Two years ago today, I was in South Bend, Ind., watching Notre Dame take on Georgia. And much to my surprise, one of the most-hallowed stadiums in all of sports had been taken over by the visiting team; the Bulldogs faithful had turned Notre Dame Stadium into a sea of red.
It was a shocking sight to see, given the tradition surrounding the Fighting Irish. But it didn’t diminish the standing of Notre Dame fans; rather, it demonstrated just how dedicated the folks in Georgia are to their program.
They were playing north of the Mason-Dixon Line for the first time in decades. They were making a once-in-a-generation appearance at a stadium that is on almost everyone’s sports bucket list. And their team was a national championship contender, especially if they could get out of South Bend with a victory (they did, in a 20-19 thriller).
As a result, it made perfect sense that they turned the game into a must-attend event. They had circled the date on the calendar years in advance, prepping for their trip to Indiana.
Contrast this to Saturday afternoon in Boulder, when Nebraska fans took over Folsom Field and turned it into a sea of red. Why was this turn of events looked at as an “embarrassment” by so many people?
As a University of Colorado graduate, it certainly wasn’t fun to see so many Cornhuskers fans in attendance. It would’ve been nice to see more support for the Buffaloes. But the situation was pretty predictable.
For starters, this happens with every team in Colorado. Every home Rockies game seems to be littered with fans rooting for the road team. The Cubs, Cardinals, Yankees and Red Sox pack the place. But even teams like the Astros, Blue Jays and Phillies seem to outnumber fans dressed in purple.
And it’s not just baseball. Steelers fans wave Terrible Towels like they’re in Pittsburgh every time their team plays the Broncos in Denver. Nuggets fans get drowned out by those rooting for the Warriors, Lakers, Celtics and other marquee NBA teams. And the number of Blackhawks, Red Wings and Penguins sweaters at Pepsi Center when a big-time opponent visits the Avalanche is alarming.
Imagine if those teams were coming to town for the first time in a decade. Do you think their fans would come out in droves? Of course they would.
Heck, the university practically dared them to do so. In a move that was well-intended, CU helped fuel the Nebraska takeover by openly trying to keep the red out of the stadium. Their efforts in that regard did little more than serve as a challenge to Cornhuskers fans; they were more determined than ever to be in attendance.
And that fact drove up the price. At some point, even the most-ardent Buffaloes supporter is going to be tempted by a big number. If they can pay for a season’s worth of tickets by selling just one game, the internal economist is bound to start chirping.
That voice gets louder and louder when Colorado is coming off of yet another bad season. The Buffs have had one winning season in the past 13 years, making only two bowl appearances during that same stretch. So it’s not exactly an easy program to invest money in, even for diehards.
If someone is willing to remove the entire financial burden of being a season ticket holder for the ability to attend one game, a contest that might not go CU’s way to boot, it’s a pretty big temptation. Anyone who suggest otherwise isn’t being honest.
Was it disappointing to see Folsom Field filled with red on Saturday? Absolutely. But to call out Buffaloes fans as disloyal, unsupportive or worse is disingenuous.
What happened this weekend was incredibly predictable. No one should’ve been surprised by it. That type of support for visiting teams is commonplace in Colorado.
So if stones are going to be thrown at CU fans, go ahead and round up a few more. CSU and Air Force need better support. The Rockies, Nuggets and Avalanche need to keep out visitors. And even the Broncos need to make home games less inviting for outsiders.
That’s a cause worth getting behind. Simply bashing the Buffaloes, however, is a petty, trivial and misinformed mission.
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