Gone are the days of packed stadiums and waving flags, tailgating in the parking lot and cheering until you can’t talk. Football games here at Western are now a far cry from the mayhem and school spirit of yore. Now, with a price for Saturday’s playoff game potentially keeping people home, it’s hard not to wonder whether the stands of TD Waterhouse Stadium will be empty come kickoff time.
We all say we have school spirit — so why don’t we care about football, the sport so historically tied to university culture?
There are plenty of reasons why our Purple Pride doesn’t translate to a packed stadium on game day. There’s the bad weather, our constant preoccupation with schoolwork or the bar scene, and the fact that we can catch the game at home on The Score if we really want.
But that doesn’t explain the cultural shift that’s happened on campus, where a time-honored tradition gradually has given way to a complete lack of enthusiasm for watching Mustangs toss around the pigskin.
At the core is a campus-wide disinterest in, well, campus. Students are now a fragmented group with niche interests, and London’s growth in the past few decades means there are an ever–increasing number of attractions competing for our short attention spans.
The University Community Centre is hardly the hub of student life nowadays, and the issues plaguing the football team are the same as those plaguing the Spoke. Filling a bar on a regular basis, it seems, is just as hard as filling those bleachers.
So what are the solutions?
Well, you can’t force students to go to a game — you have to pique their interest and make them want to go. Beer never hurts in that department, but it’ll take more than promoting a tailgating culture to get people in the door.
The whole football experience needs to be hyped up to the student body. Whoever suggested a handful of sandwich boards scattered around campus as a good advertising strategy missed the mark.
Promotion for the games needs to be top-down — it needs to come in the form of a ongoing blitz from Mustang Athletics that’s backed by the movers and shakers of our campus. Imagine if the University Students’ Council, sophs, and other well-known students turned up in droves to the games — human nature suggests the rest of campus would be motivated to follow suit.
But that sort of thing won’t happen overnight. Unlike universities south of the border, Canada as a whole doesn’t have a football culture anymore. Western, in fact, is doing pretty well in comparison to many other schools. In terms of filling bleachers on a regular basis, we’re ranked number one out of the schools under Ontario University Athletics.
So maybe it’s just too late to save football culture in Canada.
Or maybe Mustangs Athletics should toss the sandwich boards and try a new strategy for bringing that culture back.
—The Gazette Editorial Board