Re: Give us a break

Students not at fault for low attendance at Bison games

LettersToTheEditorGraphic by Evan Tremblay.

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A week ago, I wrote a sports piece entitled “Build it and they will come,” which discussed what Bison Sports has been doing to try and encourage fans to come out to sporting events. In this piece, I stated it’s also up to students to do their part and show up to the games.

Similarly, I wrote an editorial last March which essentially criticized our university for having such low fan turnout. I used words such as “abysmal” and “pathetic” to describe our attendance.

I would to apologize on both counts, for trying to put the bulk of the blame on the students for not showing up.

In his article “Give us a break,” Tom Ingram states “there just isn’t time for many students to attend football games even if they wanted to. It’s nothing short of cruel to suggest they are in some way letting somebody down by prioritizing school, work, and other responsibilities over football – which, let’s not forget, is not the main purpose of a university.”

He is right. As a student, you have no obligation to attend a football, basketball, soccer, hockey, or volleyball game. It’s your choice, and trying to guilt-trip you into going is by no means effective. The comments I made were insensitive, and frankly, just plain rude.

With that being said, I would like to vouch for why I love attending sporting events on campus, and, like I should have done originally, why I think it would be fun for you to go as well. There will be no guilt-tripping or finger pointing involved.

What are some of the benefits of going to a game?
When you attend any sporting event on campus you’re not only supporting the team on the field, you’re also joining together in community with the people around you. For two to three hours, no matter your background, you’re in unity with your peers. It’s a fun social activity, and also a great way to meet people. Personally speaking, I met the love of my life via a sporting event.

Secondly, it’s a great stress release.

I’m a student just like the rest of you. I study hard and work hard, and every once in a while, it’s nice to get away and forget about the pressures of university life. Now, I understand that sporting events aren’t for everyone. For some, reading a book, playing an instrument, or going for a walk may be some of the activities that are preferred. I would encourage you to come out to just one game, though, just to see and feel the energy contained in a single building.

Who knows, you may have a good time and come back again. The games are free for U of M students, so you can come whenever you have time and not have to worry about fishing out the cash to get in.

Why Bison Sports means so much to me
While I’m at it, I also feel it’s important for me to explain why I get so fired up when talking about fan attendance at Bison games, and why I accidentally got carried away in both of my articles.

For me, it’s a euphoric feeling, and something that is near indescribable. To have the Big Horns pounding their drums, children on the edge of their seat, and students side by side, harmoniously chanting “Go Bisons Go!” is a feeling that brings me great joy, and brings back so many fond memories.

I remember attending my first ever Bison football game in 2005, at age 10. It was an experience I will never forget. The team was still playing at the old university stadium, and I recall with fondness seeing them run out of the locker room and onto the field. They were like gods to me, and as a peewee football player myself at the time, I brought a notepad with me to take notes on how I could improve as a player based on the technique of those playing in the game.

The energy in the stands was electric, and I completely immersed myself in the experience. That experience included being able to step onto the field post-game to get autographs from the players. Being able to stand beside them and ask questions was a dream come true. One player specifically changed my life forever, and I will never forget what he did for me.

His name was Dave Beakley , a defensive back. Much like myself, he wasn’t the biggest player on the field, but he was fearless. He took on players twice his size and came out on top. I wanted to play the game in the same way he did.

I approached “Beaks” – as he was known by his teammates – after the game and showed him my notepad. We played the same position, and I told him I wanted to be just like him when I got older. He looked at me with a smile, and said that was an honour. He then escorted me, along with my dad, to the locker room for a tour.

As a 10-year-old who had dreams of playing the game for a long time, that moment changed my life. I never missed a Bison game for the next nine years afterward.

I remember Beaks, I remember the hard-hitting linebacker Kenton Onofrychuk , I remember the calm and collected quarterback John Makie , and I remember the clutch kicker Scott Dixon.

I remember when running back Matt Henry broke his femur in the 2007 Vanier Cup game , and his team rallied around him and brought back a ring , and I remember when Jeremy Botelho took a missed field goal back a CIS-record 129 yards to the house in 2009.

These are all things I will never forget. I am and always will be a Bison fan through and through.

When I started covering the team in my second year at the U of M, it was yet another dream come true. I have developed relationships with a number of players on a number of teams that I will always hold close to my heart.

Whether that be the openness of “the BC boys,” Jordan Yantz , Jordan Linnen , and Matt Sawyer in 2014, or the humour of Wilfred Sam-King and Oyinko Akinola of the men’s track and field team in 2015, there isn’t an encounter I’ve had with a Bison athlete that hasn’t been positive.

The recollection I have of my time both in the stands and in the press box of Bison sporting events has been nothing short of spectacular. I know how hard these athletes train, and I also know how loud our fans cheer.

You don’t have to come out if you don’t want to. But, if you have time and aren’t doing anything else on a Friday or Saturday night, I’d suggest checking out a game. If your experience has been anything like mine, you won’t be disappointed.