Every fan base has its wannabes.
Every single one of them. Even the most rabid, most passionate, most dedicated groups of fans have some posers in their midst. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the Boston Red Sox or Duke basketball or the Texas A&M football program. (Yes, apathetic Aggies do exist, though they’re a rare breed.) They’ve all got their share of front-runners, of bandwagon jumpers, of T-shirt fans.
You know what I mean, the “supporters” who wear the T-shirt when the team is winning and things are going great, but can’t seem to locate that shirt anywhere in their closet when the program is struggling.
We can debate how many posers the Baylor fan base is comprised of from now until the Blue Bell cows come home, but let me just say this: I’m seeing a lot fewer green and gold T-shirts around town these days.
And that’s a shame.
If there is any team that Baylor football fans should support, it’s this one. Yes, the Bears are 0-3. And guess what? More losses are coming. By all accounts, they’ll likely be dealt a big one by powerhouse Oklahoma on Saturday. If Matt Rhule somehow led the Bears to a win in that one, he might as well wade out into the Brazos and part the waters afterward, because it’ll be a day of miracles.
But these Bears deserve your support — they deserve your butts in the stands — not because of the product they’re putting on the field. Rather, they deserve it because of what they’re doing away from the field, the way they’re trying to alter the culture at Baylor.
Rhule is a Penn State guy, so he’s witnessed a program travel through the darkness before. He said his favorite Nittany Lion teams ever were the ones in 2012 and ’13, right after the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.
“It’s those teams that I respect the most,” Rhule said. “I grew up loving Curt Warner, and I grew up loving Todd Blackledge, but it’s those teams at Penn State that fought, that stayed there. It’s those kids like (Michael) Zordich that didn’t leave and go to another school. Those are the kids that, as a Penn Stater, held it together.”
Now, here’s the difference. Those Penn State teams still won games — somewhat surprisingly, considering the NCAA hit the program with a four-year bowl ban and a loss of 40 scholarships.
This Baylor team hasn’t won one yet, and it might not for a while. Barring an upset, the Bears probably won’t be favored again until the Nov. 4 game against Kansas. And perhaps not even then.
But, again, winning and fan support don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, they shouldn’t be. The climb to the summit is much more meaningful when you’ve made the long, arduous trek up the hill.
Put it like this: Don’t show up in 2019 when Baylor is good again if you’re not going to show up now.
Consider the loyalty these Baylor players have shown. Jalen Pitre opted to come to Baylor when nobody else would. For a while, you almost had to wonder if he’d make up the entire signing class.
Shouldn’t you, as a fan, reward them with similar loyalty?
“These are great kids, and they are fighting and fighting and fighting,” Rhule said. “They were there for Baylor. Taylor Young could have left. Taylor Young was on his way out the door, and he could’ve left. And you know what? Taylor Young’s out there competing right now for Baylor because he believes in something bigger than himself. I support them.”
Look, I know it’s not easy. Nobody likes losing, especially to the likes of Liberty and UTSA. That’s tough to swallow, especially given the Big 12 championship-winning success of just a few seasons ago.
But I’m not asking for much here. If you call yourself a Baylor fan, then be a fan. Show up. Wear the colors. Be loud. Stay till the end. Use your dadgummed tickets. (Conflicts arise, I get it, but any so-called Baylor backer who sells their tickets to an Oklahoma fan should be stripped of their season ticketholder status.)
Personally, I don’t really care. Ultimately you can do whatever you want. I’m just the impartial newspaper guy. But as the impartial newspaper guy, I call ‘em as I see ‘em, and what I saw at the end of the UTSA game a couple of weeks ago was a pathetic display of “support” from the home crowd.
Even if Rhule and the players would never say so.
The ones that stayed were called “The Leftovers,” as described in a well-written book from guard Matt Sayman.
Well, here we are again. Baylor has again faced scandal and adversity. Some players left, others stayed. In my mind, the ones that stuck around should be dubbed the Rock Band — because they’ve banded together in a very real, very visible way. And because, as Rhule has stated, they’re trying to build a firm foundation for the future, a foundation of rock.
“That’s why I hope fans come,” Rhule said. “Not because we’re playing OU and not because we need a big crowd to make noise, but because this is about Baylor.
“This is about Baylor saying, ‘We’re going through a really hard time right now on the field. We’ve been through a hard time off the field. And you know what? Our character and who we are will emerge, and we will be champions again. We’re just going to do it day by day and do it the right way, and build a house on a rock.’ That’s the point to me.”
Someday, down the road, who knows when, Baylor football will be good again.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you saw it play out firsthand, from beginning to end?