Let me preface this column: this generalization of course does not apply to every individual Wisconsin student. There are a lot of die hard fans that actually arrive on time for games, are more locked in on the football game than trying to start the wave, and don’t leave after Jump Around. These people be as upset about it as I am: our student section is embarrassing.
It’s one thing to show up late and leave early for an 11 AM game against Cupcake U on September 7th. It’s another for the student section to be half-empty approaching the second quarter of a 2:30 Michigan State game in late October. It’s an eyesore on TV, hurts our home field advantage, and is an affront to the widely-shared-in-social-media notion that Madison is the best college sports town in America.
I know this game didn’t technically matter for our quest to the Big Ten Championship game and Rose Bowl. I know that it was Halloween weekend and everybody had to erase one hangover and start working on another. I know that it was extremely uninspiring to see Joel Stave go down with what we now know is a season-ending collarbone injury. I know it was even more excruciating to see Danny O’Brien come in and start losing 10 yards on sacks every other play. I know this team has played five games this season that felt more like dentist appointments than something that we do for fun. HOWEVER, these are games where we need to help the team win. We failed.
During Saturday’s game, the student section was dormant even when it was full. Driving towards our endzone for the tie in the final two minutes, Michigan State was able to huddle as comfortably as if they were at home. There is no excuse for letting them do that.
The Wisconsin student section has degraded to a point where the party supersedes the game. People go to be seen in their vintage 90s Rose Bowl sweatshirts, sing along to ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’, and Jump Around. There wouldn’t be anything wrong with that if we rose to the occasion when the team needed us to help protect our house.
I really don’t want to start sounding like a crusty old man at age 26, and it’s not as though it was much — or even any — better when I was there a few years ago. (The image up top, from 2008, confirms that). Come on, though. Get to big games on time, scream your lungs out in the fourth quarter on defense (and especially on third down), and stay until the end of close games against Big Ten rivals. Keep singing along to the songs, keep trying to secure new hook-ups, and keep Jumping Around, but don’t do those at the expense of the primary reason we should all be there: the football game on the field.
As College Football expands to a four-team playoff next season, there are going to be years where we have a chance to make it in. Football games can turn on thousands of small details, and to get in we are going to need to do a better job controlling the ones that we can. Crowd noise is on us. In close games, we need to be loud to force false starts, take opposing offenses out of their comfort zones, and pump up our D. We need to look ourselves in the mirror and get better.