...based on my limited age and experience compared to the other writers and commenters on this site, I’ve stuck to writing about what I know best—UT men’s basketball. However, as the "Favorite Stadium Moment"thread from last week demonstrated, the BON audience now includes many students. After matriculating on the UT campus for five straight years (and sticking around two more at the law school), I attended all of the recent games referenced in the thread and would like to bring up a new perspective on the topic. In reading through the posts and recollecting my own experiences, I was struck by how different games affected different people in different ways. For the purposes of this post, I’d like to examine the common themes in the "memorable experiences" and how they relate to the longstanding notion of UT as having "bad fans" at football games.
First off, for the purposes of this post, I’d like to separate "memorable experiences" from "memorable moments." While everyone remembers the end of the Texas Tech shootout in 2003 (Daily Texan Headline: "Mock and Roll!"), I’d instead like to focus on the total experience of each individual game. More specifically, I’m going to speculate on which elements contribute to a rollicking DKR crowd versus a frustratingly docile fanbase. Since 2000, several "memorable" games routinely popped up within the thread:
1) Kansas State (2007): The "Rainstorm" game
2) TCU (2007): Umm, the ugly "Beat Texas" shirts game
3) Ohio State (2006): #1 vs. #2 on national television
4) Oklahoma State (2004): The comeback game
5) Texas Tech (2003): Mock and Roll
The first thing that jumps out from this list is the lack of home games cited in the four years of 2000-2002 and 2005. To be fair, Texas went 22-0 at home in those four seasons, outscoring their opponents 974-212. That’s twenty-two games over four different seasons won by an average margin of 44-9. Far from being simply a VY offensive explosion in 2005, Texas remarkably scored over 40 points in 19 of those 22 games. In looking at the schedule, it’s hard to find fault with the fanbase on *any* of those seasons, with the potential exception of the game against #17 Iowa State in 2002. Plain and simple, Texas was manhandling the opposition, essentially pummeling their opponents into submission well before half-time or the final whistle.
Put in a larger perspective, I think the jaw-dropping run of dominance at DKR over the last eight seasons (43-4) is the biggest problem contributing to the much-maligned tranquility of DKR during most home games. Fully expecting to win every game against every opponent, many students view the game itself as an afterthought compared to the pre-game and post-game festivities. Furthermore, as the premiere social event of the week, many students treat attending the game as an obligation, rather than an opportunity to go berserk for four hours. This overconfidence, overloaded party scene, and sense of obligation leads to many students arriving to the game late, intoxicated, and staring at their watches waiting to leave to get ready for the post-game party. These late arrivals combined with thousands of alumni leaving during half-time and coming back in the middle of the second half—if at all—makes it a rare experience to see a united fanbase.
This overconfidence was fully on display during the 2007 home game with TCU and 2003 home game with Arkansas. Despite all the talk about TCU wanting "respect" and all the preseason hype over their potential BCS buster status, they were given little respect from the DKR crowd. In fact, as was even mentioned in the thread, they were given applause after the game for essentially putting up a good fight. While the crowd got a little feisty in the second half against TCU, this feistiness should have been there from the beginning, instead of simply waiting for UT to overwhelm their mid-major opponent. Similarly, Arkansas stormed into Texas in 2003 and, backed by their boisterous contingent of fans, took it to the ‘Horns. In both games, the crowd waited too far long in attempting to become a factor, as I can only assume the victory still remained a foregone conclusion to many fans.
This couldn’t be more apparent in comparing the two fanbases during the Ohio State home-and-home. In my experience, the Ohio State fans could talk about nothing BUT the game, and many students—including several females—provided analysis such as talking about how their defensive scheme would shut down the Zone Read. In the hour before the game, the Horseshoe was deafening and led me to believe we were in for quite a tussle. On the flip side, I received probably a dozen tailgating invitations before our Ohio State game and many students seemed unconcerned with our chances. Furthermore, many students arrived late to the game and the primary pre-game concern was taking pictures of Matthew McConaughey and Jake Gyllenhaal in their luxury box, instead of attempting to intimidate the Buckeyes. While I think the crowd was better than PB and Wiggo suggested, the overall experience really hammered home the depressing point that our fans weren’t an major factor in one of the biggest home games in UT history.
Despite these criticisms of the fanbase, I absolutely 100% agree with the sentiments over the 2007 Kansas State and 2004 Oklahoma State crowds in the second-half. In fact, the second half of the 2004 Oklahoma State game contained the highest amount of pandemonium I’ve witnessed on the Forty Acres. Once the crowd sniffed the comeback after the Bo Scaife TD before the half, it was thirty minutes of bedlam from the fans remaining in the stands. For perhaps the only time in my DKR visits, the *entire* crowd willed the team to a higher level and created an unforgettable environment. The post-rainstorm Kansas State crowd contained as much intensity, but it also only contained the most diehard fans who refused to leave the game. I think the both of these games spotlights the important point over the sense of obligation in attending the UT football games. When all the diehard fans came together in the rain or refused to leave down 35-7, they bonded to form unforgettable crowds, which might not have been possible without many casual fans leaving the game to head home.
In conclusion, I believe home games at DKR require certain and specific circumstances to put together unforgettable crowds. While prior to this analysis, the 1999 game against Nebraska remains the gold standard of home games for many of my relatives, which was a game few expected Texas to win. When Texas is heavily favored—correctly or incorrectly—by the fans, the sense of overconfidence leads many students to arrive late and alumni to leave at halftime, fracturing the overall fanbase. Perhaps even more damaging, overconfidence places the emphasis on the tailgating and party scene, rather than the game itself. Fans have also been turned off by the routine forty-point victories against inferior foes. However, when faced against a tight spot and perhaps having hemorrhaged many of the casual-at-best fans, Texas crowds *have* proven themselves able to impact the outcome of a game. It is my extremely unscientific opinion that the higher number of casual-at-best fans hurt the overall game experience, preventing the diehard fans from impacting the game.