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View From the Stands: When Good Behavior Goes Bad

Why fan behavior can reinforce poor stereotype.

Darren McCollester
Two years ago, a Virginia Tech fan came up from Blacksburg and spent the entire game criticizing Boston's lack of love for college football. He kept saying, over and over, "It's Saturday! It's college football day! You guys are pathetic! Can't get out and support your school! Your whole city is pathetic!" until it devolved into him yelling about how Boston people don't care about anything and are a bunch of prima donnas (he used other words).

Two years later, Virginia Tech returned. Instead of a neanderthal lambasting Boston, I was treated to a group of about 20 fans who vulgarly criticized every call that went against the Hokies. They made fun of the BC fan base, talked about how great Frank Beamer was, and pretty much sat there the whole game blaming the officials and the league for screwing their team out of a win. When Kevin Pierre-Louis returned an interception, they all got up and left.

At least twice, I gave my customary "HEYYY WHOOA" when they started swearing, mostly because there are little kids and families who constantly sit up in my section. But while they shook their keys on third down (which I don't understand but respect as a tradition of VT football fans), they also pretty much trashed their three rows with garbage. When they got up, they left all of their ankle-deep garbage on the ground, including the empty bottles of nips of Jack Daniels and Jameson that unquestionably led to their dubious vulgarity increasing as the game progressed.

Every time Virginia Tech comes up here, I end up thinking the same thing. It's a tremendous school, an academic beacon in the south. It's a beautiful campus filled with a lot of great people. They're a resilient bunch of students that are die-hard supporters of a historic football program. But their fans are the anti-Clemson. Clemson fans come up, are polite, and will talk to anybody. Virginia Tech fans, at least the ones I've come into contact with, are vulgar, arrogant, and college football's answer to the Jets. Frank Beamer is God, whoever is their Heisman trophy candidate (in their eyes) is the Son of Man, and every loss is never their fault.

Now I know that Virginia Tech's fan base is not made up of people like that. I know that there are a substantial amount of fans who make Lane Stadium a great place to catch a game because they cheer and go crazy for all the right reasons. It's well-known throughout the nation as being one of the worst places for a visiting team. I'm not going to let a bunch of ignorant fans ruin what I think of the institution or the fans, but there's definitely a reason why the stereotype of the VT football fan can exist.

But let's flip the coin. Does this mean BC fans are without sin? Absolutely not. Couple the bad behavior side though with the link from Joe Grav's Daily Links from this morning. Chanting "F Wisconsin" or "F Northeastern" just isn't funny. It's rude, and it reinforced a negative stereotype of BC fans that the majority don't want or don't resemble. We all know these stereotypes exist because someone somewhere made them so and proved them correct. Instead of arguing about what the stereotype is, let's ask the question about why the stereotypes and chants exist. If we universally can agree that stereotyping in general is wrong, what can be done to stop them?

I know this isn't speaking for everyone, but the group of fans that act this way typically ends up being the ones that everyone remembers. If 90% of fans are doing the right thing, all it takes is 10% in order to make them look bad overall. Those 10% are inevitably the ones that end up as discussion points or on message boards. And it only takes that 10% to cast a pall over a group of people who genuinely care about perception and act in a classy, respectful manner.

Look, this fan base is much different than the southern schools. It's smaller, which makes it much more homey. But I'm a firm believer that stereotypes exist for some sort of reason, whether or not it's indicative of the entire fan base. The 10% of people who fit the stereotype are the ones that can and occasionally will give the rest of them a bad name. Maybe there's no good reason for it to exist, but it still exists, and that takes away from the perception of what other people think. All it takes is that one instance to reinforce it. In a way, it's ironic because the negative connotation between a school like Boston College and Virginia Tech are polar opposites. But the road to get there can be the same if they take the same road.

And again, if we all universally believe that this type of action is wrong, what can we do to curb it?

Boston College has a couple of core mottos when it comes to the way you treat others. The first is, of course, #BeADude. And the behavior that can sometimes permeate is very un-dude like. But the second, and the one that I think people need to remember, is "For pride. For passion. For respect. For responsibility. For Boston." While I understand that with fans in large numbers, it's virtually impossible to eradicate the small number subset of "bad fans," I just think it's worthwhile to encourage the discussion of what it is and what can be done.