Empty seats sign of a larger trend

first_imgJake Davidson is a freshman majoring in accounting. His column, “Davidson’s Direction,” runs every other Monday. To comment on this story, visit dailytrojan.com or email Jake at [email protected] There is a very famous scene in the beginning of the movie Field of Dreams, when a mystical voice tells the main character, played by Kevin Costner, “If you build it, he will come.” Since the iconic sports film’s release in 1989, the quote has often been misattributed as, “If you build it, they will come.” And though it might not have come directly from the movie, there is no statement more emblematic of the USC rooting mentality than that one.Yes, Field of Dreams took place in the cornfields of Iowa while USC sports events happen in the bustling metropolis of downtown Los Angeles. Yet the principle of attending games only to see a polished, successful team rings true for the majority of USC’s fanbase.The phenomenon of lackadaisical attendance for average teams and impassioned support for championship caliber squads has long been in effect for the Trojan faithful. This year is no different. The USC-Colorado men’s basketball game on Sunday, Feb. 16 played out like most games this season. The Trojans kept it competitive for a while, until a prolonged scoring drought took them out of striking distance.Though this predictable pattern of gameplay was not unique, the Trojans-Buffs faceoff was the first USC home basketball game I had watched on TV as opposed to in person. I was struck by how empty the Galen Center appeared on television. Sure, it was a three-day weekend, but I doubt that the break led to such a staggering drop in attendance. I imagine most games appear like this on television, a beautiful state of the art facility struggling to just fill out the lower sections of the arena.The apathy of the overall Trojan fanbase this year was magnified after watching the North Carolina-Duke showdown on Thursday night. The amount of intensity and passion emanating from the stands in that battle made the cheering in the USC-Colorado game look like a high school affair.The previous statement is not a critical referendum on our fan base — far from it, in fact. It is just an observation. I think the atmosphere at USC games is so different from other elite athletic programs for one simple reason: location.One of the reasons USC is so popular nationally among recruits is its proximity to downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood. LA is a big city, with some of the most popular attractions in the world. Though these characteristics are great for attracting recruits, such an incredible town makes it difficult to develop a rabid fanbase.This isn’t just applicable to college basketball. Even here, where pigskin is king, we consistently fail to fill up the Coliseum when USC football is mediocre. Sure, everyone was celebrating on the field after that incredible Stanford victory. Yet I remember a different atmosphere back in the nascent stages of the season, in the dark days of the Kiffin era. That same Coliseum, as raucous as it was against the Cardinal, was silent for the majority of the Utah State game. Besides the occasional “boo” for another screen pass, one might have confused the stadium’s decibel level for that of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles down the street.Admittedly, that was one of the first noon games in recent USC football history, but the underwhelming attendance level is still proof that the Trojan fanbase only extends a full effort for a winner, regardless of the sport. The simple reason is that there are other things to do on the weekends in Los Angeles.This isn’t Tuscaloosa, Ala. or El Paso, Texas, where the college team is the best entertainment in town. A school across town faces a similar predicament. I grew up going to both UCLA and USC events. Much like USC in football, UCLA had tremendous attendance in basketball when they went to three straight final fours. Pauley Pavilion was electric during that period. Yet when the team struggled afterward, attendance decreased dramatically. It’s not a USC or UCLA thing; it’s simply a byproduct of the city we live in.Many East Coast analysts and even some USC beat writers use this “fair-weather fan” mentality as fuel to criticize the Trojan athletic program as a whole. And even though that notion will always be incredibly annoying, I now look at our fanbase’s attitude in a whole new light.I’ve had the opportunity to watch the second half of almost every sporting event this year from midcourt or the 50-yard line. That just doesn’t happen for students in Baton Rouge, La. or Lexington, Ky. When USC teams are “good,” the rooting experience rivals any other school in the country, for one simple reason. When USC fans get excited, we aren’t cheering for a first-round tournament exit or a Holiday Bowl berth. We are rooting for excellence, and anything less is unacceptable.I have full faith Andy Enfield and Steve Sarkisian will build powerhouse programs soon enough. Before long, the Coliseum and Galen Center will be rocking. Because when those USC programs are built, the fans will come.last_img

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