Tommy: Same Ol', Same Ol'

"Aluminum fans" filled the background.

Well, the more things change, the more they apparently stay the same.

Football season begins. Carolina plays at home. Half to a third of the "fans" do not bother to show up. Carolina loses game. John Bunting can't coach. What was Gary Tranquill thinking? Why didn't so and so play more? And so on and so forth.

Oh yes, don't let me forget Mr. Dick Baddour. How can I not mention him? More than once since Carolina's loss to Miami of Ohio I've either heard around the water cooler, or read on message boards, that Baddour's obvious bungling of the Frank Beamer hire and his perceived ineptness is to blame for this "situation" Carolina Football is in.

Why, I've even heard the sky is falling and mediocrity is something we should all hope for given the sad state of the program. Are you kidding me? The sky has "fallen" in Chapel Hill 78 times in my memory. It's a wonder anyone in Chapel Hill can walk upright these days!

Now, while I remove my foot from my mouth after last week's column, let's talk about Saturday. (At the time I wrote last week's column, sweltering heat was forecast for game time. I envisioned fans and players alike struggling to cope with the oppressive August sun. For once, I am glad I was wrong.) No, there is no need to rehash the game itself. Andrew Jones did that quite well in his Good and Bad column Monday on IC and others have provided interesting breakdowns on the IC message boards.

No, I want to talk about the fan support for the Heels. Given the Labor Day holiday weekend and the less than desirable weather for last Saturday's game, I can understand not having a packed house in Kenan Stadium. But half a house? From all reports, the weather at the local beaches was nothing to write home about so blaming a "last chance at the beautiful beaches" doesn't wash.

Sure, the official attendance figure was 38,000 or thereabouts, but realistically, if there were 30,000 souls on hand, I'd be shocked. I arrived at the stadium approximately 30 minutes before kickoff and there was no line to get into the stadium, no lines at the concessions, no lines at the restrooms and no problem walking straight to my seats. Looking over the stadium, my thoughts were simply "there is NO ONE here!"

While the crowd grew as time passed, by the time Carolina ran from the tunnel for the first time this season, there were still as many aluminum "fans" greeting the players as people. I'll agree that at times, Carolina's fans get a bad rap. But, to me, last weekend's showing was a disgrace. The players and coaches give everything they have to making Carolina a top flight program. Rain or shine, they bust their rear ends every day to get better and represent the school in a positive way. They deserve better than what I saw Saturday.

It's nice that Carolina sold out of season tickets this year. That is an impressive feat. But actual game attendance is quite another. How difficult is it for ticket holders to show up in Kenan six times a year, and especially for the season opener against a tough opponent in crucial game for the entire program? Anyone can write a check for a donation or to pay for those tickets. The fan Carolina needs more of were out there Saturday, in the rain, cheering loudly for Carolina to somehow win despite having more turnovers than the local bakery. Those are the fans Bunting spoke so highly of in his generous postgame comments.

Those that stayed home Saturday? Is ‘fair-weather fan' ever a more appropriate moniker?


Tommy Ashley is entering his fifth season with Inside Carolina. You can email him at carolina93@nc.rr.com.

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