Thursday, November 03, 2011

Tech / Clemson: The Event

It was another beautiful night for football at Grant Field. Tech’s beloved bandbox of a stadium always looks great on televised night games, framed by Atlanta’s downtown skyscrapers. Homecoming added extra flair. Will and I found a parking place on the street not far from the Biltmore, where a wedding party posed for pictures. Too far from the Varsity, the Fifth Street Moe’s provided nourishment for Will, who had pitched six inning of one-hit baseball before raking leaves all afternoon.

We visited DJ, now a freshman pledge at the FIJI house. We swung by the BSU and saw Harriet (longtime BSU secretary), Warren (former neighbor/current campus minister), and Frank (my former SS teacher/Tech alumni). We made our way to our seats in the northern corner of the West Stands upper deck, which gave us a picture-perfect view of not only the field, but also downtown and midtown Atlanta. After watching warm-ups, we circled the stadium counterclockwise for a short visit with Rusty, Kelly, and Ben. They were in the exact opposite corner of the stadium, the southern end of the East Stands upper deck.

Made back to our seats just before the opening kickoff. But a nice-looking young Tech grad blocked our path, saying “We have this block of seats!” Knowing our tickets proved we were in the right spot, it took me a moment to gather my thoughts. “These are George and John’s tickets!” I exclaimed. It was just the right thing to say…these were friends of young Mr. Ewing and Hr. Hoffer. After that, we too were treated as family…even Will in his Clemson attire.

We had forgotten our great-looking, official team jackets. Will has a sweet orange Nike Clemson jacket, trimmed in purple. I have my navy Russell Athletics Paul Johnson model Tech jacket. Both left at home. I had other jackets in the car, and it never got too cold.

During pregame warm-ups I found it humorous that the Grant Field PA system was blaring not only the usual rap music, but also AC/DC’s classic rock hit “Highway to Hell.” Perhaps they were referring to Clemson’s journey down I-85. Despite the rap music and too-bright “BuzzVision” (obviously used during the game to distract opponents), the Grant Field game-day experience was better than usual. There was a Halloween theme to most of the music: “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and “The Monster Mash” were my favorites. Students dressed in costumes: bananas, sombreros, and big cute boxes, to name a few.

Still, I continue to be amazed at the low level of Tech’s fan behavior. It’s just like the blog posters on A very engaging forty-something Tech grad spent the entire game berating nearby Clemson fans (who were to be commended for not retaliating). After Clemson only managed a first-quarter field goal, he spent the next two hours screaming “What happened to your 60 points a game offense?” I wanted to point out (a) that was just the last two games against UNC and Maryland, (b) Clemson scored more points against UNC and Maryland than Tech, (c) earlier in the season Tech was averaging 60 a game, but no more, and (d) Clemson still had plenty of time to put up boo-coos of points.

You would think the self-bestowed “better-educated” Tech fans would have a deeper understanding of the intricacies of football. In fact, the opposite is true. Whenever Clemson committed a penalty, dozens would scream “cheater!” Added to the end of the long-lasting “Go Jackets!” cheer was the cry “Go...Fight…Win…Get Naked!” The “Budweiser” song (actually, the bastardized version of Sonny & Cher tome “When You Say Love”) has been played at the end of the third quarter of Tech games for over 35 years. Even the non-cheering tweed-bedecked elitist West Stands alumni stand, bob, and scream its signature line at the top of their lungs. For these freedoms our soldiers fight.

Also for “these freedoms” the Tech Athletics department prints “The Gold Standard” on the FRONT of football tickets (and reads it while its displayed on BuzzVision: The Gold Standard is a campus-wide effort of the GTAA to raise awareness of sportsmanship at all GT athletic events by increasing positive Yellow Jacket support; creating a sense of pride at GT venues, events, and traditions; promoting appreciation for the spirit of competition and providing a safe, healthy and respectful game day environment for all. At this they’ve failed miserably, at least in my section.

BuzzVision (the Jumbotron): Gone, for the most part, is the incessant cartoon steam whistle, a great idea at first, but run into the ground when repeated for every first down. Besides the high intensity flashing lights, BuzzVision wasn’t much of a distraction. The graphics were ok, but far from revolutionary. Clemson’s all-orange uniforms showed up much redder on screen than the real versions on the field.

One more beef: The Ramblin’ Wreck Club. having the un-uniformed group help form the “T” for the band to run through sparks of elitism. They used to wear matching blazers and stand in the end zone. Now they bring their dates and carry their drinks onto the field, more interested in showing off than cheering the team. Why not just have the band form the “T”?

Clearly I am far from the target audience for major college football, much less pro football…dominions built on emotion. Coaches, athletic directors, general managers, and owners must think clearly. Apparently few others do: fans, players, agents, reporters, columnists, bloggers. I have too little time for greater analysis, but obviously my thinking is too much for most fans thoughtless devotion. Though it doesn’t rule me, I will continue to follow football.

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