Wednesday, September 19, 2012

First-Rate Fans

I intended to use a picture of a "mean" UW fan
here, but chose to go with this one instead because
when I Googled "mean UW fan", this picture of Will
was the 36th picture that came up.  Hee hee. 
I hate to say it, but University of Wisconsin fans, while enthusiastic 'til the end and incredibly supportive of their team, are awful to visitors.

I know this from experience, because despite the fact that I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin and regularly cheer for the Badgers, I have attended six or seven University of Wisconsin games as a University of Iowa fan.

I've been called a number of awful and insulting names (including quite a few that I'd never repeat or post on my blog) and had cardboard food trays filled with ketchup thrown at me, and Tom has been physically threatened and encouraged to fight on more than one occasion. Attending games as a fan of Wisconsin's opponent can be a little scary at times, especially if you're brave/stupid enough to sit in the student or another Wisconsin-fan-dominated section of the stadium.

University of Iowa fans certainly aren't angels themselves, but they're less organized and brutal in their attacks on opposing fans, unless of course those fans are from Iowa State; then all bets are off.

We wandered through a few TAMU tailgates last fall, but Tom's department's tailgate prior to the Florida game was our first official TAMU tailgate. Between attending the tailgate and hanging out with the College Gameday crew, we were on campus and in close proximity to the stadium for about three hours, which was plenty of time to take in the "feel" of the TAMU football fan base. On more than one occasion I was actually shocked at what I saw and heard because...TAMU fans are NICE. To EVERYONE.

In a crowded bathroom, I overheard/witnessed this conversation:

TAMU woman: (to Florida woman) Welcome to College Station!
Florida woman: Thank you! We're having a fantastic time here. Welcome to the SEC!
TAMU woman: Thank you! We're so excited to be a part of this conference.
Florida woman: We know you'll bring a lot to the SEC - your team and fans are great.

What?! Fans from opposing teams conversing with one another like actual human beings?! This has never happened on the University of Wisconsin campus.

Later, while I was enjoying our tailgate and chatting with a couple of friends (Tom and a co-worker took all of the kids to a nearby bounce house to let them run off a bit of energy), a Florida fan jumped up on one of our chairs and loudly - but politely - asked for our attention. He then proceeded to welcome TAMU to the SEC and thank all of us for our hospitality. Again, what?! Fans from two teams tailgating side-by-side without the police having to be called? (I'm not kidding either - during one University of Iowa tailgate an opposing fan chucked a full beer can at Tom and it hit him in the temple, giving him a mild concussion.)

On Monday morning I read no fewer than four letters - all written by Florida fans who'd been in town for the game and addressed to the higher-ups at TAMU - addressing the unbelievably courteous and welcoming atmosphere on the TAMU campus leading up to, during, and after the game. Here's just one of these letters:

I am the secretary for the Emerald Coast Gator Club representing the Fort Walton Beach/Destin, Florida area and I was fortunate enough to visit College Station for the UF/TAMU game. I thought you might be interested in hearing about my experience in Aggie country.

Over the last 13 years, I have been to every SEC venue (except for Missouri) to watch the Gators play. I want you to know that the Aggies are the classiest set of fans I have ever met. I say this without any hesitation - absolutely the best. I think I heard 'Howdy' about 500 times. It came from small children holding their dads' hands, from a grandmotherly lady in a wheelchair, and everyone in between.

This isn't only my opinion. I was part of a crowd of ten UF fans in College Station and we all came back with the same take. Aggies are hospitable and friendly; they know their football and have great traditions; they are supportive of their team but are courteous to visitors. The band completely blew me away, and the pride I witnessed with your team joining a new conference was amazing.

My group of friends had fun in the bars in Northgate, in hotel lobbies, at the restaurants, in the grocery stores, at the Presidential Library, while tailgating, and in the stands of Kyle Field. You guys know how to have fun and to spread cheer to your opponents also.

I'm glad to have TAMU become a fellow member of the SEC and am thankful that I could attend their first conference game. I hope that when your fans travel to Gainesville that they have a similar experience to what we found in College Station. I'm CC'ing the UF Alumni Association and fellow members of the Emerald Coast Gator Club with the hope that they will also pass the word about the great hospitality we found in College Station.

Whoop! and Go Gators!

Tony Giordano
Secretary, Emerald Coast Gator Club

I am not an Aggie by degree, but man, am I proud to live in Aggie Country today.

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