t take it personally if you are among those who can’t make the game for whatever reason, and that’s not what George is doing. Columns are usually full of hyperbole, and this column is meant to be galvanizing the student body into action in relation to a topic George is passionate about. I haven’t asked him, but I imagine there are quite a few excuses he actually would accept for people missing this game. The people I hope read this article think about what it means to support your team, your University, and your friends when there is a monumental moment in their field. That’s what makes people go to concerts, musical productions, lectures and whatever else you want to throw in there. I have been to many, and if you want to make a stand here and say that you don’t want to go to the football game because we value football over the opera and the other Olympic sports on campus and even over schoolwork, go right ahead. But this is the sports section of The Daily, and that’s another part of the intended audience–students who like sports. There are only about 7,000 undergrads at this school, but that’s many more than are necessary to fill the student section tomorrow. And in fact, I have no doubt that the student section will be packed, as it has been almost all year. But I think there are some students who are going to be too lazy to go, who will make up excuses just to avoid being out in the rain and on that level, I agree with George that you guys should be there. I wrote about our lack of fan support at other sports earlier in the year, and to that end I firmly believe we should give all of our student-athletes support because they are trying to excel just as you are, and they have the public forum in which to do it. There are places to publish studies and articles and pieces of music by Stanford students, and they should receive our patronage as well. Maybe you think that simply is not right, and that the American public focuses too much on sports. My mom certainly agrees, letting me know that on a regular basis despite her spending years driving me to and from soccer, baseball and basketball practice. But then perhaps you should reconsider going to the movies or listening to the newest Taylor Swift CD (even though “Red” is clearly spectacular) because I’d argue there are plenty of things America focuses on way too much and that they can be a waste of time and money. Now we have opened up a can of worms that is all but bottomless and I certainly am not smart enough to really get into. However, I don’t think that in that can of worms is a discussion of how Stanford doesn’t stand for athletic prowess and has no business competing with Midwest schools or SEC schools or any school in the country on the athletic fields. It’s awesome that our athletes are held to high academic standards, because they certainly should be. That’s no reason to say we shouldn’t want them to do well or prefer for the support of the team to be nonchalant. This is Stanford, and we ought to be the best in a lot of things, right? It’s not about peer pressure, because you get that on any subject, just read about the conflict in the Middle East. If you don’t want to be in a peer-pressured environment, you shouldn’t be at a university because this seems like the place where 1) we challenge ideas to flush them out and 2) we dispense ideas and information for others to act on them. You can ignore George or comment here to tell him he’s wrong; both are totally valid in my opinion. But don’t get mad at him for speaking his mind and using his platform as a Daily staffer to write about things that concern a large portion of the student body and community. We have filled this stadium for big games before, and as I said, the students here generally love sports and football. There’s something like a sixth of the student body who participate in collegiate athletics, with a lot more taking part in IMs and club sports. I’m droning on here, and will cut my comment short, but my point is this: the Stanford football team is asking for fans to show up and support them in one of the biggest football games of their careers. I will answer that call, and it will be awesome.

  • At the student rate of $20, you need to go to this game. I’m not a Stanford fan and have been going to games all year. I bring CPA exam materials into the stadium with me for between plays multitasking nerdyness. I’d go to this game, but $80 is a little steep and it’s on antenna TV.

    Besides, your school denied the rabid Oregon fans the opportunity for a possible BCS title this year. They would love to be in your shoes. Attendance for this game would not be an issue in Eugene.

    I’m originally from Palo Alto, I know there is nothing better to do on a Friday night. Go.

  • YoungAlum

    I’m an alum, a season ticket holder, and a former varsity athlete, and i am conflicted on this whole thing:

    First of all, there are many legitimate reasons for not going to games. To say there aren’t is a mistake… $20 is still a chunk of change for an undergrad to pay for a game in the rain.

    Also, if you really want to “support Stanford,” this isn’t the way to do it. The money all goes to the Pac-12, not the school. You’d be doing a lot more good spending that $20 on a student play, a concert, or something along those lines.

    And the reason the game isn’t sold out is not because of students not paying $20, it’s because the Pac-12 tried to gouge the local non-student fans with insane $100 ticket prices. Or roughly 75% of the cost of my entire SEASON tickets next year to see Oregon, Cal, Notre Dame, and UW. You want to know why the game isn’t selling out? Because principled fans who care about getting “good value” refuse to be taken for a ride by the Pac-12 conference.

  • troubled

    I’m troubled by this column. It’s too pushy and not thoughtful or informative enough. The word “should” is used too much. A good op-ed column doesn’t explicitly *say* I “should” do something; rather, it uses a variety of techniques — informative examples, logical arguments, emotive anecdotes — to make me *feel* and *think* I should do something, or at least ask myself why I’m not. Instead, this column uses words like “embarrassment” to badger the reader. I’m not surprised some of the comments — to an article about a game! — are divisive: this column engenders divisiveness where there is none. It fails for many reasons, but most of all for that reason.

    Here’s how to write a sports op-ed to rally the school. Briefly state the situation: it’s a really big game coming up. Tell us how big. Ok, you’ve got our attention. Now tell some stories that illustrate what it took to get here. There were some close moments this season. Tell us about a few. What about some of the players who aren’t always in the spotlight but had some shining moments? How about their jersey numbers (so we can watch for them), a tale of their struggles, their redemptive plays? The stories have to be the clincher. Share your enthusiasm with the uninitiated by showing us what amazing events we’ve missed and won’t want to miss on Friday. Make us want to see and be part of how it’s going to end. Finally, provide details on what we need to do to be there. Link to buy a ticket? Opening time? Best time to get there? After all, you’re appealing to an audience that doesn’t normally attend football games.

    I don’t want to be too harsh. I looked at some of your other articles and see that you’ve done a lot of good, detailed sports journalism. I just think you need to rethink how you approach a column of this particular sort.

  • Football Fan

    You are comparing your season ticket prices with the ticket prices of a Pac-12 CHAMPIONSHIP game? Face palm.

  • I’ll be there

    For better or worse, these games go a long way toward how Stanford is viewed on a national level. When the camera pans over empty seats, it gives an unfavorable impression to the millions of people watching around the country. Maybe they should be thinking about our Sears Cups and Nobel Prizes, but instead, they just think we’re lame that we can’t fill up our (small) stadium for the biggest game in over a decade. Nothing else that happens on campus tonight will have that kind of impact on our university’s national reputation. Maybe it shouldn’t be important, but it is. We pride ourselves in being a well-rounded university, but if you can’t get out of the lab for 3 hours, or put the books down for 3 hours–on a Friday night–I hate to say it, you’re not so well-rounded. So let’s invest some time to have a little fun, cheer on our students as they try to do something that hasn’t been done in 13 years, and make people all over the country say, wow, Stanford really does do it all.

  • Jack

    Keep football out of higher education. One would hope that we are beyond silly atavistic tribalism. Apparently, one would hope in vain.

  • class of 12

    this isn’t a creative writing essay recapping the season to bring you up to speed. as this is a 800-word column in the sports section, he fairly assumes that the reader has a baseline familiarity with the team and its season. no, he is not going to tell you players’ numbers, how to google the game time, and what our coach’s name is.

    do you want to know how big this is? stanford hasn’t been to a rose bowl since 1999. hasn’t won a rose bowl since 1971. we’re playing for an opportunity to get back there in our stadium against a team that we KNOW we can beat (you may not know, but we beat them last saturday). to conceptualize how big the rose bowl is, it’s not the national championship, but for us, it’s the next best thing.

    if you don’t want to come out of protest, fine. i’m the first to acknowledge how unfair it is that women’s sports/non-major sports/academic lectures/name your extracurricular activity don’t get a fraction of the attendees or funding or attention that football gets. that’s the reality of the current college sports landscape, and believe it or not, stanford is about as inoffensive as it gets in this regard. but at least recognize that no one thing has brought more positive national media attention to this school in the past four years than the football team, which increases alumni donations, increases respect for all stanford students and student-athletes, (potentially) is tied to increases in applicants, and shows off what an all around incredible place stanford is.

  • @Jack

    Someone needs to get you off your high horse and give you a massive swirly.

  • neigh

    If we’re talking about high horses, dude, the high horse this article and many of these comments road in on is so tall it breaks the Palo Alto building height limit.

  • untroubled

    to be quite honest, unless someone has just climbed out of a hole in the ground 10 min ago they know how big the game is. he’s not trying to convince you that the game is big and that you should go. he’s telling you to go.

  • Go Card

    That would be “rode.” At least our horses can spell.

  • Reason

    Alicia, there are many who agree with you. I don’t know why I should feel obligated to entertain someone else’s hobby. I don’t put that expectation on anyone else who misses the all of the other amazing stuff that happens on campus every day.