I’m sure if you listen to the football players and coaches in interviews after the Oregon game, they will all take responsibility for what happened, give credit to the Ducks for playing well, and insist that we all move forward. I have one request: all Stanford fans take exactly the same attitude.
Whether you like it or not, we’re not the team we were 4 years ago, and the nation doesn’t have the same perception of us that they did 4 years ago: we’ve become a football school with national attention, and we need to step into that role. The good news is that we’ve taken the first step. We’ve gotten past embarrassingly low turnouts like the top-15 matchup against Arizona last year to having a packed stadium for each game. Being at the game, however, is almost a responsbility: through red zone loyalty or ridiculous amounts of alumni cash, you have earned the right to be the 12th man.
Being the 12th man is doing everything you can to help out the home team at the game, which so far has been minimal. Being the 12th man is NOT having the distinction of being the politest fans around. It’s the deafening effect of the stadium going nuts. We’re talking about Autzen Stadium, Kyle Field (watch them switch sides to be near the ball), or The Big House. When you hear that rumble on the telecast of games, you know that those fans live for their college football team, and although you might not, you better convince the opposing team and the television viewers around the country that you do. Here are a few tips on how to do that:
1. Go crazy and get loud when the opposing team is on offense.
You should be aware this fact already since the announcer tells us to “Make Some Noise” when the opposing team is on 3rd down. The gist of this is that being loud can make things really hard for the offense. They need to call plays and hear the snap count, and when it’s loud, it’s hard for the players to hear what’s going on. The good things that this can cause are false starts (when the players can’t hear the snap count), slow reactions (same reason), delay of game (when they can’t call the play quickly enough), and slowing down the offense in general.
The last one would’ve been especially critical yesterday as Oregon runs a hurry-up offense where they don’t go into the huddle. On several plays, I noticed our defense scrambling to figure out their assignments and get into position. Had we managed to delay them a few seconds, we could’ve helped them get into much better position.
Currently, the announcer usually only tells us to “Make Some Noise” on 3rd down, but that’s not a necessary requirement. The defense plays 1st and 2nd down, so we should, too. Our only breaks are when the play count (the red timers around the field, not the game clock) isn’t running. Otherwise, the opposing team’s offense if trying to get ready, and we better make it very difficult for them.
2. Be quiet on offense.
Basically the same reasoning as above, in the opposite direction: our offense runs better when it’s quiet, so give them that opportunity.
3. Still cheer.
Support the team! Even while we’re mostly quiet on offense, still cheer when one of our receivers makes an play. And when we’re on defense, pretty much anything short of a touchdown is good enough for applause. Even if the other team pushes through for 4 or 5 yards on a run, give props to the linebacker who managed to pull him down.
4. React strongly to penalties or calls that you see.
If you pass interference committed by the opposing team, yell and scream to draw attention to it. I’m certain that referees are trained to ignore fan reactions, but in those 2 or 3 seconds after the play, they need to make snap decisions, and we can help out there. They only have so many eyes, but with thousands of us, we can collectively have a much better idea of what happens on the field. Let them know that something happened.
5. Don’t boo calls that go against us unless you know it was a bad call.
We’re playing against the opposing team, not the referees, and as much as possible, we want them on our side. After a call, you might see the players go livid and run up to the ref demanding an explanation, but they know to walk away, and so should we. Giving the refs a hard time for doing their job isn’t going to make it easier for them to make favorable calls for us down the line.
As an example, there was a horse-collar tackle called against us sometime during the first half yesterday. It absolutely looked like a horse-collar tackle, and if you didn’t see it, it’s better to remain silent. By the time the ref announces the penalty, it’s too late to convince him otherwise.
On the plus side, I think our initial reaction to the clock difficulties in the 2nd half was good. Darren Thomas was clearly taking his time knowing that he didn’t have a play clock, and we should’ve been giving him a hard time for it. When the ref corrected the clock, however, that was the time to let it stand and move on.
6. Let’s figure out some actual cheers.
My freshmen year, I remember that the Axe Committee had a microphone into the student section to lead cheers. It was admittedly annoying, but we were far more organized and unified in spirit with our team when they could here us chanting together. I think our current cheerbook contains about 3 cheers, and we’re far more creative than that. If you have something clever, be bold: with a mob mentality, anyone can start a cheer and bring the entire stadium into it as well.
If you have any other suggestions or clarifications on things, definitely comment, and we’ll figure out how to be better fans together. You may still be disappointed from last night, but we still have 2 games left this year in the regular season and a shot at a great bowl game. But this is more than the noise: we’re creating an atmosphere in the stadium to let our players on the field and people around the country that Stanford Football is here to stay. We’re building a mood for the years to come that, despite personnel changes on the field from year to year, the 12th man in the stands will always be there.