The problem with most arguments that take the general form of Back in my day we did this and we did that and everything was great is that they are very difficult to disprove. There is usually little or no documentation to support these nostalgic claims, and the people who are being told that their newfangled ways are unacceptable were probably not old enough at the time to point out that things back in the day weren't actually all that better or different than they are now.
That brings us to the South Carolina fan base's debate du jour: the student section's collective decision to vacate their seats at Williams-Brice Stadium some time in the third quarter (or possibly at halftime) of the Vanderbilt game and their general propensity for doing this over the past several years despite the football team being remarkably good.
In this particular case, I happen to believe that the student section did do a much better job of seeing it through to the end when I was at Carolina from 2004-2007, years in which the quality of the on-field performance didn't always warrant hanging around to see Blake Mitchell's last interception of the day. I also believe that the student ticket distribution system that was in place when I was enrolled at the University of South Carolina did a much better job than the current one does of identifying the kinds of students who are likely to stick around to the end of a game, whether that game is a 42-7 thrashing of Middle Tennessee State or a frustrating 43-29 loss to Tennessee.
There's a good chance that my recollection is incorrect, but whether or not the student section actually used to be more densely populated in the fourth quarter of games in the dregs of 2007 isn't my real problem with the people who leave games early. My main issue is that I simply don't understand the decision-making process that they utilize to ascertain whether or not attending a given football game is worth their while.
If you are the kind of person who leaves a 28-10 game at halftime, what exactly are you setting out to accomplish when you decide to go to the game? Are you simply hoping to be physically present until the outcome of the game is no longer in doubt? If so, what exactly are you getting out of that experience? I'm not trying to be condescending here. I'm honestly curious.
Perhaps I should, at this point, explain why I go to South Carolina football games (an event that, for me, involves taking a day off from work and traveling 800 miles). I attend Gamecock football games to feel like I'm a part of something that is bigger than myself. You know that thing that normal people feel for America or God or whatever? That's what I feel when I watch Gamecock football. So when I go to a game, it's not merely to see who is going to win but to feel connected to something that was here before I was born and will be here long after I'm dead.
This feeling is in no way diminished when South Carolina is up by several touchdowns over a clearly outmatched foe. I enjoy seeing true and redshirt freshmen getting snaps in the final minutes of blowouts as much as I enjoy seeing Connor Shaw engineering a last-minute touchdown drive to secure a victory over a conference opponent. I enjoy seeing Mike Davis having an opportunity to pad his stats against UAB as much as I enjoy seeing Melvin Ingram return an Aaron Murray fumble for a touchdown.
I share this merely to explain the perspective from which I am attempting to understand Saturday's mass exodus, not in an effort to posit myself on any sort of moral high ground or as an attempt to engage anyone in a fandom pissing contest. I entertain no illusions that my obsession with and devotion to Gamecock football is anything more than an attempt to distract myself from the stress and shortcomings of my ultimately pointless existence on this planet - hardly a noble pursuit.
Emotionally dependent on the sweet nectar of college football though I may be, I cannot say that I have never left a game early. Though there are probably others that I have managed to forget, our 56-6 loss at Florida in 2008 and our 34-14 home loss to Alabama in 2005 are the only two games that I can remember leaving early. In the case of the former, there was absolutely no hope of witnessing anything remotely positive and, in the case of the latter, my girlfriend (who had not been drinking) passed out due to heat exhaustion and required immediate medical attention. I count these to be among the many perfectly valid reasons to leave a game early,
In both of the examples I just cited, something or a series of things went horribly and unexpectedly wrong. But when you leave your house to go to a game, witnessing a blowout of a conference opponent is the best possible outcome. What did you see during the first 30 minutes of gameplay that made you decide You know what? I could see how some people would enjoy this, but the Gamecocks' most impressive offensive display in three years just isn't doing it for me!
So it puzzles me when I see the student section - or any section - almost completely cleared out before the scoreboard reads triple zeroes during a game that plays out like Saturday's did. The enjoyment of booze is often thrown out as a culprit, but as someone who often walks into Williams-Brice Stadium under the influence of many different kinds of alcohol, I can assure you that liquor alone does not explain this phenomenon. Even the idea that some people view football games as more of a social event than anything else doesn't make sense. Why does the socializing have to end simply because South Carolina has a comfortable lead? Doesn't that make it easier to socialize without fear of missing an important play?
I'm not here to wag my finger at you. I'm here to study you so that I might better understand what motivates you.
If you have any insight to offer that will allow me to better understand your kind, please utilize the comments section below.