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Whatever Happened to Tiger Stadium?

What is this quiet, half-empty place?

image via PodKATT

Let's be perfectly frank: the attendance at Saturday's game was embarrassing. About a third of the ticket holders never bothered to show up, and about half of those that did took off early. By the time Auburn made a last ditch effort to get back in the game, the LSU defense tried to exhort an over half-empty stadium to make some noise.

We can make excuses for it. The weather was lousy. Only the rich fat cats can afford tickets, and they don't care about the game. It might never rain in Tiger Stadium, but apparently the grounds crew left some sprinklers on. The game was never that close, as LSU raced out to a 21 point lead and never looked back. The stadium doesn't provide alcohol, and your tailgate does.

All of these are perfectly valid excuses, but they are also just that: excuses. The crowd sucked and we all know it.

What's to be done about it? Not much, to be perfectly honest. Look, I don't know what possesses a person to buy season tickets and then only spend about an hour at each game before leaving early to beat traffic. But it's their money. Now, I think tickets are expensive enough and there are so few games in a year that I would stick to the end of nearly every game.

Okay, I don't care if you take off at the half of the Kent St game, but there are only four home SEC games per year. I spend all year looking forward to those games, and I assume you do, too. But asking you to stand in your seat and cheer like hell four times a year seems like a bit much to ask. If you don't want to, you don't want to, and nothing I say will make you want to.

As a general rule, I hate "back in the day". Yes, I know that the stadium was always louder, the beer was colder, and the girls were prettier in our memories. There is something special about those four to seven years you spend in the student section. The best years of Tiger Stadium crowds are invariably when you were in the student section, being rowdy without consequence. I got hit in the head with a flying bourbon bottle once, and it is one of my most cherished student section memories.

I also sat on an empty and wet bleacher as Florida scored another touchdown. Let me tell you, when you lose 58-3, the crowd doesn't take its time finding the exits. So don't believe anyone who says that we used to always stay to the bitter end. We didn't. Well, I did, but I didn't have a girlfriend and I have an unhealthy obsession with LSU football.

The simple fact of the matter is that the come up is more exciting than maintaining excellence. LSU is an elite program that usually wins. When you go to a game now, you walk through those gates pretty confident that LSU is going to win. There's only a few programs that are our equals now. While that sounds cool on paper, it doesn't lend itself to drama. Forget about Auburn, we used to have to sweat out Mississippi State. There were no "probable" wins on the SEC schedule. That lack of separation lead to closer games, more drama, and well, better crowds.

I believe that Tiger Stadium crowds hit their peak either in the mid 1980s or the early 2000s. I can't prove this, and I won't try. But these were two eras in which the team was rapidly improving and the games were close. Even blowout wins over good teams were a novelty, so the crowd could get into that, too.

But now that is all old hat. The fanbase demands not just excellence, but perfection. A two touchdown thrashing of a hated rival just doesn't move the needle anymore. This doesn't get us that much closer to a national title, so who really cares?

We have been spoiled by success. There are worse problems to have, but it is still a problem. It's hard to get excited by games you are "supposed" to win. And you can't fake enthusiasm. Tiger Stadium is losing its mystique largely because the team has been too damn good for too damn long. We don't remember what it is like to go 8-4 and be thrilled by that result.

I am not saying the fans are worse. You put the same exact Tiger fan and plop them in the stadium in 1988, and they are making the earth shake as well. You transplant one of those fans to now, and he's probably thinking about a warm, dry place by the fourth quarter. The fans are the same, but the crowd is worse. It's the team that got better.

Who would have thought that one of the greatest casualties of success was the wild atmosphere at Tiger Stadium? Well, it has been, and it really is nobody's fault.