Months of postulating and speculation are put aside Saturday as a new era of University of Montana football kicks off at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
The opener against Western State College of Gunnison, Colo., can’t come soon enough for legions of Griz faithful who turn the stadium into the seventh largest city in the state on game day and travel, in some cases, hundreds of miles to be a part of the revelry that is college football.
I surely share the excitement and anxiously await my game day ritual, which includes sitting alone in the north end zone about three hours before kickoff and celebrating how fortunate I am to have been part of every game played in the stadium since its 1986 opening. I now begin my 26th year of UM broadcasting.
John Hoyt Field provides an amazing homefield advantage that few teams overcome (Montana has lost just 20 times at the facility) and most Griz fans are courteous and respectful of the opposition, often even offering encouragement as they leave the field in the northwest corner of the stadium.
While I mostly enjoy the game day traditions, there’s one that I adamantly disagree with.
Why do some Griz faithful find it necessary to boo the opponents when they take the field before kickoff?
I’ve always lived by the mantra shared with me many years ago by former UM basketball coach Blaine Taylor: Respect all opponents and fear none.
No matter how you color it, to boo the opposition is a sign of disrespect to impressionable and impassioned young men who are only trying to do their best and heartily compete against what has proven to be difficult odds in Missoula.
In its wisdom last year, the NCAA decreed that there should be a pre-game show of sportsmanship whereby teams exchange pleasantries on the field prior to kickoff.
I want no part of that scenario, nor do I want the opposition anywhere close to the home team’s logo at midfield during pre-game warm up, which occurred at Weber State a few years ago. You may say that’s silly, but that too is disrespectful.
Emotions generally are high and, ,with past on-field relationships and trash talking, are given an added opportunity to bubble to the surface.
What message is sent to opponents about the kind of people who root for the Grizzlies when maniacal boos greet opponents as they run to their bench on the west side of the complex?
The actions of a few are classless and unnecessary and do not represent the majority of fans. But unfortunately the reactions of the minority outweigh and out-cheer the feelings of the majority.
When an opposing player is injured, causing a stoppage of play, polite applause greets their return to the sideline or removal from the field.
Would it not be refreshing if the same occurred when the Mountaineers of Western State College took the field Saturday to open Montana’s 2010 football season?
Tradition surely is a good thing, and I embrace and enjoy most, but disrespecting an opponent is one that should be eliminated.
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