Sitting in the hallowed stands of Dill Field one fateful Saturday afternoon, I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated by three disturbing trends: the consistently poor attendance at Oberlin football games, the absolute lack of fan enthusiasm, and the scores of the games. How can such problems, which have plagued our football program for decades, be solved? First, we must acknowledge that the college, despite its best efforts, cannot control the results of the games. It has been argued that our admissions office should become more aggressive in its attempts to recruit talented athletes, but the notion that such athletes would be attracted to Oberlin and its losing tradition is both unrealistic and absurd. Thus, the administration must devote its time and energy to improving aspects of the program that are within its control - specifically, attendance and the demeanor of the fans, who frequently rest on the sidelines with all the enthusiasm of the catatonics from Awakenings. On that note, I humbly submit the following list of ways to resuscitate our football program - without actually winning a game.
Rax Stadium: Following in the grand tradition of the Washington Redskins and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Crimson Thunder could certainly boost attendance by renovating the antiquated Dill Field. With the addition of a Jumbotron, fans would finally be privy to instant replays of the ravaging blocks and punishing tackles administered by our Yeomen defense. Meanwhile, inspirational clips from such modern cinematic classics as Necessary Roughness and Rudy could entertain the crowd while providing players with an emotional uplift. Finally, a series of luxury boxes would undoubtedly attract corporate sponsors (Rax? J.R. Valentine?) who could, in turn, entertain clientele with a relaxing afternoon of Oberlin football. With their financial support, the College could then afford to build a desperately needed, state-of-the-art training facility for the players.
Bill Parcells: Although his contract expires following the 1999 season, the Tuna has already hinted that his stay in East Rutherford may be nearing an abrupt conclusion. Such intimations have not sat well with the bloodthirsty New York media; thus, Parcells might soon be looking to escape the glaring lights of Broadway, where his New York Jets are currently doing their best imitation of a team not headed for postseason play. If he is searching for obscurity and an opportunity to rebuild an ailing program, where better to go than Oberlin? Not only would he be surrounded by cow pastures for miles, he would also be in a position to rescue what is arguably the worst football program in the galaxy. Joining the esteemed ranks of Heisman and Petersen, Parcells might be the one man who can transform the Crimson Thunder into a winner.
Nutritional Supplements: Creatin. Metrex. Androstenedione. They have been invaluable to the likes of Mark McGwire, Troy Aikman, Mike Piazza, and Mo Vaughn. Who are we to argue with success (a concept as foreign to Oberlin football as comedy is to the creators of 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag)? With this in mind, the athletics department should dispense muscle-enhancing supplements - to the players and even the fans, who could inspire terror in the hearts of opponents from the sidelines by crushing gigantic blocks of ice with a single judo chop.
The Chicken Coop: Just as the Dawg Pound inspired the Cleveland Browns to, um, greatness, the Chicken Coop - a group of ravenous fans covered in body paint and clad in feathered suits - could provide the Yeomen with vocal support to combat the eery silence that currently pervades Dill Stadium. In this manner, attention-seekers, maniacal football fans, and Rocky Horror Picture Show fanatics might satisfy their needs and desires with a trip to the ballpark.
Live Entertainment: Lounge singers with grand pianos on the sidelines. A Starland Vocal Club reunion in the endzone during halftime. Male and female cheerleaders in transparent bodysuits. Live entertainment would certainly lure fans back to the stands, if only to catch Josh Ritter doing an acoustic rendition of "Rock 'N' Roll Part 2" (otherwise known as the "Hey, Hey" song).
Beanie Babies: This past summer, ticket sales for the lowly Oakland Athletics skyrocketed when some shrewd genius in their marketing department introduced the concept of Beanie Baby Night. Before you could say "Macarena", the trend had swept through packed stadiums and arenas across America, proving once again that American culture can be as incomprehensible as it is simple-minded. Perhaps the athletic department could boost attendance with such a promotion, but it's doubtful that students would flock to the stadium for stuffed animals. So what exactly do the students want? Copies of the new Marilyn Manson album? Free ramen noodles? Or maybe...
Beer: It could only help. Not only would the addition of alcoholic beverages to the concession stand menus bring in much needed revenue, but fans could drown their disappointment over another loss with a few cheap beers. In the end, everyone's happy.
Admittedly, the preceding suggestions must be taken with the proverbial grain of salt, but there is a very serious point to my article. Week after week, a group of 32 (!) underappreciated individuals don their Oberlin football apparel and march onto the football field with courage and determination. Frequently, their efforts are dismissed and derided by fellow students, who fail to recognize how difficult it must be to compete with teams that can rely upon a full roster and the support of their fans (who frequently outnumber the Oberlin faithful, even when the games are played at Dill Field). Meanwhile, the Yeomen are regularly called upon to overcome another daunting obstacle: their own resignation to failure. Despite their history, despite the arrogance of their opponents, and despite the jeers of fans from both sides of the field, the members of the Crimson Thunder must maintain high spirits and play their hardest even when the odds are stacked against them. So forget the scoreboard for one moment and acknowledge what is painfully obvious: that our football players are heroes, collectively performing a Herculean task that most students would not dare to approach. And the next time you find yourself on the sidelines of Dill Field - which, incidentally, is a wonderful place to nurse a hangover on Saturday afternoons - and you notice Charles Steinberg or Rick Kocher gesturing frantically for crowd support, do the unthinkable. Stand up and cheer, scream, pound on the railing (but not too hard - the damn stadium might fall apart). Why? Because, as Vince Lombardi, whose reputation as a mastermind coach and lockerroom philosopher is legendary, once said, winning isn't everything, but wanting to win is. And, believe me, these guys want to win.
Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 127, Number 8, November 6, 1998
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