Some equate Varsity Stadium’s poor attendance during varsity football games to a lack of spirit. That would be true, but just a couple kilometres south, the opposite can be said for attendees at the Air Canada Centre (ACC), who are cheering on the Raptors or the Leafs.
Is it simply because people get more pleasure from watching the Raptors than from watching the Varsity Blues? Out of all universities in the OUA though, U of T boasts some pretty impressive standings. Rather, it appears as if the problem stems from the lack of a form of enjoyment that is automatically associated with sports: alcohol.
“I went to a game, like most first years do when they get into university,” said Arvin Reyes, a second-year media studies student. “But after being only one of 50 or so in the audience, and a large absence of alcohol when attending the game, I think I’m better off going to Western’s games with my friends.”
A University of Minnesota study on alcohol consumption in sports showed that a substantive amount of post-secondary students were above the .08 limit while watching a game. This suggests that drinking goes hand-in-hand with sporting events, which is why U of T needs to consider offering it at its facilities.
Drinking in a more controlled environment is also safer for the students. Last year, University of Maryland president Wallace Loh said student leaders want to “transition from a culture of unsafe pregame binge drinking to a culture focused on healthier social drinking.”
Seeing as it would be impossible to eliminate the drinking aspect of live sports, it would be beneficial to incorporate it into these events legally. Plus, events on campus would encourage attendees that live in close proximity to travel by walking instead of driving.
Additionally, tailgating — when fans gather before games to socialize and eat meals served from the back of trucks — promotes a sense of school spirit and attachment that transcends attendance at a game. At Louisiana State University, for example, socializing begins the night before the game and continues on until well after the game.
In most cases, it’s not even about the game; it’s about the experience that a student has participating in something larger than themselves. It’s time U of T and universities alike recognize that alcohol facilitates that process.
A recent article in the New York Times describes the relationships an attendee built while tailgating before a game. “Normally, you just talk about football, try to initiate conversation,” the fan said. “You just got to talk to people and then you realize, ‘ Hey, I’ll see you again next time.’ That’s the whole point of tailgating… you meet everyone around you.”
Including alcohol in sporting events might bring about additional issues, but these could be prevented with the right type of controls. U of T could benefit from some increased school spirit at games and providing alcohol would be a step in the right direction.