Yet, with more than 100 combined years of losing, fans remain loyal. I’m not sure if there is a book on fan loyalty but there needs to be one. What I want to know is how colleges marketed the idea to get alumni to support their Alma mater and create the rivalry’s that exist over the past decades. There is no such loyalty for high school sports. Why some 35 years after I graduated from MSU do I care if the Spartans win a football or basketball game? And when it comes to pro sports in which fans only have the city or state as their allegiance, why do fans care if their team wins or loses a game?
Analyzing our insane behavior, we really have no vested interest in being a fan. MSU charges me for tickets, parking passes, receptions and everything they can and that is after being a donor. Pro sports award their fans by selling $10 beers, $5 hot dogs and $30 parking passes. A ticket to see the Tiger’s play a regular season game is $85 yet the same people complain about our event ticket for $35. On top of that, we spend billions each year to walk around promoting our teams. I was at the MSU bookstore at last weekend’s game and people were waiting in line 30 deep to pay for stuff. There were at least 300 MSU branded items in the bookstore and we know what the margins are on them. And we buy this stuff with passion and can’t wait to put on the shirt, put on the cap, put on the tattoo on our face and walk around screaming “Go White” and “Go Green.”
Fans tailgate hours before the game. They watch the game. Then they go home to watch replays of the game. Then they tune in to sports radio to talk about the game. Then they go online to read about the game. The game. It’s all about the game.
MSU was ranked 9th pre-season. All the experts picked State to be first in our division. Experts you ask? Oh yes, what is sports without experts? Sports writers, ex-coaches, play-by-play analysts and anyone in front of an ESPN camera are classified as experts. 97.1 The Ticket is the place for fans to belt out when their team loses or heap on the praise when their team wins. We are passionate about our team.
After MSU lost its first game, then its second game, Coach Dantonio clearly expressed his view that the team was “intact” and that his vision of going to the Rose Bowl in 2012 was still “alive.” Then came Iowa. It was homecoming and perhaps one of the worst October weather days in recent history. The relentless rain, the cold biting temperature were factors that would keep normal people home to watch the game on TV. But not Spartan fans. Not Spartan loyalists since 1966. No way. I was among those fans shivering in the stands, feet soaking wet, pants soaking wet and wishing the rain would turn to snow. But I was not alone, there were more than 70,000 witnessing perhaps the worst coached team at the end of the first half and at the end of the second half. To the fans credit, many left after halftime but not all.
MSU lost its third game and after winning 15 straight at home and winning more games over the past 3 seasons than who remembers and still no Rose Bowl appearance, this season is over. It was really over after the Notre Dame loss. Maxwell doesn’t have the talent, doesn’t have the ability to strive under pressure and is a mediocre QB. At least that’s what the experts say. But it’s too easy to blame the game on Maxwell. How about the penalties, how about the play calling by OC Dan Roushar, how about the lack of focus on special teams? In the end, everything sits on Dantonio. He knows it and if we were inside his head, we can only guess what is going on in his mind right now. He is more disappointed than any fan. He let us down.
Even in winning, pleasing fans is next to impossible UNLESS YOU WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP. Leyland is done if the Tiger’s don’t get to the Series which looks like they will. But the fans want Valverde’s scalp and if they don’t beat NY in Detroit, one can only imagine the experts take on that. Yesterday you saw the LIons win a game they should have lost. 15 penalties. 0-7 on third down conversions. Yet they won and did you see Coach Schwartz’s expression when the Lions won it? It was like they won the Super Bowl. It was crazy to watch and see. Yes, the Lions are 2-3 which is better than 1-4 but really? It’s about the game after all.
Going back to MSU, us fans got swindled and we are mad. It’s better for a losing team to lose (like the Spartans before Dantonio) because you have no expectations. But c’mon, after 6 seasons, we deserve better than this. This is an embarrassment to the fans and the media. It feels bad all the way around. And here’s the thing: Our lives won’t change if our team wins or loses, but there is certainly something to be said hanging around winners instead of losers. Winning feels good, losing feels bad. Just ask Nick Saban fans and their media and they will tell you first hand.
So yes, Spartan fans and Lions fans will continue to do what they do each and every year and that is say, “There is always next year.”