Column: Beaver Dam's apathy is pathetic
Published: Friday, February 22, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 22, 2013 04:02
Three years ago, when I was a freshman, I watched every home Oregon State men’s basketball game from the first or second row of section F — the Beaver Dam section that’s directly across from the visiting team’s bench.
After covering Craig Robinson’s squad as a sophomore, junior and senior, I returned to section F Thursday night for the first time since the 2009-2010 season.
It’s downright shameful how much has changed.
Three years ago, I had to arrive at least 15 minutes early to assure myself a spot in section F. If a friend arrived late, we’d try to squeeze him in. But more often than not, the ushers would force late arrivers to relocate to the upper level.
Thursday night, I waltzed in at the 12:00 mark of the first half and found a spot in the first row of section F. I even had room to take out my laptop and set it down next to me. I counted 59 students in section F, when it could have seated 200, I’d guess.
I chose to return to section F Thursday night because I wanted to experience first-hand the student body’s apathy toward the men’s basketball team.
For an hour-and-a-half, I sat and observed apathy at its finest.
The fact that I sat is the first problem.
The game against Utah on Feb. 6 marked the first time I can remember that the students in section F did not stand for a conference game.
Even when overall attendance has been low and the team has struggled, the Beaver Dam — sections J through F — has stayed relatively full of students who stand.
It’s a common rule that applies to high schools and colleges across the country. If you’re in the student section, you watch the game from your feet. When the situation calls for it, you jump up and down and make as much noise as possible.
While the fact that section F did none of this made eavesdropping on conversations around me easy, it didn’t do anything to help Craig Robinson’s squad.
At halftime, I approached OSU junior Kelly Christensen, who was comfortably seated in the first row of section F, and asked him why he didn’t stand during the first half.
“I’d stand if everyone else was standing, but it’s all about the atmosphere,” Christensen said. “If people aren’t into it, they’re not going to stand.”
I can’t blame him.
While Christensen appeared engaged throughout the game, I can’t say the same for those around him.
The majority of the conversations I overheard had nothing to do with basketball. I often turned around from my front-row seat and found half the people behind me on their phones.
Three years ago, I stood in section F among dozens of students who heckled an Arizona player until he flipped us the bird.
After speaking with Christensen, I walked over to section G, the section at midcourt. To their credit, the students in section G, as well as sections H and J, stood during the game — though I should note that said sections were half-full, if that.
I asked OSU junior Chad Speers, who was standing in the first row of section G, how he felt about the students in section F sitting.
“It’s ridiculous,” Speers said. “Everyone’s always stood for the 20 years I’ve been coming to games.”
At that point, I thought maybe if the game got close in the second half, the students in section F would stand and make a little bit of noise.
It didn’t happen.
When sophomore guard Challe Barton was called for a questionable foul — it should have been a jump ball — with 5:50 remaining and the Beavers trailing by five, I counted three students in section F who stood and voiced their displeasure with the call.
I turned to the security guard next to me and said, “Three years ago, even last year, the entire section would have erupted and you would have had to tell a bunch of people to watch their language.”
She disappointedly nodded her head in agreement.
I approached the three students who stood and told them I admired their passion.
“Normally it’s loud and people can’t hear us,” said Brandon Westover, an OSU freshman.
“It feels like I’m at a high school game,” added freshman Cameron Wood.
Don and Polli Butzner, an elderly couple, have sat courtside — directly in front of section F —at every OSU home game the past eight seasons.
When I talked to Polli after Thursday night’s game, I could sense the sadness in her voice as she spoke of the lack of student support this year.
“They’re not as enthusiastic,” Butzner said. “It used to be so packed that we couldn’t hear the game.”
Butzner said the student support this year has been the worst she’s ever seen — even worse than it was in 2008, when the Beavers infamously didn’t win a conference game.
“I think we only have half as many students as we did last year,” Butzner said. “The whole area behind us used to be full.”
I’m not sure whether to blame the fans or the players for the general apathy. If the players had quit on the season, I’d blame them — but they haven’t.
When I asked junior guard Roberto Nelson why fans should still come to games, he said it’s all about support.
“Joe [Burton] and I and a few of the other guys, we support other Oregon State teams,” Nelson said. “We’re all a family. I wouldn’t give up on my family.”