Sitting in judgment of a team’s degree of toughness is woven into the DNA of sports fans, yet the toughness of a fan base so seldom makes its way into conversations.
This football season represents a litmus test for the toughness of the Kansas University sports fan.
It takes no toughness to back Bill Self’s perennial powerhouse basketball program. It takes only wealth. Tickets aren’t cheap, and they aren’t given away to boost attendance totals. Holding a ticket to a KU basketball game not only all but guarantees an evening of wild entertainment, it elevates one’s status. No toughness points awarded there.
Kansas football attendance
2009 ...... 50,581
2010 ...... 44,851
2011 ...... 42,283
The football fan base has developed a mixture of resentment at being told Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps were Rolex watches only to find out they were cheap imitations spelled “Rolexx,” and apathy cemented by a lack of marquee value on the roster.
And then there is the feeling held by some fans that they would have a better chancing of winning if they were holding a Powerball ticket. Losing 40 of the past 42 Big 12 games can paralyze a fan base in that way.
Neither of those victories shifted the momentum of the program. After Turner Gill’s first team defeated Colorado 52-45 in a thrilling comeback, it was dominated 103-24 in the final three games. After Charlie Weis’ second KU team defeated West Virginia 31-19, it was on the short end of the scoreboard, 65-10, in the final two games.
Kansas will attempt to stop a slide of five consecutive seasons with an average attendance smaller than that of the previous year. The average crowd size in 2008 was 50,907. Last season, it was 37,884. Based on the lack of buzz in the air about the program, last season’s number could plummet significantly, unless Kansas can, in its second game of the season, pull off an upset at Duke.
At the moment, “Give me one reason I should care about KU football,” is a popular refrain.
I’ll give you 10:
A fan base that turns out in big numbers can become part of the solution, impressing recruits.
Sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart makes for a fascinating case study. He’s so raw, so inexperienced and at the same time such a fast and graceful runner blessed with a strong arm.
The secondary has so much depth and talent that the non-stop aerial assault on the end zone by opponents finally could be coming to an end.
Senior Nick Harwell is far better than anyone KU has had at wide receiver since the departures of Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier.
Tailgating is a blast, and the sun almost always shines in Lawrence. Follow the scent of fried doughnuts and see if you can mooch one or two as I do.
It will be interesting to see how much of a difference new offensive coordinator John Reagan can make, even without an experienced quarterback and offensive line.
Trying to forecast which player will lead KU in rushing could make for close competitions among hard-core KU football fans holding differing opinions. The contenders: Cozart, Taylor Cox, De’Andre Mann, Brandon Bourbon, wide receiver Tony Pierson.
Middle linebacker Ben Heeney is a human high-speed crash test, a lean, mean tackling machine who sneers and snarls, grunts and growls.
Staying at home could mean missing another Big 12 victory. Or not.
Caring only about your school’s superior basketball program and turning your nose up at the football team borders dangerously close to snobbery.