Let’s talk about sportsmanship.
If you’re a fan, there are not a lot of things you can’t do. Throwing bottles at athletes, death threats and anything involving bodily fluids is generally taboo. Otherwise you are free to express yourself through whatever colorful language you prefer, whether it is screamed as the opposing quarterback comes through the tunnel, or tastefully scribed upon a big piece of tag board — as tastefully as George Carlin’s Seven Words can be scribed upon a piece of tag board, anyways.
Generally, if you’re not dumping beer on Shane Victorino or throwing hot dogs at Chuck Knoblauch, you’re operating within the realm of reason. Unless you’re in Canada, I guess.
Arthur Schafer, a columnist at The Globe and Mail, a Toronto-based newspaper, has a different view of fan sportsmanship. He doesn’t draw the line at foul language, or making suggestions about what a given player likes to use his mouth for in his spare time. For Schafer, his “you shall not pass” condition is when fans cheer too loudly at football games when the visiting team has the ball on offense.
Yeah, I know. He’s got to be joking, right?
I’m not. The column is titled, “It’s okay for football fans to cheer. But not so loudly.”
I’ll give you a minute to let that digest, then another for you to finish laughing or screaming in disbelief. Whichever you prefer.
It’s okay, Mr. Schafer. You’re always entitled to your opinion — even if it’s wrong.
Any good fan knows there are three times to get very loud during a football game: after a big play, after a touchdown and every damn second the opposing team even thinks about running a play on offense.
Apparently, “That’s cheating, isn’t it?” Schafer, a philosophy professor at the University of Manitoba doesn’t find it fair that a home team should enjoy the advantage of thousands of drunken Canadians (redundant?) drowning out a snap count.
I think I know two things about Canadians. One, they’re very good at hockey. Two, they’re way too nice for their own good — unless hockey is involved; then they’ll fight you to the death.
These two over-generalized notions of Canadians are backed by my having grown up in Minnesota — or “South Canada” as it is sometimes mistakenly called. Minnesotans are generally the same — great at hockey, too nice.
However, you’d be hard pressed to find a single Minnesotan in the ‘Dome’ that leaves a Vikings-Packers game with a throat that doesn’t sound like it was ravaged by 40 years of smoking and tuberculosis. And clearly every Canadian not named Arthur Schafer knows how to be the “13th man on the field.”
Canadian football is 12-on-12, so luckily for him, that’s not another erroneous statement.
For all I know, the whole article was a joke. Maybe the plea for Canadian football’s brass to curtail the unfair cheering of a home stadium’s fans is completely tongue-in-cheek. He is a philosophy professor after all; have you ever heard a philosopher tell a joke? Can you say, “over my head?”
At this point, I could begin to wax about the great benefits associated with loud, raucous fans. I could also make note of how said loud, raucous fans are typically absent from certain sections of Camp Randall until the second quarter or so. But that’s petty of me, and I’m not going to tell you how to spend your game day. But if you look up “loud raucous fans” in a dictionary, you’re going to be redirected to “home-field advantage.”
What we can do is take a look at what home-field advantage means.
Joe Sheehan of Sports Illustrated took an interesting look at the matter in the MLB playoffs. According to Sheehan’s research, having home-field throughout the entirety of October only gives you an 8-percent boost in odds.
The AL Central might dispute the claim that home-field doesn’t matter. The Minnesota Twins went 1-1 in Game 163s in the past two years. Against the White Sox in ’08, they fell victim to a pitching duel ruined by a black-and-white-clad Jim Thome at U.S. Cellular field. Against the Tigers last season, they won the crazy kind of game that you usually only win at home.
The Colorado Rockies also knew; they won a one-game playoff over San Diego in 2007 — at Coors Field.
Going back to the gridiron, the Wisconsin football team is 26-3 at Camp Randall since Bret Bielema became head coach. Of course, a lot of those games came against the likes of “Where is Wofford?” and Cal “extra-point” Poly. But there were wins over ranked Michigan State and Michigan teams as well. A big part of those 26 wins at home? It’s that unsportsmanlike home-field advantage.
“We want it to be ridiculous. If you can’t hear, that’s better for us,” UW safety Jay Valai said. “That’s home-field advantage.”
Are you sure, Jay? Do the Badgers really want 81,000-plus fans screaming like it’s Judgment Day on every third down?
“That’s exactly what we want this weekend… If our fans can get as loud as possible this week, that’s definitely playing into our favor,” linebacker Culmer St. Jean said.
Against an Arizona State spread offense that likes to rattle off lots of plays and relies on lots of communication — both from the sideline and at the line of scrimmage — some extra noise could be very disruptive. Enough to burn some timeouts or cause some false starts, even. Against a BCS opponent, the fans will be sure to bring the noise.
But that just wouldn’t be fair, right?
Adam is a senior majoring in journalism. What is it about home-field advantage? Email him at email@example.com.