Because of my "adventures", I've really had little time to write (save your applause for our victory over Miami). But, this week, I feel compelled by something that is really eating at me:
I'm ashamed to be a Florida State fan…
Not because of our play on the field. Not because of our coaching, play calling, or the even the color of the locker room carpet.
I'm ashamed because of what I see and hear in the stands. First, let me give you a little perspective: I'm one of those fans that think a little healthy dose of "banter" between fans is acceptable. I don't mind showing my distaste for the opposing side, nor do I mind them showing theirs. I didn't even mind the prattling of old Shiny Pants; until it reached such personal levels that a pair of Bobby's ultra cool Oakley's couldn't shade his green eyes.
So when I say I don't like what I'm seeing and hearing in the stands, you can only imagine what fans, who think I go too far at a game, think.
You see, when I was in my teens, it was, what I deemed obnoxious Gator fans that helped direct me to become a Seminole fan. Those fans had no problem beating their chests like some Cro-Magnon man demanding extra ribs at "Mickey's." They knew everything, about everything, and had no problem telling you that you were either stupid, or gay for cheering for anyone other than UF.
I grew to absolutely loath that team. So much so that it was my hate for them, rather than my love for the Seminoles that drew my allegiance to Tallahassee.
Now, after close to 20 years of dynamic football (regardless if you believe in dynasties), I am beginning to see a lot of the traits that turned me away from Gainesville in our very midst.
I'd heard the stories about Charlie getting phone calls after his rocky beginning. I read about Chris Weinke having to change his number after the N.C. State game in 1998. I wanted to believe those were a "few" punks who couldn't get a "date" at Bullwinkle's and decided to cause grief for someone other than themselves.
Now, I'm not so certain.
I was sitting in a small cabin in the North Carolina Mountains, last Thursday. Sipping a few cold ones and lapping up chips and dip with some old college buddies. It was an annual golf "tournament" we play amongst each other with high stakes "quarter-a-hole" antes.
As we sat and watched our beloved ‘Noles struggle through the first half, our thoughts turned to the three years we were all in Tallahassee (1984 through 1986). We talked about how exciting the games were back then. Sure, we didn't win them all, but some of the most exciting football I ever saw was during that time. Remember a guy name Reggie Collier? Those games often resembled track meets as much as football games as our potent offense and impotent defense raced alternately up and down the field.
We laughed, then agreed, that we'd prefer to watch a game like last Thursday's, as opposed to the seventy-five to six thrashings we'd witnessed over the last decade. Sure, we wanted to win every game, and cheered hard as ever from North Carolina to see to it. Florida State football has become a sturdy thread in our friendship. It didn't get much better than that: Hanging out with good friends, polishing off what later felt like nine kegs, and watching our ‘Noles battle like crazy.
Then, something happened that silenced the omnipresent chatter. It started as a low murmur, then rose loud enough that it was heard clearly over the old single-speakered Zenith we all huddled around.
It wasn't the War Chant.
Instead, it was clearly a round of boos. Then, another. They were, without question aimed at one Chris Rix, Florida State Quarterback (says so right on his business card).
The four of us, looked at each other. It wasn't that we'd never heard booing before. It was in the context of our conversation, frivolity, and fellowship, we couldn't believe our ears.
Here we were, battling a game, inspired, and let's face it, talented Clemson team tooth and nail. Our boys were playing as hard as they could and in need of every voice of support in that stadium, and yet, they were being booed. By their own "fans."
I felt sick to my stomach. Every one of us just shook our head.
I understand that out of eighty-some odd thousand fans, we're probably talking about a fraction. From what we could hear, however, it was a larger fraction than anyone would ever want to admit.
Then the television crew finds some geek from the school of Art Appreciation holding a "Please Transfer" sign. I only hope this moron lives long enough to understand what a dope he looked like. How other fans in the vicinity allowed this creep to display that sign is as big a mystery as how he found his way to the stadium.
By the way, tough guy, if you read this, please find my e-mail address on my personal bio. I can't effectively illustrate, over this medium, how far up your backside I will plant a brogan upon our next encounter.
Yet, there he stood. Undeterred. Unchallenged. Some other genius had a "Christina Rix" sign. Brilliant. Two, of I'm sure several guys, who's knowledge of football could not fill Tom Thumb's jock strap, flinging insults at the guys who are sweating, straining and bleeding on the pitch.
I don't know Chris Rix. In fact, I don't know any of the football players. I don't really know if I'd like Chris Rix, or not. I only get the semi-reliable scribblings of a guy racing to meet a deadline and sometimes looking to "make news."
I can tell you this, though. Chris Rix is playing as hard as he possibly can. He cares about Florida State Football and its legacy. In case you've forgotten, he signed early with the ‘Noles because he said it was where he always wanted to play. Is he cocky? So what?
If you want to blame someone for the quarterback "problems" we seem to be working through, hop a plane and find Jared Jones. You see, he, of the Oscar Meyer fetish would have been the starting quarterback, LAST year, had he been as dedicated as Chris Rix.
Chris Rix may not be the quarterback we all wish him to be, after all. But it won't be because he doesn't care, or work to get better.
And that goes for the ENTIRE team. The team that rises early in February and pukes their way through Mat Drills. The team that drags itself onto the practice fields twice a day in August to beat each other's brains out. The team that has to not only digest the complexities of the playbook, but also balance classes (some of which they're not even at due to away and Thursday games). I don't care if you're taking "Underwater Basket Weaving", that's tough.
And why? Why do they risk permanent injury? Why do they miss some of the "regular" joys of college because of curfews, or because there is always some jack-leg who thinks he can whip the new linebacker on campus?
Some do it because they believe they have a shot at riches. Others because they enjoy the prestige it brings. Some are actually forward thinking enough to take advantage of the free education, which will carry them beyond football.
But regardless of their motivation, they all do it so some fan can either live in peace, or rag a rival at the office water cooler. Some fans feel the players "owe them something." The fact that some fans show up, they feel, entitles them to some sort of "bragging rights door prize." Instead of bobble heads, some fans think they should be handed a win. Every time. Regardless of the opponent, and any team that deprives them of said benefit is open to the wrath of this previously loyal follower.
Heifer dust. As a fan, you are entitled to THREE things, upon entering the stadium:
--A great Halftime Show
--The chance to root for your team
--Your team's best effort
That's it, Sparky. That's all you get. You don't have the right to boo a college athlete. Period. Analyze all you want, but there are stains in Coach Bowden's undergarments with more football knowledge than the vast, vast, vast majority of football fans (Yes. That includes you, too).
I'm tired of seeing guys like "Mr. Transfer" make my university look like "Spoiled, Scrawny Punk U.". It's time for "real" fans to confront these low lives. If the aforementioned dweeb(s) made it out of the stadium without that poster folded neatly and placed firmly aside his left tonsil, then shame on those around him.
We are at a critical time in the psyche of this program. After years of being the 500 lbs Gorilla, we're now "only" five and one, coming off a four-loss season. Another season with those results and recruiting could suffer. Attendance could drop, and worst of all, one of the all time great coaches could decide "this isn't fun anymore."
I don't care if Dave Hart has Knute Rockne stored next to Ted Williams, you don't want that to happen.
Think about it, next time you (in your infinite wisdom) think any one of these kids deserves to be booed.