By Tom Taylor
Am I Stanford football’s biggest fan?
Regular readers among you will probably be screaming in objection that I could even dare to insinuate this, threatening to burn or shred these very pages, but before you do that, please, give me a chance to explain.
I realize that I am wholly unqualified for this position. I’m not American and until just a few short years ago I had approximately zero interest in football. I’m still a little hazy on the myriad of different offensive plays and the names of different player positions. I can fake understanding briefly, with the help of correctly colored clothing and the names of a handful of players, but however much I might now enjoy the sport, I lack encyclopedic knowledge of its rules and history.
At Senior Day against Oregon State two weeks back, Stanford Athletics honored its fans of the season, supporters both young and old who have a far better claim to their position than I. They ranged from kids who learned to count using the numbers on the jerseys to folks who supported the team way back before I was even a twinkle in my parents’ eyes.
But statistics don’t lie, do they? This year my record equals that of the actual football team. The players are 10-2 under my watch, and I’m 10-2 in terms of games attended-missed. And I’m hoping we can both improve those to 12-2 by the end of New Year’s Day 2013: If all things go according to plan in the Pac-12 Championship Game this Friday, Stanford will be heading to the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.
I suspect there are very few fans out there who can claim a similarly loyal attendance.
Unlike some of my fellow Daily writers, I haven’t been to a single one of those games working in a professional capacity. It was easy, and free, to attend the six regular season games on campus—especially since as a grad student, I was here long before the start of the fall quarter when the first three were played. But in addition to the short trans-Bay trip to Cal there were three serious road trips in there: Notre Dame, Oregon and UCLA.
I’m lucky to be not just a student but a grad student who is officially done with classes, meaning my time is incredibly flexible. I am supposed to be doing quite a bit of research in there, sure, but escaping my lab for a few days is far too easy. Money is a slightly different issue, owed again to my grad student status, but with a little bit of help from people who I’ve convinced to come along with me to share costs and a student’s ability to tolerate the occasional absence of luxury, I haven’t yet maxed out my credit card.
I realize not everyone can count on quite the same situation, but I still think that my efforts are worth something. I flew out to South Bend, Ind., the longest trip of the season, under the cloud of that loss against Washington, and returned thoroughly soaked and crestfallen that with two losses, Stanford’s season seemed all but over. I drove all the way up to Eugene, Ore., certain of another heartbreaking loss to the Ducks, and turned around seven days later to make the trip south to Pasadena, Calif., worried by the implications of Oregon defeating Oregon State and the Card losing to the home team.
I’ve also spent almost $300 on tickets and earned exactly zero loyalty points from the Red Zone from those four trips. In fact my 14 points this season is four shy of the maximum, and undoubtedly there are officially more “loyal” students out there than I.
Do I deserve a medal? Probably. Will I get one? Unlikely. Either way, I would be happy enough to see just one piece of silverware this year: the Rose Bowl trophy.
I went all-in this year because it is likely to be my last, the ultimate chance I get to do this as a real student before finally graduating and being released back into the world outside, and maybe even the last time I’ll be at a Stanford football game ever. I haven’t really put enough thought into what is going to happen after I am handed my diploma in June, but visa restrictions mean I’ll almost certainly be on my way back home to the UK in less than a year’s time. Traveling about two thousand miles and crossing three time zones from Palo Alto to South Bend for four hours of play was tough, but nothing compared to the over five-thousand mile and eight-hour gap between Reading, UK, and Stanford. Especially when the sweetness of victory is never guaranteed.
I also felt I should vote with my feet. Actions speak louder than words and after bemoaning the lack of those crazily devoted fans that all the other football schools can count on, I thought I should do my bit this year. That a friend and I could actually be heard on TV near the end of the Oregon game shouting, “block that kick” both justified and invalidated this attempt. For a fleeting moment, Stanford fans could be heard above the noise of Autzen, but the reality that there were just a tiny handful present highlighted how far football on The Farm has to go.
I feel I’ve proved one thing though: it is never too late.
If you haven’t yet become wrapped up in the football fever of this season, you still have time. Student tickets for Friday’s Pac-12 Championship game are now available for those who have picked up five Red Zone points this year, and will be opened up to everyone else from 9 p.m. tonight. If you can’t get one of those, beg, borrow, but don’t steal—I can’t really condone criminal activity in my column.
Stanford has struggled with home field advantage all season, empty seats staring down as one of the nation’s top teams has marched to a third-straight double-figure winning season. But even the most die-hard fans out there started as fair-weather ones, and right now the forecast is looking pretty sunny for the future at Stanford.
So just get yourselves into the stadium. Overwhelm the True Blue and Gold with a sea of Cardinal, lose your voices drowning out even the slightest cheer from SoCal, and let’s send this team to the Rose Bowl.
The Daily’s staff believes wholeheartedly that Tom Taylor is understating the impressiveness that is accruing 14 Red Zone points. If you claim to have more, PLEASE let him know at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @DailyTomTaylor.