Bumped. Even though Alabama won the game last nights (congrats to Roll Bama Roll), the underlying points in this post doesn't change. - BN Eds.
I know what you're thinking, Athletes colliding at high speed, but that is not what I am going to discuss today. Let's start by stating (or restating) a fundamental law of the universe.
a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force.
For the purpose of today's examination I am going to define a "Body" as in Student Body or Body of Alumni. I find it interesting that when discussing fans, however, it is referred to as a "fan base" and we simply take for granted that it is comprised of both Student Body, and Body of Alumni as well as those fans whose only tie to the university is generally regional or circumstantial.
I'm going to get back to that. For now, join me after the jump for another example put to work.
I found this little blurb on today's Column by Ivan Maisel.
Four years ago, when LSU pounded Ohio State, 38-24, to win the BCS national championship, the Buckeye fans gradually grew silent beneath the onslaught of the Tigers and their fans in the Superdome.
What we're talking about here is the outside force of LSU fans acting upon another body; the OSU football team as well as it's fans. Maisel's column focuses on the largely home field advantage LSU enjoyed by playing in the Superdome in New Orleans. The above mentioned clause emboldened by me for emphasis really hit a nerve with me. We're talking about a very physical reality of a rather large fan base silencing their counterparts, and affecting the way the Buckeyes performed on the field. This is a very real and tangible effect. It can be measured. Television broadcasts routinely show some form of audio meter during really big games to illustrate exactly how boisterous a crowd can be.
I found this factoid particularly noteworthy, because as a self described connoisseur of American College Football, I take pride in having attended games where we took on some of the longest standing Football powerhouses across the nation: Michigan, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, Ohio State, Oklahoma. Out of all the fanbases I have had the pleasure of observing first hand, Ohio State was the only one that made me feel like I was at an away game when I entered the Rose Bowl grounds. The phrase "travels well" really hit home when I saw how the Buckeye fans "bring it." Similarly, I watched first hand when what I thought a largely over rated Seminole fanbase began their 'Tomahawk Chant' at the Emerald Bowl in the 3rd quarter and we promptly blew what I thought was an insurmountable lead.
We are clearly A Body at Rest.
How did we get here? How do we resolve this? In 1998, UCLA debuted at #1 in the inaugural BCS rankings well on our way to the National Championship game. While we fell short, we did end up playing on our own home field, the Rose Bowl. Again, some of Maisel's words hit home with me.
. . . every time the crystal football shows up in New Orleans, LSU shows up to claim it.
Followed immediately after by:
"This is our stadium," Tiger defensive end Sam Montgomery said.
While we are all aware what happened next, it bears repeating. Perhaps disapointed by falling just shy of the National Championship game, Bruin "fans" sold their tickets en masse and turned what has been described by those members of Bruins Nation that were there as a Wisconsin Home Game. Compare that to this climate:
"I think this game is going to be about who wants the tickets more," said Alabama offensive tackle Barrett Jones, the Outland Trophy winner. "Who's willing to pay for them? I think we're allowed the same amount they are. The other ones are going to be who pays more for them, and I have great confidence in our fans. They followed us all the way to Pasadena (for the 2010 BCS title game). We had more fans than Texas there. I know that they're going to show up and support us."
There are 4 BCS Bowl games that take turns hosting the National Championship game on a rotating basis. They are the Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, and Orange Bowls. Those bowls reside in Pasadena, CA; Glendale, AZ; New Orleans, LA; and Miami, FL respectively. This is important because Maisel is referring to the synergy created when LSU plays in the Super Dome; coincidentally each time has been for the National Championship. So, for the above mentioned Bowl Games, we have these universities that can potentially take advantage of their regional proximity:
- Rose Bowl - Pasadena - UCLA/USC
- Fiesta Bowl - Glendale - ASU/UofA
- Sugar Bowl - New Orleans - LSU
- Orange Bowl - Miami - Miami University
LSU has obviousy benefited the most, capturing 2 National Championships in their 'home' stadium. While Southern Cal can make a similar argument by winning 4 out of 5 Rose Bowls; the lone defeat being a loss in the National Championship game. Meanwhile, Miami won 3 National Championships in the Orange Bowl before there was a BCS system.
And UCLA? Well, UCLA squandered the one opportunity at a BCS bowl win when its fans sold all their tickets to the 99 Rose Bowl. Perhaps the fans alone cannot be blamed for the loss against Ron Dayne led Wisconsin, but we can see from Maisel's quotes that a raucous fanbase can make a difference.
Between 1998 and 2001 we were the pre-imminent football program in Los Angeles. Then something happened. I cannot say exactly what happened, but I can describe it.
The Second Law of Motion states that if an unbalanced force acts on a body, that body will experience acceleration ( or deceleration), that is, a change of speed
UCLA was very much an unbalanced force. While we had achieved some rare heights, have never truly enjoyed the active support of the administration, and unbelievably enough the Atheletic Department. We find ourselves in that surreal position where our Athletic Department IS the outside force. The Football and Basketball teams are largely unsupported and mismanaged. The fans are viewed as sheep to be fleeced, and the students are viewed as serfs; to be harnessed but not truly considered.
As with Maisel, I look upon all that LSU has achieved; how it has curiously harnessed synchronicity and won two National Championships and now play for a 3rd in their own backyard. I realize that if we want to even approach the same results we the fans, alumni, and students must be the outside force that weeds out apathy, refuses to accept mediocrity, and demands the kind of excellence from our two signature sports programs that we demand from our scholars.
Unfortunately our own Athletic Department and quite possibly the Administration itself seem fit to play the equal and opposite reaction.