Q: I am an alumnus of one of Texas’s large universities and have been a fan of my alma mater’s football program since before I was a student there. I’ve been a season ticket holder for almost 25 years and have only missed three or four home games in all that time. For the last five or so years, there’s been a guy who sits two rows behind me who has the worst attitude you’ve ever seen. He only points out players’ faults and the coaching staff’s poor calls (by his estimation) and never seems to actually root for the team. We call him Darrell K. Downer, Mr. Negativity, and Dr. Doom. He’s sort of a running joke among those of us with nearby seats, but I sometimes find his comments hard to take. I’ve never said anything directly to him, but I really want to let him know that he’s bringing everybody down with his negativity. Do you think it would do any good?
Name Withheld, San Antonio
A: The Texanist loves all sorts of spectator sports. Lately, he’s become an avid follower of field hockey, a strange but surprisingly exciting sport his high school-age daughter has taken up. The Texanist also enjoys the thrills and spills of rodeo (the official sport of Texas), competitive eating, and armadillo racing. And then, too, there are the hazy memories of having had a pretty good time at a cockfight and a bullfight, both of which he attended in Mexico a long time ago. But none of these, save for field hockey, in which the Texanist now has a powerful vested interest, hold a candle to the spectacle that is a live football match. Not even the gory Mexican blood sports.
The Texanist doesn’t need to say this out loud, but football is, by a country mile, the state’s favorite sport to watch. And with good reason. There are few things on this earth that compare to the experience of a college game day. And nobody does it like Texans do it. Kyle Field, where the Aggies of Texas A&M University play, and Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, home of the UT Longhorns, both with capacities upward of 100,000, are among the largest football stadiums in the country. They are, in fact, the two largest football stadiums in the state, as well as the largest stadiums in their respective conferences, the SEC and the Big 12. For the sake of comparison, the Colosseum, in Rome, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is estimated to have had seating for a mere 50,000 spectators. Note, though, that the Romans didn’t play football. (However, if one had, back in that day, been in the mood to catch the Christians facing off against the Lions, legend has it that was definitely the place to go.)
Taking in a game at an enormous venue full of like-minded and like-dressed rah-rahing fans, with the big marching bands, the peppy cheer squads, the waving banners, the bright jumbotrons, the delicious snacks, the contraband whiskey, and the smash mouth action down on the gridiron is really something to behold.
The Texanist is himself a season ticket holder at his own alma mater, which happens to be hosting its home opener this very weekend. He is, admittedly, getting a little antsy just thinking about it now, partly because his team dropped their season opener to a lesser team last week and have therefore added unnecessary pressure to this upcoming game. There are many yet-to-be-answered questions, but the Texanist has not lost hope and remains, with his fingers crossed, optimistic for the prospects of a turnaround. Apologies for the digression.
Football watching of this type is a communal affair and the fans who come together for such events are typically unified, albeit in two distinct blocks, with the singular purpose of supporting their particular team. The heckling, jeering, taunting, mocking, trash talking, booing, hissing, and other good-natured disparagement is saved for the opposition, who are always deserving of such opprobrium. But among the throngs of cheering fans, there’s always an outlier, a pessimistic spoilsport, a naysaying curmudgeon, who swims against the current of high-spiritedness. The Texanist has witnessed on many occasions the very same behavior as that displayed by your seat neighbor. It’s not all that unusual.
He can picture it now: The team is up by two touchdowns late in the second quarter and in comes the punter on fourth and four at the enemy’s 45-yard line. There’s a smattering of applause from the crowd as they await the snap, hoping for a good one. All of a sudden, through a rolled-up program doubling as a megaphone, comes the color commentary from a scruffy guy in an oversized t-shirt and backward ball cap who may have overdone it with the contraband hooch: “Come on, Coach! It’s two yards! My momma could pick that up! Why you such a pansy? Coooooaaaach! Come on!” The kick is a good one and pins the away team on their own three-yard line with forty-nine seconds left in the half. “Pansy! Should be 31-10!” Those sitting nearby glance around in befuddlement and scratch their heads.
Being a football fan isn’t always wine and Rose Bowls. Most everybody knows this. The game has inevitable ups and down, good seasons and bad seasons, beloved veteran coaches and soon-forgotten short-timers, too. It can be a frustrating, infuriating, and even heartbreaking pursuit. For instance, it has been five years since the Texanist’s team has managed to win more than eight games in a season. Eight freakin’ games! The Texanist, a man who understands that occasional catcalls aimed at one’s own sideline are sometimes called for, can’t figure it out. It’s natural to be upset at poor play and especially upset by especially poor play. No football fan likes unnecessary boners or blatantly bad coaching. But sedition in the stands is rarely the answer.
Would it do any good to let this galoot know that his relentless negativity, in addition to being ineffectual and unconstructive, is also tiresome to those around him? The Texanist doubts very seriously that it would.
But then again, the Texanist likes a good challenge. So, okay, here’s the plan: At the next home game, huddle up with your chipper seat mates and come up with a scheme whereby when anything even remotely positive happens down on the field, y’all reach over and individually offer up to this fella a very loud “YEEEEEAAAAAAH!!!,” accompanied by a forceful high five. The Texanist has yet to meet the person who can resist the positive powers of a well-placed high five. In the event that your attempts are rebuffed and he continues his offensive behavior, y’all might consider administering the high fives en masse.
If either of those scenarios works, you will have succeeded not only in making yourselves happier, but, most likely, making him a little more cheerful (sorry), too. After all, if you think being near that guy is a drag, just imagine how miserable it is being that guy.
Good luck to you this season, sir.
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from.