Column: The Rent’s postgame invitation
The opportunity fans are squandering by leaving early
Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 23:10
It’s no secret that UConn knows how to tailgate. Just look around at the thousands scattered around the Rentschler Field parking lots – what used to be landing strips for an airport – and you’ll realize that fans take their pregame very seriously.
After all, it’s pretty simple. Friends, good food and appropriate beverages and the backdrop of looming football provide a feeling that can’t be replicated. UConn knows how to handle the beginning of a game.
But one issue that needs to be addressed is something that has been bringing down the vibes at The Rent for as long as I can remember: How UConn handles the postgame, the football game’s after party.
It’s sadly no secret that when the final whistle blows at the end of the fourth quarter, there are often noticeably large portions of the crowd missing from the stands of The Rent. Not only is this frustrating for the simple fact that fans should make attempts to root for their Huskies for as long as possible, but because it negates any possible new postgame traditions from flourishing in East Hartford.
One great example of the kind of ideal postgame tradition I’m thinking of can be found in West Virginia, where the entire football stadium locks arms and belts out John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Road,” at the end of games. “Almost heaven, West Virginia,” begins the ode to the state’s natural beauty, sending the 60,000 fans that pack Milan Puskar Stadium into a collective swoon.
Another example can be found in Madison, Wis., where fans stick around after each Badger home game for what’s essentially a giant dance party led by their marching band called the “Fifth Quarter.” Win or lose, thousands of Badger fans stick around after the end of the game to celebrate what was originally just the band providing music for fans as they left the stadium.
Now, this all isn’t to say that similar traditions don’t already exist at UConn. At the conclusion of each home game, the football team gathers over near the UConn Marching Band to sing the fight song in the direction of the stands. Although some players are more into it than others, no player leaves the field until every last word is sung. After that, the marching band retakes the field for a postgame show.
So really, the opportunity is there. The Rent is literally inviting students and fans to what could be a huge party, but it’s being denied when students can’t simply stay the entire game.
And that’s not to say that I’m not fully aware of the factors behind wanting to leave early. Rentschler Field being a half hour west of Storrs, for one, is enough to make any student at least consider leaving in the fourth quarter to get home at a reasonable time. But that’s also not to say that UConn fans don’t enjoy getting involved. Every student in the Dog Pound knows to swing their arms back and forth and yell “Stick it in,” over and over whenever the Huskies make it to the red zone and to bring out their keys for some extra “Welcome to the Jungle” intimidation when opponents are stalling on third downs. But there could easily be so much more.
Maybe we just need to take a page out of West Virginia’s playbook and find a good song (other than the fight song or alma mater) that represents love for Connecticut. Unfortunately, maybe there just isn’t a catchy enough song about Connecticut. One option I’ve always laughed about considering was adopting the state’s official song, “Yankee Doodle”. Maybe it sounds ridiculous, but how intimidating and strangely satisfying would it be to be among 40,000 screaming a song as ridiculous as Yankee Doodle after a UConn win? Alright, maybe a little too ridiculous, but you get where I’m coming from.
What it all comes down to is that any good new traditions would be welcome at Rentschler Field on Saturdays to complement the ones that have already established themselves. But the distinction for new tradition needs to be this: It needs to develop naturally.
In a Jan. 28, 2011 article for the UConn Blog, Andrew Porter talked about how some of the best UConn traditions are “organic,” rather than sponsored, forced, or pre-packaged. The “Stick It In” chant and “Welcome to the Jungle” processes work so well because they feel natural and students actually have fun participating in them. So how hard or, rather, inorganic would it be to develop a new tradition simply by staying for the entire course of games?
UConn fans are proud, want to be involved and flourish when participation is encouraged to get the crowds going. There is just so much more potential for a greater claim to pride that schools like West Virginia, who call their school and state “almost heaven,” have.
Because to me, there’s nothing closer to heaven than being a UConn Husky. And it’s not that I think fans have an issue showing that, it’s just that showing it shouldn’t end just when the game does.