By George Chen
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 [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @DailyGChen.