Randy Weeks

Published on October 5th, 2020 | by Randy Weeks

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The View From The Balcony: “The Fan Factor”

The SEC opening last weekend was glorious for some and disastrous for others. But isn’t that how it always is?

Perhaps the biggest missing factor in the Season of the Coronavirus is the near absence of fans. The reduced capacity of people allowed in stadiums this Fall is likely a measurable factor in the outcome of the games, but one we’ll only know the full extent of when the post-season prognosticators do the numbers, if then.

I could be skeptical and say that athletic programs around the nation know it’s important to keep their fan base, thus the disposable pandering cardboard tributes in the stadiums to their faithful followers, but I won’t. (And, by the way, I actually think the cardboard fans are a nice addition during these times. It was especially gratifying to see Ronzo’s cheering face among the crowd in his iconic “Go Rebels!” pose.)

Those who read this column often know I like to take the high road, especially when it serves my purpose. Ergo (don’t you love Latin?), here are some of the ups and downs of not having many fans in the stadiums this year…

Less money for the programs and the community. The lack of the physical attendance of fans directly impacts ticket sales. In the short term, there will be plenty of folks willing to go the extra mile to help their team muddle through, but, long term? Let’s hope we don’t have to face that.

Less money for the programs and the community. Thank heavens for television and endorsements and sponsorships and endowments.

Less money for the programs and the community. With fewer fans in the stadium concessions sales will flag dramatically. That means that vendors suffer. Some of them depend on the fans for their livelihood. Can you see the ripples?

Less money for the programs and the community. With no Groving this year, Oxford will see a drop in consumerism, especially in the hospitality industry, which can hardly afford to keep taking hits and remain standing.

Purity of the Game. When you remove the fan factor from football you arguably get a more realistic demonstration of the skill, strength, and¾dare I say?¾art of the athletes. We’re seeing the product of the individual and team, mostly uninfluenced by external factors beyond coaches. Purists should love that. Those who just want to win? Not so much.

Purity of the Game. With fewer fans comes a lowering of decibels. Even from schools with cowbells. It doesn’t take an acoustician to know that. But with the lowering of decibels players are able to hear more easily and play more cleanly. Right?

Lack of spirit. Texas A & M’s tradition of The Twelfth Man is inspiring. It points to an often ignored and sometimes invisible dynamic: the spirit of the crowd. Encouragement and discouragement from those we care about impacts us. The influence of a passionate fan base cheering a team on may never be something that can be measured, but we all know it matters.

We know what can happen when a team, behind in the final minutes of a game, hears the cheers of their fans and musters up the strength to break through and win. And we know how disheartening it can be when “fans” start leaving at halftime, giving up when the clock still has a long way to run.

Could it be that the saddest thing of all, the biggest detriment to the 2020 football season, is the lack of actual fans in the stadium?

While I question the wisdom of football being back in this viral environment, it is. I have nothing to do with that. I love SEC football and I will watch. I imagine that the world’s supply of asterisks will be severely depleted because of their use in the sports records book. Most will note the impact of the reduced number of games in the 2020 season. For my money, the biggest loss of the season, the largest intangible factor in a whacked-out year, is the smell of the hot dogs and the roar of the crowd.

…and that’s the view from The Balcony.

Randy Weeks is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Life Coach. He can be reached at randallsweeks@gmail.com.

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