The Faithful

Wichita State athletics recently posted this on their Facebook page:

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Leaving a game early is one of my greatest pet peeves and something I cannot comprehend. But, it happens consistently at Charles Koch Arena, too consistently. I don’t get it.

My father taught me that a fan never leaves until the final buzzer sounds, no matter if the team is up by 20 or down by 30. You don’t leave. The players need to see their fans in the stands when they leave the floor, as a mutual sign of respect. He’s right. By showing the players we believe in them, have faith, care, they in turn will give their all, play harder, do their best. It’s a win-win, even if the result is not a championship. It’s an ongoing relationship, a marriage between a team and its fans, it is the creation of Grateful Red, The Barnyard and Orange Krush.

Shocker Nation could be added to the list, if not for one pesky thing: Shocker fans leave early. About the three-minute mark, you’ll see them begin their exodus to the parking lot. It’s shameful. Especially when a Shocker player is on the free throw line and just behind the basket, in his line of vision, are his “fans” hustling down the exit ramps. Ugh.

Okay, so I can forgive the very elderly fans who need a little extra time to get down the stairs, who are possibly a little fearful of being mowed down by exuberant Shockers. Yet, the people who earn my glare are of all ages, types, and sizes. It drives me nuts and yes, distracts me from the final moments of the game.

I once asked someone if they left games early and why. The reason? Parking and traffic. Parking and traffic? Really? Obviously, this person has never attended a professional game in a big city, say Chicago or even Kansas City, where a sporting event takes half to a full day.

Let’s compare. A Shocker men’s basketball evening game starts at 7:05, so allowing for parking, which is on or near campus, and depending on how early one likes to arrive at Charles Koch Arena (we get there an hour before tipoff),  include the length of regulation and  time allowance for exiting amidst 10,000-plus fans, game day takes about three hours of time. Three hours. That’s it. For some of us, we wish it were longer.

Now, let’s attend an NFL game, a Chicago Bears game in Soldier Field in one of the greatest cities in the world, Chicago. I realize there is no comparison between the two cities, not really, with one city’s population just over the 400,000 mark and the other in the millions, but I’m trying to make a point. To attend a Bears game is an all-day event. You cannot schedule anything else on game day, it’s impossible. As for parking, there is no such thing. You take a train to the city, or a shuttle from a nearby suburb, but you definitely do not drive to the stadium. Same thing goes for a Cubs, Bulls or Blackhawks game. And, you allow three full hours just for the sporting event, which does not include the drive, parking, walking, etc., just the game.

If I could, I would make the comparison against another college basketball team and arena, but I’m not able. The only other college basketball team I’ve seen on their home court during the regular season is Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse and it was more of a historical tour for me than it was a game. I am not a fan of the Jayhawks, only college basketball, but one cannot be a true enthusiast of college hoops and not visit Allen Fieldhouse. So, we were there early, toured the storied concourse, took pictures of the Gale Sayer’s memorabilia and took our time leaving at the end of regulation. But, I do know I did not see one crimson and blue clad fan heading for the exits at the three-minute mark. And trust me, it is not a simple task to get to and from campus and Allen Fieldhouse, but that’s part of the fun, a piece of the memory puzzle of the event.

So, spare me the excuse of parking and traffic at CKA. It is the easiest venue to drive to, to enter, to park and to exit. It shouldn’t take you more than five to ten minutes to walk to your car and there are policemen stationed at the exits to guide you out, so if you are getting home after ten o’clock, you’re doing it wrong.  If you are incapable of getting to and from a Shocker game without mishap, without having to rush to the exits with three minutes in regulation still to play because you’re afraid you might get stuck in traffic on a school night, then you should obviously stay home and allow a true fan to utilize your tickets.

Please, save me and the rest of the fans and the players the distraction of your exodus and give your seats to someone who appreciates being there and experiencing all that Shocker Nation has to offer,  someone who stays rooted in place to watch the team exit down the tunnel, not wanting to leave, not wanting for it to be over, someone who casually exits the main doors, still smiling, still talking about the game, whether the outcome was good or bad, because to stop recounting, to drive away, means that the moment is gone. That’s what it feels like to be a fan. That’s what it means to be faithful.

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