Your chants are ‘overrated’

By Chris Jurmann

Editor’s note: “From the bleachers …” will be a weekly column written every Wednesday by Chris Jurmann. Chris will write from his own observations. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Star Sports staff or any of its writers.

By now everyone knows about the biggest game in the history of NIU football. The players lived up to the hype, but how did the fans do?

NIU’s fans have barely been able to maintain the school’s Division I-A status in the past, but have hid behind the idea there was nothing to cheer for.

Thursday was their opportunity to show school spirit and put on a good performance.

Pre-game: The tailgating scene was average at best. It really hurt that the game was on a Thursday at 6:35 p.m. The crowd outside the stadium was excited, but there just weren’t enough people out there. The stands were basically full before the start of the game, which really helped improve the pre-game atmosphere inside.

Attendance: 28,018. A sellout. When people have to be turned away outside, it really makes you feel like you’re somewhere important.

Enthusiasm: The crowd was decked out in NIU shirts and colored face paint, and they had the Thunderstix flying. The energy of the crowd was as high as it was for the Bowling Green game, but it took a lot longer for the crowd to get going. A little is lost due to the mass sit-down at the end of the third quarter and before overtime, but it’s forgiven. Standing in the bleachers for over three hours isn’t easy.

Crowd Behavior: Everyone was surprisingly well-behaved. There were, however, a lot of seats being stolen by students, and I did see one family get scared away from their student section seats. No one seemed to notice the national anthem, but the complete silence for Shea Fitzgerald was moving.

Fan Intelligence: Give it to the crowd. They showed up and cheered, but unless your name was Michael Turner, they couldn’t really cheer for you. “Nice catch, No. 5.” “Heck of a tackle, No. 45.”

Can’t we do better than the ‘overrated’ chant? It applied in the Bowling Green game, but Maryland was a very good team. We shouldn’t view our opponents as overrated just because we can beat them. And why did everyone make an X with their Thunderstix during Steve Azar’s field goals. Are we trying to jinx him? Well, it sure worked as his last-second 43-yard attempt was blocked.

Team Loyalty: All in all, the crowd was great. I didn’t see anyone leave. If the game had gone 10 overtimes, you knew there would still be 28,000 people packed in the stands. I was a bit disappointed in how quickly the crowd gave up on the team early on though. When we went down 7-0, I heard people making halftime plans for Molly’s. I’ll let it slide, due to the history of disappointments for just about every local professional team.

Post-game: I’m not encouraging charging the field or tearing down the goal posts, but where was the excessive celebration? Everyone left the stadium as if it were a fire drill rather than a victory. The fans on the west side salvaged this category by loudly cheering on the Huskie players as they came out of the stadium.

Cumulative: Overall, the crowd did pretty well for their first chance at being real fans, a grade of B overall, but we still have areas to work on before we can compete with the Michigan, Notre Dame and Texas fans of the world.