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Lack of Attendance: Who Owes Whom?

So yeah. We won a game convincingly but honestly, I can’t muster much damn to give so instead I’m going to talk about something else.

Kansas State v Wake Forest
DAYTON, OH - MARCH 14: Head coach Danny Manning of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons reacts during the First Four game against the Kansas State Wildcats in the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at UD Arena on March 14, 2017 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

So in this rather dire era of Wake Forest basketball (being charitable), I see a fair amount of discussion around the idea of showing up to support the team no matter what vs. making a statement of disapproval by voting with one’s wallet and/or time. I honestly see both sides of the argument, and lord knows that in other points in my sports fandom I have been firmly in the more histrionic corner. One need look no further than some of my earliest pieces here on BSD to know that. Even now, I’m a little bit conflicted. I want the players to feel supported and to have an experience wherein they have the support of a rabid fanbase; they only get to play basketball in college once. Having said that, though, what are fans supposed to do when there’s no hope of anything getting better in the long term?

Look, I don’t relish writing off the team before the ACC season even starts. I want to believe that they can shock the world and do well in the conference, but if I’m being honest, I don’t believe it’s going to happen. So for now, let’s go ahead and assume that it’s not. If the ACC season is as brutal as can be anticipated, is it really fair to expect the fans to show up to blowout after blowout all while seemingly the administration refuses to do anything about it? I’d argue not. If you want fans to cheer, they need to have something to cheer for. I’ll say this much: the last game was probably the best game of the season. If they play like this during ACC play, they’ll probably be in more games than not. Mind you, that doesn’t mean that that’s good enough to keep a change from happening, but the team that showed up for the last game is, all other things being equal, assuredly deserving of fan support.

Here’s the other problem, though. If fans do show up, it’s going to be increasingly easy for an already change-averse athletic director staring down a possibly ludicrous buyout to make the tough but likely necessary move needed to finally move the program forward after a decade. Or, if the athletic director refuses to make the change, then it needs to get bad enough for the Presidentt of the entire university to clean house. Without there being some sort of scandal involved (heaven forbid) I don’t see that happening unless things get really, truly dire in terms of attendance.

One can argue that the players especially deserve the support. These are 18-22 or so aged young men who chose to invest in Wake Forest University, so shouldn’t we invest in them? They’re not the ones making the vast majority of the decisions that are proving to be problematic, and I can’t even fathom the amount of work they put in their entire college careers in order to even TRY to be successful. But the slope rapidly gets slippery when one starts chastising anyone for choosing to somehow register disapproval. The fans pay for their tickets (often for crazy prices) so they are 100% entitled to not show up if they don’t want to, especially when the on court product and, more importantly, player development (which is the responsibility of the people getting paid millions here, not the student athletes) is at best underwhelming or frustrating and at worst insulting. Loyalty is important, yes, but it’s also earned. I have loyalty to these players. I respect all of them and appreciate their sacrifices. At the moment, I can’t say the same for those overseeing the players, and even less about the overseers of the overseers. As such, despite holding season tickets, I’m filled with decidedly mixed emotions before every single home game these days. Much as I hate to say it, one of those emotions is confusion over what on earth I was thinking buying the season tickets in the first place. I’ll go when I can, but I can all but promise it will never be an easy decision.

To the players, thank you. And hey, maybe you’ll prove me wrong and have a good conference season. Nothing but love for you guys. To the rest, though? My love for college basketball is on life support. That’s EXCEEDINGLY difficult to do. Either do your jobs, or hopefully those in a position to do so will find people who will. Because as it stands now we’ve had one arguably acceptable season in nearly a decade. That’s not a passing grade anywhere. Not only do the fans deserve better, so do the players. Players win games and coaches lose them, plain and simple. That in mind, the fans aren’t the only ones being shown a disservice here. But the bottom line is this: basically no one is winning right now.

On to the next. Go Deacs.