WHEN I SAY “WE ARE!” YOU SAY “UR!” When I say “Eugene, Oregon!” you give me a blank stare and say “…trees?” But apart from trees, tree-huggers, and having marijuana legalized everywhere but on paper, Eugene is also known for microbreweries, Nike founder Phil Knight, and citywide, die-hard pride in the University of Oregon (UO) Ducks. The moment you exit the Eugene airport, massive billboards show you that Phil Knight treats the University of Oregon as his own spoiled grandchild. The University of Oregon facilities are so nice that the U.S. Olympic Trials are hosted right on campus.
True, rowdy, die-hard fans are the heart of any sport game, and the citizens of Eugene know how to support their team. During a Ducks football game in Autzen Stadium, which has exceeded its capacity of 59,000 people every game since 2002, I had the opportunity to cater Knight’s private, double-sized skybox suite hosting NBA star LeBron James. Though I missed out on getting signatures from Knight or James, one thing I never missed out on was the ecstatic craze of the UO football games. Lee Corso of ESPN College Gameday said, “Per person, Autzen Stadium is the loudest stadium that I have ever been in my entire life.” Sportscaster Keith Jackson called Autzen “Per square yard, the loudest stadium in the history of the planet.”
Now flash back to the opening Richmond football game of my freshman year and imagine the shock of disappointment. There was no band, only an occasional “We are UR” chant, and a plethora of empty seats. We were more excited when cheerleaders threw Jimmy John’s at us than when our team scored a touchdown. Why are we wearing shirts stating “Our Team, Our Town, Our Time,” chanting “We are UR” and filming videos with the message “We are ONE Richmond” when we are not even staying for the second half of our football games?
It is our job as students to get pumped for games—whether that entails “proper hydration,” eating your weight in hot dogs or picking the metaphorical wedgie out of your too-cool-for-sports undies.
Four short years ago our university spent $28 million to move our home field from off-campus City Stadium to our on-campus Robins Stadium. About 1,600 students, more than half of the entire student body, attended the stadium’s opening game. Four years ago, Richmond students had pride.
My intention is not to scold students for skipping football games; I am just as guilty as the average Joe who chooses pre-games and FIFA tournaments instead of football games. But there is still hope for turning Richmond students from spectators into fans. We do not need the founder of Nike throwing millions at our university; we already have a $2.1 billion endowment. What we need is a change in our campus culture.
Our school has already spent $28 million just to build a stadium on our campus, and though there is always more our administration could do (better half-time shows, music, etc.), it currently has no reason to because of the lack of student support. It is our job as students to get pumped for games—whether that entails “proper hydration,” eating your weight in hot dogs or picking the metaphorical wedgie out of your too-cool-for-sports undies.
When Robins Stadium opened in 2010, the The Collegian reported Alison Keller, now director of the Center for Student Involvement, saying, “There are ideas floating around that we can implement into creating new game day traditions on campus, but the students have to own it. We [administrators] can help decorate and provide the funds and supplies, but the students have to want it and have to be invested in it.”
Fans are important; so important that the Seattle Seahawks dubbed their fans the “12th man,” retiring the number 12 jersey in their honor. The Richmond Rowdies have kept up an honorable presence at sporting events, but other student organizations need to step up as well, including fraternities and sororities, school spirit groups, and any other organization that values pride in athletics and school spirit. We need to come prepared to cheer just as much as our team’s prepared to play. It is up to us to make Robins Stadium our stadium. Don’t just let yourself be a spectator, allow yourself to become our team’s 12th man.