BEYOND VARSITY: A contrarian view to game day

All right, it's here. Time for the first game of Ball State's football season.

Since anyone's support of the Cardinals begins when, and only when, you first step foot on campus, I know that you're probably a little uncertain as to what goes into being a Ball State football fan.

Sophomores and up, you've already experienced the joys of a Ball State football game, so this will be more of a refresher. But freshmen, this one's a must read. In fact, cut this out of the paper and keep it in your wallet/pocket/backpack/purse/gym bag. Tuck it behind your student ID and keep it in your lanyard. You'll want to refer to this throughout the day.

First of all, tailgating promptly begins three hours before the game: 4 p.m. today. Clearly, this is not nearly enough time to "get your drink on." You'll want to show up to the tailgating fields having already "pre-tailgated." For the record, don't drink and drive. Just sort of stumble your way to Scheumann Stadium, and try to stay out of the road.

You'll want to have "pregamed" because the only alcohol allowed at tailgating is beer — well, unless you sneak it in (not that I'm endorsing that). Also, no glass bottles — unless you sneak it in. Or kegs — unless ... you get the point.

One piece of advice on underage drinking. It's not my responsibility to babysit you, but I will warn you that the excise police will be on the prowl today. And nothing sticks out like a sore thumb more than a freshman who has had one too many. Tickets are free to the football game, so don't end up paying hundreds of dollars for drinking a beer.

Other things you can't bring to tailgating: couches and large tents. According to Ball State's tailgating guidelines, that was about all I could see that was banned. So unless you wanted to bring in a futon or were planning to camp for the night, carpe diem!

One more banned item: "No drinking games or drinking game apparatuses are permitted." Of course, I could barely type that with a straight face, so take that for what it's worth.

(For the record, Ball State also recommends mooching food from your tailgating neighbors. So you've got that going for you, which is nice.)

So you know what you're drinking and what to have with you. The next big challenge is to get out of class. Unlike previous years, Thursday will be the only conflict you have with your class schedule this football season.

Go all out to get out of class this one time. If it's a Tuesday-Thursday class, you've had three chances to convince your professor that this game is essential to your understanding of French 202 or Business 301. But if you haven't had any luck yet, you'll have to take it to the next level. Feign illness or tell the prof you're dating a player. If that doesn't work, skip class. C'mon, it's football season!

When it's close to 7 p.m., you've made it to the football game. (Maybe. A lot of people just stay outside to drink more.) You'll want to congregate in the student section. I'm not explaining where that is to you. If you end up sitting with parents, high schoolers or, heaven forbid, the other team, you're a lost cause.

Here's the preparation for being a Ball State fan, all the chants and traditions you need to know in one place.


And you're done.

Yes, sadly, Cardinals fans are a rather unorganized bunch. Admittedly, there are a few semi-organized cheers (chirping, jangling keys on kickoff and dancing to "Cotton-Eyed Joe" are about as much as I could figure out). Otherwise, it's making some noise if you feel like it. Don't worry, half the fans will probably be apathetic.

Don't pay much attention to the band either — no one does; as a former band member, I would know ­— except for during the fight song, at which point you can clap along at whatever tempo you want and sing as many words as you know. Replace the words you don't know with "Ball State" – a time-tested tradition.

Finally, you'll want to make plans for 9 p.m. Regardless of whether the game is close or a blowout or if Ball State is winning or losing, people start leaving as early as halftime. It's not like four of Ball State's home games or nine of its 12 contests last year were decided in the fourth quarter. (Wait, they were!)

That should be everything. I'll see you at the game. Well, at least the tailgating lot.


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