In the post-game glow of UTEP’s victory over Houston Baptist on Saturday night – the 3 and 6 squad – had precious little time to enjoy the game.
Presumably at the same time that Coach Kugler said, “I thought it was a good team win in all phases…I thought the kids worked extremely hard this week in practice. They really believe their destiny is in their own hands if they work at it and take it one game at a time. That was the first one of four [games].” – all the insta-coaches and wanna-be pundits weighed in.
“Not a real win.”
“Cut the program…”
“They should give away a car to get people to go…or have bands”
“I won’t spend my money on losers…”
It was an awesome display from the so-called UTEP fans who didn’t bother to attend the game, but somehow found out about the results and decided it was time to display their version of hard-core fandom, coaching degrees and marketing prowess in carefully crafted social media comments.
Yes. I said it: so-called fans. Better known as bandwagon fans. So it’s time to disassemble their declared fandom. It’s time for everyone in this city to ‘Fan up.’ It starts with football, but the same could be said all across the UTEP venues.
At it’s most basic, being a fan means you are a fanatic of a group fighting for recognition of your place. If you are from a place, and that place has a team, that team is yours. You have ownership via your birthright or transplant. Or maybe it was a moment with a player that crystallized your love for a team. If you’re lucky enough, your place has multiple teams in multiple sports, all playing for the glory and gold, in your place’s name.
Here, in our corner of far West Texas, we have been passed over time and again by professional sports. The primary fandom for most resides with professional and collegiate teams far from our collective zip codes. We live and die by their games, all to the exclusion of the team(s) that we should be automatically cheering for.
Being a UTEP fan here – for most – means having an open season on the team without really investing in the team. It’s popular to dump on UTEP, because that’s what fans do. It’s our school and we’ll with it as we please.
“Did you go to the game?”
“Naw, bro…all they do is lose…but did you see that >insert OTHER NCAA TOP 25 TEAM NAME HERE< game…daum it was exciting…I watched the whole thing with my family and friends, we even wore our jerseys and hats!!!”
Ah…ok. So let’s start the dissection here:
For those who say that a NCAA Division 1 Men’s Football Program game is boring in person, but – at the same time – exciting at home or a bar, with commercials, countless graphics, announcer-babble, and more commercials – I call bovine scatology (BS for short.)
You probably also paid $60 for you plus your whole family a few years back to see not one, but two NFL scrimmages at the Sun Bowl. S-C-R-I-M-M-A-G-E-S. Games that meant NOTHING.
The college day game experience is what YOU make of it. The tailgating. The band. The cheers and songs. The connection with YOUR team. A team made up of young men and women, getting an education, playing the game they love and doing so for a city most have now ADOPTED as their own.
To those who live by (and repeat the phrase): ‘I don’t support a losing program’ but sport gear from Penn State, Baylor, Miami, or any other number of teams that have had nefarious going-on by either their coaches or players, your wallet is the victim of your lie. And so is your hometown university.
Beyond the tarnished-image gear worn by some El Paso ‘fans’ is the fact that those teams that have – in the past – had losing seasons. From UT all the way to a VT or UCLA, fans STILL packed the venues. And that attendance became ammo for coaches who went on recruiting trips (see, even when we were 4-7 our fans packed your soon-to-be home for 4 years.)
Wait…this just in from scoffers…
“But UTEP isn’t like those schools…those schools are winners…and big time…and and and”
Those schools were, at one time, in the exact same position as UTEP – the only difference is their fans hung with them; and you, my dear so-called fan – have not gone all in. Unlike the players, band, coaches, cheerleaders…but I digress.
For me, it all came down to two pictures from Saturday night’s game. One will be shared all across social media as an example of the ‘failure’ of our school.
But the other, maybe, could be shared as the true face of the program. And a possible, brighter future starting now.
No mention of rushing totals, won-loss records, or attendance.
Just one player, who happens to be from here, sharing a moment with a young fan. A cherished moment, a teachable moment: One when a fan was born, and maybe thousands more re-born.
We owe it to both the player and his young fan to ‘Fan Up.’