Sports are a magical thing. So, why do fans decide to leave games early? Is it to beat the traffic? Or, is it because their team is down by some unfathomable margin?
Regardless of the reason, stay in your seats and cheer on your team.
On Saturday afternoon, I parked myself in front of my laptop to watch my fledgling Charlotte 49ers football team face No. 25 Football Championship Series (FCS) ranked Gardner Webb. The 49ers, who were playing at home, had a total attendance of 12,222, about 3,000 less than capacity.
Mind you, it is their first-ever season, and many of the students were on fall break. Charlotte trailed the Runnin' Bulldogs, 45-24, at the half. So, many of the so-called "fans" decided to bail out on their team. What happened next is a stern reminder to those people who leave games early that sports are unpredictable. Isn't that the reason we watch?
You never know when the tide could turn with an interception or a fumble.
Well, in Charlotte's case, it was an interception returned to the 25-yard line, which ultimately led to a 5-yard touchdown pass. That started a streak of 26 unanswered points by my alma mater, and ultimately, a 53-51, victory. It is the football program's first comeback victory.
In addition to that, it is also the 49ers' football team's first victory over a ranked opponent. Now, those of you reading this might be thinking, "Ed, why should I care about a college football team way down in North Carolina?" The reason you should care is that fans are leaving games when their teams are down big to beat the traffic.
The average college football ticket costs $30. Why waste your money on something if you are not going to stay for the entire game? I have been to many college and professional sporting events, and traffic is never really that much of an issue. It's simple math. If 3,000 fans leave the game all at once early in the fourth quarter, the traffic issue will be likely the same if everyone made it to the exits at the same time.
In fact, I think that leaving the game at its conclusion is the most efficient. Usually, most teams have a group of police officers outside directing traffic. If you leave early, the majority of those officers are not in place. I would rather sit and watch my team get the snot beat out of them than sit in traffic. Sports are sports, no matter what the score.
Have you ever left a game only to flick on the radio and hear that your team made a miraculous comeback. In college, I rode down to Atlanta to watch Charlotte play Georgia Tech in basketball. The 49ers trailed the entire game, but somehow they pushed the game to overtime and eventually, won. One of my friends was campaigning hard that it's a five-hour drive back to campus, and we should leave. Needless to say, my roommate and I rubbed it in our friend's face after they won.
Then there was a Worcester Sharks hockey game I attended about five years ago. The Sharks trailed Portland, 4-1, heading into the third period. The person I was with told me they weren't going to win, "Let's go." To which I responded, "No way, I have a hunch." My hunch was right. The team ended up winning, 5-4, with a pair of consecutive goals in the final two minutes.
Saturday's Charlotte game really made me think. Let's put this into perspective. Your child's youth football team is losing badly, do you get in the car and drive off? Well, no. Because your child still needs a ride home. The kids aren't quitting on themselves, why should you?
The same holds true for all levels of sports. With the baseball postseason heating up, there is no doubt that more miraculous comebacks are in the works. Red Sox are up 2-0 on the Rays in the American League Divisional Series; here's to hoping they can keep the good times rolling.
So, next time your friend turns to you and says, let's leave early, recollect back to some of the unprecedented comebacks you have witnessed or read about.
Do you really want to say "I was there, but then I left before the magic happened?"
I don't think you do.