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What Are You a Fan Of?

Sports is an escape. Unless it is a passion. Except if it is just a routine. Although for some folks, it’s a business and a livelihood!

All of the above is true at the same time, of course… all of us who are drawn to the games people play are there for a myriad of disparate (but quite valid) reasons. There aren’t many common threads to be pulled from that tapestry, honestly. Until, of course, you change something!

Then everyone finds a way to get ticked off.

One particular story has Mid-Missouri sports fans buzzing these days. I generally approach the hornet’s nest with a simple question that many folks don’t actually take the time to answer… what are you a fan of?

It involves a potential move of the student section at Mizzou Football games to new areas:

The move – which would only be necessary if Mizzou moves its home sideline to the west side of Memorial Stadium instead of the student-seated east – has gotten plenty of criticism, especially from the most-affected members of cheering section Tiger’s Lair:

I understand why perhaps the most rabid and committed of Mizzou student fans would be ticked by losing seats on the 50-yard line behind their home team, but a closer examination yields context. For one, head coach Barry Odom thinks it may be a good idea to get his team out of the sunshine on hot game days and into the west side shade. He also has concerns – as every SEC football coach does, by the way – of opponents in the west side press box potentially stealing signals or strategy by having a frontal view of what his team does during the game.

By the way, if you’ve seen opponents on the current visitor’s sideline hold up towels behind their coordinators all game, they’re scared of this, too (expect Mizzou to invest in towel companies if they flip sides of the field). By SEC rules, the students can’t be directly behind a visiting bench, so they’d be displaced beyond the 30 yard lines.

Tiger’s Lair has promised a “dramatic disinterest” if the group is moved from its current location. Now’s the time to ask that question.

What are you a fan of? Is it Mizzou Football, or is it a seating block? Answer honestly.

If it’s the football team you are a fan of most, I’d argue you’d be partial to the move. Anything Odom considers worthy of changing to gain an edge in the ultra-competitive SEC would seem pretty welcome. The change might lead to wins. And isn’t winning football what you desire? If sacrificing a sideline is a step towards that, so be it.

Of course, if it is a premium seat you’re after, that’s fine, too. As I recall, the sports package to get MU students into ALL football and men’s hoops games costs less than $300 a year, and Tigers Lair membership costs nominally extra. That’s a great deal compared to the hundreds (and sometimes thousands) Tiger Scholarship Fund members donate annually for the right to purchase season tickets in corresponding sections across the field… not even for the tickets themselves. If that’s what you’re a fan of the most – a premium seat at a non-premium price – then you may not show up.

Then again, I recall during my hazy undergrad days being packed shoulder to shoulder and over capacity for Mizzou football games… especially as the team was in its salad days in 2007 and 2008, but even before then for dates against the likes of Texas and Nebraska when the Tigers were not as strong. When’s the last time we saw the student section packed at Faurot for a big SEC game? Only when an SEC East crown was at stake? I’m just wondering aloud, here.

I certainly understand frustrations of students fans who come to show support at Mizzou football games and feel they are being literally shoved aside by this proposal. I imagine that’s one reason MU held a meeting with stakeholders like these to address possible concerns about a move. The AD could have elected to unilaterally make a change that is in line with best practices at other SEC venues, but isn’t going it alone. The Tigers play in a conference where freshmen and sophomores at some places are entered in student ticket lotteries for a shot to attend only two games in person! And many of those students are sitting far away from the lower decks, and far away from the 30 yard lines.

So I ask, again, to those aggrieved by this potential move… what are you a fan of? What is your priority? If it’s simply the best seats, you won’t be seen around Faurot again. If it’s Mizzou Football, I’d wager you’ll suck it up and be back.

But hey, it’s just a game!

-Matt Michaels