Commentary: Fan Affliction Knows No Boundaries

by - Correspondent -
Tommy Bowden celebrates a Clemson touchdown against Georgia Tech.
Tommy Bowden celebrates a Clemson touchdown against Georgia Tech.

I received the following e-mail Thursday afternoon, too late to make it on the air for my daily sports talk show:

"Hope you read today's Greenville News article on Clemson fans.

"A young lady at the end of the article said she did not like the way the fans don't like the team when they lose, but jump on the bandwagon when they (win). She is my kind of fan and the kind I want to be associated with. The article hits at home with me in regard to my disgust with Clemson fans this year after the Georgia game.

"Don't give out my name yet I still don't want to be associated with the fair weather fans."

While you may argue with his fanaticism, Joe Fan in this case at least touched a nerve which runs throughout major college sports:
The habit of one's support for his or her team being directly proportional to how that team performed in its last outing.

With apologies to Janet Jackson, it's the "What Have You Done For Me Lately" syndrome, or WHYDFML. There is no known cure.

Not every fan is stricken with this affliction, of course.

Those who follow the Cubs and Red Sox in Major League Baseball do so with the knowledge that it has been a combined 180 years since a World Championship banner last flew atop their stadiums. Closer to home, South Carolina fans are quick to point to their weekly sellout crowds despite rooting for a team which, prior to the arrival of Lou Holtz, had just one bowl victory in its entire history.

Heck, even the vast majority of Clemson fans are level-headed enough not to let their guard down and risk infection. But those with the disease, small group that they may be, seem to have the loudest voices and/or most time to write e-mail.

Try and profile a fan with WHYDFML and you'll be up all night. They come in all shapes, sizes and ages.

It never ceases to amaze me how the college student can have as much - or little - football savvy as the fan who remembers Frank Howard as a young coach. But WHYDFML knows no boundaries, and just as sure as Clemson's performance takes another turn this season, those with the disease will turn with it.

Or on it.

For a look at WHYDFML's baffling outbreak, one can begin with this year's season-opening loss to Georgia.

My postgame radio show began with a phone call which ended up making Dennis Dodd's weekly football column on CBS Sportsline as the lead item (which, by the way, credited the station but not the host. Thanks a lot, Dennis).

Losing 30-0 on television was more than this fan could stand. Take the 85,000 folks in attendance, he said, at $45 a person and give the total gate - some $3.825 million - to Tommy Bowden and send him on his way. Right then and there. Several other callers echoed the sentiment over the course of the next two hours in what was, as hard as it may be to believe, a postgame scenario uglier than last December's Tangerine Bowl.

The next week's lackluster performance in the Furman victory did little to help matters, but a hint of a breakthrough came in Week Three after a convincing win over Middle Tennessee State.

WHYDFML then went into full remission after last Saturday's stunner in Atlanta, which saw Clemson dominate Georgia Tech on both sides of the ball in a 39-3 whipping.

Even Oral Roberts at his faith-healing best never saw a disease dry up this fast.

Everywhere you turned this week, it seemed, there were new Clemson bandwagon's hitting the road. The "Miracle of the Yellow Jacket," as it may or may not become known, had either cured WHYDFML or sent its carriers into hiding.

Ahh, but be advised. It doesn't take a surgeon general's warning to know that another outbreak of WHYDFML is right around the corner, ready to infect a whole new (or is that same old?) group of fans at the conclusion of the next disappointing performance.

Whenever it comes, the next wave of the disease will be more lethal than the last. That is how it operates.

Ultimately, there are only two cures, those afflicted will tell you:

A BCS berth, or a change at the top.

Of course, around these parts many believe there is a third possible cure. But finding a vial of 1981 elixir still intact - delivered by a tough, dependable Ford - isn't going to happen.

Is it?

Even now, some of those in remission are praying for just such a miracle.

Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.

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