Boo birds 02/06/2010Posted by sportretort in Sports.
Iowa basketball is in the midst of their 3rd straight losing season under coach Todd Lickliter. Attendance has dropped significantly, to the lowest levels since Carver Hawkeye Arena opened in the early 1980’s. Jon Miller of Hawkeyenation puts forth one theory as to why in an interesting article entitled “The Spoiled Generation.” (Read it here: http://www.hawkeyenation.com/basketball/the-spoiled-generation). It is an interesting take, and a good read. In the article, Miller suggests that one reason for the lack of fans in Carver Hawkeye is that people of his age (and younger) basically have not seen Iowa fail over a period of time in either football or basketball before now. He was born in 1971, and missed, or was too young to remember, most of the 19 straight non winning seasons in football, and remembers basketball from Lute Olsen forward, having no memory of the Dick Schultz era that preceded it. Most Iowa fans of that age remember bowl games and NCAA appearances as a natural part of most seasons. Many of them will not support anything less.
I think many things contribute to the lack of fans at Iowa basketball games. Miller also mentions many of these as contributing factors. I think that the schedule did Iowa no favors this season, with many of the weekend home Big Ten games coming while the students were on break. I think that the prices are currently too high, given the number of games on TV, the current economic conditions, and win/loss record of the past few seasons. Do not lean too heavily, however, on TV as an excuse. For years, almost every Iowa game was on TV and, still, Carver Hawkeye was full most games. (I do think, however, that with big screens and high def broadcasts, TV is more of a factor now.) I feel, however, another major factor is that there has been a change among fans, in general. And this change is not unique to Hawkeye fans.
We have become an instant gratification society. We have also instilled a sense of entitlement among our younger generations. We reward everything whenthey are young. Trophies for participation, for example. We do not teach the hard lessons of how to lose to our children when they are growing up, so they do not understand or relate to poor performances when they see it in our competitive sports. I am about 12 years older than Mr. Miller, so I grew up with some pretty bad football and basketball, but still we supported our teams. In 1973, for example, Iowa was 0-11 in football. Yet, in 1974, the Hawkeyes were still 10th in the nation in attendance, despite a 3-8 campaign. That could never happen today. I would argue that with today’s “what have you done for me lately” fans, it takes very little for fans to turn. You only need to go back to last football season to see this. Iowa had one of their best seasons in history, got off to their greatest start ever, yet there was Kinnick Stadium during the third quarter of the Indiana game. Iowa was 8-0 for the first time, yet they were struggling against an inferior opponent. After the best start in school history, and they were trailing 21-7 to the Hoosiers. At home. This team that had given Hawkeye fans thrills all season, including wins at Penn State and Wisconsin, needed help from their loyal fans for a change. And that help came in the form of boos!! Not just once, but several times. Not from everyone, but from many, many fans, and the boos were lusty and loud. I turned to my brother who was sitting next to me in Kinnick and asked, more than once, are you kidding me? How could these people boo this team when they need our support the most? After all this team had done? Iowa went on to win that game, and the cheers were deafening at the end. But every “fan” who booed should have been ashaimed to cheer. That’s the problem. People demand perfection these days, it seems, from everyone but themselves.
That was not the first time I saw that phenomenon. I am reminded of the first game of the 1999 NFL season. The two-time defending Super Bowl champion Broncos were hosting the Miami Dolphins. I was sitting in the stands in Denver as they went to half time trailing 17-7 and were booed off the field. They had won the last 2 Super Bowls yet it took less than 30 minutes of football for the fans to turn on them. It seems that in our video game dominated, 30 second sound bite induced world, that we are becoming less capable of being a fan. There was a time that you supported a team through every thing. I have been a fan of many teams during my 50 years. I have attended literally thousands of games. NCAA games. NFL games. MLB, NHL and NBA games. I can honestly tell I have never booed my team ONCE. (In fact, the only time I can ever remember booing at all was the first time I saw Barry Bonds take the field after the steroid revelations about him became public.) Sure I have been disheartened. Yes, I have been disappointed. But I stuck with my teams. Fans do not do that these days.
They will come back to Iowa basketball. All the Hawkeyes need to do is win. And they will win again. But the question is, how long will the fans stay?