Rams issues about more than just football
author: john loeppky | sports editor
U of R team’s woes not just on the field
So, the Rams open up the new Mosaic Stadium and, as usual, it will barely move the needle for the University of Regina’s resident football team.
Here’s the main issue: there is almost no atmosphere at Rams games and so, outside of school pride, there is very little reason to attend. This problem isn’t unique to the Rams; the Toronto Argonauts’ move to BMO Field from Rogers Centre was done to combat the exact same predicament. When people show up to a football game in a cavernous stadium it just isn’t exciting.
Also, the Rams really don’t suck – stop laughing. Sure, they’ve suffered through some rough years, but that isn’t unique. If you aren’t the behemoths that are Laval or the University of Calgary, then you aren’t nearly always going to win. Our neighbours to the north, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, used to be the undisputed kings of the land. They, just like the greats before them, have fallen back to the land of the commoners.
I grew up near Saskatoon, and part of what makes the Huskies successful is that their stadium, Griffiths Stadium, is a small-ish venue that allows fans to feel as if they are in a packed house. When the Rams play, even with everyone and their dog in the venue, it still looks like ten people are there. Photos of games look downright sad because only one side of the stadium is open, and our low attendance numbers have highlighted the lack of school spirit in this place.
It’s a pipe dream, but the best thing that could happen to the U of R would be if they could invest in their own small stadium, and I mean really small. Of course, this would have to be after we fixed the various facility problems on campus, lowered tuition, revamped a couple of the residences, and placed the job prospects of tenured faculty over the slippage towards low-paid sessional instructors taking their place. So, just a few things.
The Rams also need an image rebuild. So many of the players are characterized as dumb jocks with rocks in their heads, but that just isn’t true – football players are people too, I hear them cry!
If the Rams could get out into the community, campus and otherwise, then they wouldn’t be viewed so terribly negatively. People, this paper included, have been known to rag on many of the under-performing teams, but the Rams really have a chance to put this school on the map.
This leads to a conversation about what makes CIS athletics viable at a school like ours. Every high-level program leans on their cash-cow programs (not like many make any money, but they at least keep their schools afloat and don’t tempt the administration into eliminating sports altogether), for the U of R that would be the basketball and football teams.
One dive into the Carillon archives and you’ll find that the mid-sixties brought with them hard times for the athletic program. There were serious discussions about axing the Cougars when they were just intramural athletics-based. Can you imagine the disaster that would erupt if the Rams were suddenly eliminated? What about wrestling, or softball (not that they get funded), or soccer, or insert underperforming sport here?
See, there’s the problem: if a sport not named football or basketball were cut, it really wouldn’t move the needle. If a sport goes away no one would cry, and that’s an issue for me.
We undercut sports in the campus’ public eye because we set them in opposition to everything else, as if there are no athletes who like arts, or science, or anything that is seen as actually important to the wider society. Before my A & C editor cues up the music for “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” I will acknowledge my bias. I am an MFA candidate with time spent on a national team, which means I am far from the norm. I am a sportsy and artsy unicorn, a special snowflake – if you can’t read the sarcasm there, then we can’t be friends.
So, let’s celebrate sports for what they are: a way to highlight what our campus has to offer while providing opportunities to the athletically gifted among us. It isn’t like the Rams winning will bring peace to the universe, but they can make a change on campus. That is, if they choose to.
But to do that, they need actual support. In my opinion, I think the team feels slighted because all people talk about how much they lose. Dear athletes on campus: my provincial team lost to Quebec by eighty points in a game. I did not go home thinking my squad was god’s gift to wheelchair basketball, far from it. To the fans, please just remember what CIS sport is there for and that, if handled properly, it can be a strong catalyst for change on a university campus.
A Florida State football player was recently heralded in national media for showing attention to a student with autism. That a random act of kindness such as this was treated so positively should be a lesson to our wider campus community. Sports can change lives, in small and large ways, for those in and outside of athletics, but it takes an understanding by everyone that sports is worth acknowledging for its humanity.