Down by 15 points after a touchdown by Missouri with 2:20 left on the clock, the stands empty out like a Bulldog-red river. Aaron Murray hears the roar of the disappointed mumbles as he takes the first snap in his attempt to salvage the improbable game. The fans turn their backs to the team as they attempt to push their way to their car, inch by inch, hoping to avoid traffic and save time on their travel. With the wind carrying the barely audible cheers of support from the still remaining crowd, Murray throws an interception with less than a minute remaining, sealing the defeat of the Bulldogs.
The sight of half the stadium already fighting through traffic when hope of winning still glimmered in the distance infuriated me. Our team needed us to stand behind them as supporters, as fans, when victory seemed improbable. We let them down. I understand the reasons for leaving the game – any sports game – early. The large mass of people leaving the stadium increases the time it takes to walk to the car three or 5-fold. Getting out of the area, especially with Athens’ terribly confusing and questionable street configuration after games, consists of hours of slow moving and frustrated horns. Depending on the time and to wherever the fans have to drive home, an extra couple hours in the car may seem unbearable. But we made a commitment. We made a promise. When we bought our ticket and threw on every article of clothing we had with a Georgia “G”, we promised the team we would be there to cheer them on. Not only through the jubilation of victory, but also through the heartbreaking realization of defeat, we cheer. What occurred this weekend was simply “bandwagoning”. Of course, the fans who left the Georgia game didn’t miss anything more exciting the rest of the game, however, the same situation occurred at the New England Patriots game on Sunday with a different outcome.
The margin, one point. 2:46 on the clock, the Patriots fail an attempt to convert a 4th down and 6, giving up possession to the New Orleans Saints. The stadium, a sea of dark blue and silver, slowly loses its cohesive strength as fans begin to saunter to the exits hoping to at least beat the traffic. The Patriots defense holds the Saints to only 3 downs and a punt, putting the ball once again in Brady’s hands. One play deep down the field and the ball is intercepted. Nearly half the fans leave the stadium, their hope completely lost for their home team.
Though it may seem understandable to leave after the interception, any sports fan knows that Tom Brady with 2 timeouts and any more than one minute is a pure threat. All the fans who left the stadium early probably had the radio on or the score updates stuck on their phone screen. They realized seconds after it happened what they missed. Tom Brady threw a touchdown to Thompkins with only seconds left on the clock to win the game. Instead of celebrating with 70,000 other Patriot fans, they were hitting themselves in the head in between the few high-fives in their 7-seater SUV. They missed an incredible comeback.
This weekend, Georgia fans were disappointed with the results whether they saw the game through or turned the channel before the end. But I wonder how many Patriots fans are thankful about the two hours of driving they saved on Sunday.