We had some friends in for the weekend. On Saturday, the men went to the OSU spring game and the ladies went shopping. The attendance at the spring game set a new national record: over 95,000. The weather had some to do with it as it was an absolutely beautiful day. To the credit of OSU all the gate money ($5 per person) went to local charities. The concessions, um, probably not. More on that in a moment.
We arrived two hours before game time and there was a lacrosse game taking place vs. Notre Dame. There was already 31,000 in the stadium. I don’t know what a normal attendance for lacrosse is, but it is not 31,000.
Even arriving that early we had to park some distance away and then sit in the upper deck. The parking lots were crammed with tailgaters that had been there since very early that morning. They were going through the food and drink! It was quite the sight to behold. Remember all of this is for a practice! Not even a scrimmage against another team. It is a teammate vs. teammate practice.
Allow me to stop and say this has nothing to do with which team this was surrounding. I am sure the same is true at any serious football school.
As a sat there contemplating all of this while drinking my FOUR DOLLAR bottle of Diet Coke, a few thoughts hit me. This was “church” for many of the folks there. They were sacrificing their time and energy to be there to watch their team play and get “revved” up. There was cheering and clapping and worship. There was loud music and voices coming over the sound system. There was a playbook. There was even a bulletin (program)! People were generous with their money, at least in buying from the merchandisers and concessions. These people were committed and loyal and unashamed in their praise. They were loud and boisterous and demonstrative.
That even I was having a conversation with a friend in our neighborhood about all of this as we talked about priorities. The amount of money spent on the day and the tailgating and the food is a bit mind-boggling. Yet most everyone there was not complaining and they will come back.
Oh yeah, they will come back even if coach Tressel or his staff never calls them or shakes their hands. They will come back in spite of being crowded and uncomfortable. They will come back despite the loudmouths and the jerks and the hypocrites. They will come back even though they don’t like what the coach called or how the officials handled the game. They will come back because they are sold out to the team. They will come back because it is an unforgettable experience and it grabs their passion.