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Stop whining about attendance, thank fans who do show up

By Brian Schmitz Orlando Sentinel (MCT) • Dec 17, 2015 at 7:04 PM

Pet peeves.

Everybody has these annoyances, right?

Mine: Commercials, junk mail, the Kardashians and tailgaters (drivers drafting your bumper, not football fans on a truckbed).

Another personal peeve: Angst over sports attendance.

The big headline in the Sentinel on Tuesday was “GATORS TRY TO REVIVE SWAMP.”

The sub-headline over the story was “Thousands of tickets available for Saturday’s season opener.”

Oh, the horror.

Here’s what’s laughable: A crowd of at least 80,000 humans is expected at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday — and for all seven of Florida’s home games this season, according to, uh, that very story in the Sentinel.

Florida’s stadium seats 88,548 at full capacity. By the 7 p.m. kickoff, UF figures to have roughly 84,000 fans on hand to actually witness the Gators face the mighty Idaho Vandals.

Now, I don’t know about you, but 84,000 sounds like a rather large gathering to see a team that won four times last season, speaking of the Gators.

I’m impressed when you can get together a group for a few hours that is bigger than the population of Bloomington, Ind.

So we’re getting all riled up over 4,500 empty seats instead of praising the 84,000 who will show up?

Isn’t this a little like making a big deal over the mole on Cindy Crawford’s face?

It’s unnecessary.

It is not unnecessary if you’re trying to sell every seat and wring every dollar from the customers, which is UF’s right, of course. Then Cindy’s mole is no longer a beauty mark; it’s a blemish.

Gators faithful will brave the traffic, the humidity and obnoxious tailgaters (fellow fans, not the drivers on your bumper) to watch what might be the beginning of Will Muschamp’s death march to an ESPN studio job.

Last season, the Gators were 4-8 and the Vandals finished 1-11. Hard to believe, but Idaho actually was worse on offense than Florida. The Vandals also gave up 47 points and 530 yards per game.

You know what they call charging good money to see an opponent who lost 80-14 to Florida State last season?

A scam.

I won’t go on a rant about major powers playing cupcakes. It is college football tradition, like paying recruits, outsourcing players’ homework and stealing crab legs.

Attendance alarms are largely set off by pitiful scheduling and the media, but I’m not getting on the case of Edgar Thompson, the Sentinel’s fine Gators reporter. We have also written stuff on UCF’s crowds for the past few years, even when 30,000 folks were kind enough to buy tickets.

UF and other universities are worried about flagging student attendance because they follow the money and today’s undergrads are tomorrow’s Gator boosters. But maybe the kids are just smarter than then adults, realizing a bad, boring team can’t compete with Facebooking at an air-conditioned frat party.

Attendance has dipped at live college and pro football games the past few years. Fans have opted to stay in the comfort of their homes and in front of their 60-inch TV screens instead of paying for gas and lodging and fighting the crowds.

Question their loyalty if you want — as misplaced as that charge is — but not their logic.

Sports often act as if they are entitled to our disposal income, and they are not.

Critics howled when the Gators had empty seats for their opener last season against another juggernaut, Toledo, falling 4,944 from a full house.

Sell-outs can be a magical, yet misguided measuring stick, especially when the other 83,604 folks should have been applauded for making all the noise.

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