During the past month, attendance at University of Virginia home games has come with an increasing set of restrictions.
First came the e-mail that fans would no longer be allowed to bring signs to games. Then, after the football game against the University of Southern California last week, another e-mail came to students living in the popular Lawn and Range dorms: No more tailgating outside your rooms.
Though I would find it frustrating as a U.Va. student not to be able to bring signs to games, I don't think the ban is quite as restrictive as Rick Reilly's recent ESPN column makes it out to be.
Students can still go to games, wear their school colors and cheer for their athletes.
Usually, people who bring signs to games are just trying to get on television. Last year, when I went to a Virginia basketball game at John Paul Jones Arena, I sat behind two women who brought a sign that they displayed only when the game was going to a commercial break and the cameras would scan the crowd.
In terms of the tailgating, the Lawn and Range dorms house 100 of Virginia's 13,000 undergraduate students, so it isn't exactly a campus-wide ban on tailgating. The students are still allowed to have guests in their rooms, but the new policy makes them responsible for cleaning up their friends' messes.
The Lawn is one of Virginia's most well-known spots on campus, but after the first tailgate of the year, it was covered in trash. Other tailgating problems I read about included fistfights and public urination, which the dean of students personally witnessed.
There are much better ways to represent yourself, your student body and your university than this, and it's important to keep these in mind when you go to games. I've been to a few home games already and was glad to see there wasn't anything too out of control.
But the first home football game is on Saturday and an increase in pre-gaming will inevitably accompany it. Here are some things to keep in mind as you support all the Spiders sports teams this year:
Go to the game. It sounds simple enough, but for the last two years I've determined that the biggest problem with Richmond fans is that there aren't enough of them. You might not think it makes a difference, but it does.
Go to a basketball game and you'll be known as the sixth man of the team, go to a baseball game and become the 10th man ... you get the idea. If enough people make the choice to attend a game, the team will notice and will appreciate it.
These athletes are your classmates and your friends; support them when they do a good job. Given how small Richmond's student body is, chances are that even though you might not know them personally you might at least know the athletes' names or have seen them before.
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Pay attention and cheer appropriately. When you go to games, remember that there is some cheering etiquette involved. For most sports, the rule is to be as loud as you can as often as you can. Whether Richmond is on offense or defense, you can find something to cheer about.
But during tennis and golf, silence is often the better choice. Still go, but know that these are not raucous sports. Often the best method is to follow the lead of others. These sports require a lot of concentration and you don't want to be the one blamed for messing up someone's serve or putt because you were screaming when the player hit the ball.
One summer, I was visiting my friend at her beach house and she took us to see her yacht club. Caught up in a conversation with my friends, I completely forgot that there were tennis matches going on right next to us.
In a moment of excitement, I clapped my hands together and the resulting sound was loud enough to attract glares from those watching the matches. My friends and I ran around the corner to the other side of the club, and it was an experience I had no desire to ever go through again.
Another cheering irregularity is during free throws at basketball games. Up through the high school level, you should really be quiet no matter which team is shooting. But in college, all bets are off.
If the team you're supporting is shooting, silence is still the best rule. You may notice some people raising their hands and wiggling their fingers around; you can go with it if you want, but as long as you keep your mouth shut you won't get into too much trouble.
If the opposing team is shooting, that would be the time to act as ridiculous as possible in order to distract the shooter enough that he or she will miss the free throw. It might seem strange, but take comfort in the fact that there are many other people doing it too -- as a sports fan, you always have strength in numbers.
Identify yourself as a Richmond student. Just looking preppy doesn't count for much. Whether it's a Rowdies shirt, a generic Richmond T-shirt, a Richmond tie or Richmond flip-flops, there is always something you can wear to show which team you're cheering for.
I'm willing to bet that either you or your parents bought at least one item of Richmond apparel when you decided to come here, so put it to good use. If you honestly have nothing to wear with a Richmond or Spider logo, remember that our school colors are red and navy.
I could write a whole column about how much I hate sports apparel designed for women that comes in pink. I love pink, but until a team I support has it as its team color, you will not see me wearing it at a game.
At the U.Va. game last weekend, it was exciting to look across from the press box and see an entire section of red separating the orange wigs and "power of orange" T-shirts. It's great to go to the game, but if you aren't cheering for Richmond and wearing Richmond colors, it's hard to know which team you want to win.
OK, those are my three keys, but that's not all. Try to stay for at least half of the game. Cheer along with Spidey, the cheerleaders and the band when they're there. Enjoy the halftime show and other corporately sponsored activities. And last, but certainly not least, have fun with your friends and enjoy the game.
Contact staff writer Barrett Neale at firstname.lastname@example.org
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