As I sat in the sports bar on Saturday, I had the unfortunate opportunity to be sitting near some Florida State fans just as their most cherished traditions was taking place. The Seminoles were getting ready to face powerhouse Chattanooga, who apparently have dropped the Tennessee and hyphen from their name. I guess it is a similar move to UNCC just being called Charlotte; teams don’t want you to be worried about too many syllables when pronouncing their names now. The guy decked out in the maroon Seminole gear was giving quite a dissertation on the placing of the spear into the ground at midfield by their mascot Chief Osceola while it was aflame. He talked about how it was a sacred moment before the game and how the Seminole tribe had given the university permission to use the name, logo, and ceremony. For a second I thought he might actually start to get misty-eyed. I looked at the Penn State, N.C. State, and Tennessee fans I was with and our exchanged glance all said the same thing: No one cares about your team’s traditions, go die in a fire.
Die in a fire might seem harsh, and it is, but college football is a sport of extremes. Fans ruthlessly defend their team’s reputation, and vehemently despise everything their opponents hold dear. The truth of the matter is that although it might be a high tradition to stake the ground at Doak Campbell Stadium, the enemies of your program don’t share your piety. It has been said that college football and football in general in America has become something like a secular religion. This can certainly be seen on the weekends when fans fill stadiums, parking lots, sports bars, and their own living rooms to watch their favorite teams. I am not saying it has taken the place of organized religion or should, but merely from a passion standpoint, people can get rather emotional when it comes to their team. We all know how well different religions get together, right?
Again, downsizing the scope of the last statement by saying it is just a game, the mere fact that people try to convince others who hold that hatred for their team that what they choose to perform before, during, or after games is a noble act of athletics is quite a reach. I respect every single member of the Seminole tribe that exists today, considering what Andrew Jackson and others did to eradicate them. But for myself as a Miami alum, and for all the other schools that do not enjoy the Seminoles success, they have no desire to watch the mascot do the spear plunge. This is not just a rip on Florida State, every major program has aspects of it that the fans and followers swear it brings chills to them, but others would be fine if they never saw it again. “See, at Miami, we come out of the smoke every game, and we play that song ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’, get it? Pretty awesome huh?” Yeah, I’m sure I would get some attempts at polite looks, eye rolls, and curse-laden phrases thrown my way if I brought that up to a crowd of college football fans.
There are probably people out there that think this is true for other teams that they hate, but not MY team. It spans the entire country, in all conferences. What’s the ultimate symbol of the University of Texas? The Longhorn, it has its own hand symbol and they even bring out a huge cow for the games, yet the favorite thing for opposing fans and teams to do is flash the sign, horns down. Ohio State proclaims itself to have the best band in the land, and being able to dot the “I” is considered a high honor, but anyone outside of Ohio who isn’t a Buckeye fan could care less. You have a good band, congratulations, maybe they can block for your QB. I will say the Trojan band has a memorable fight song, but no one outside the USC family honors the mascot who looks like he raided a Party City stabbing the endzone with his fifteen dollar sword. Does anyone outside of Tennessee ever want to hear “Rocky Top” again? Clemson’s tradition is touching a rock that sits on a podium; not any kind of special rock, just a little reddish-brown rock. The Tiger faithful call this Howard’s rock and its significance escapes me as it does most of the people who would only associate it with the free fall the Tigers usually experience at some point during the season. The list goes on and on but the one constant is that no one outside of your own circle of fans is going to appreciate your traditions. Notre Dame haters will even go so far as to mock Jesus himself, aren’t Irish people an easier target?
So just try to keep this in mind when interacting with other fans, if you don’t care about their traditions or find it easy to mock them, the same can be said for yours. Stick to referencing how many fewer arrests your football alumni have or some obscure national title they won back when they still used leather helmets.