Stymied in Sioux City
06/18/03 NIFL Fan Article by Andrew Hoyle
I made my annual pilgrimage to an away game for the Omaha Beef this past weekend. Not that I go to only one away game per season, mind you, but I was waiting for just the right game to come along this year. The final home game for the Bandits at the venerable Sioux City Auditorium seemed like the perfect chance to see what it's like for the Beef on the road in the NIFL this year. I made an exception to my normal rule of traveling incognito this time, however, and did sport the same vast array of Beef apparel that I would wear to a home game. I also rode on the bus with the Beef Jerkys and the rest of the die-hard Bovine Faithful, something else that is out of character for me. Let's face it; when you're a Beef fan, sometimes it's best to remain anonymous, or within the herd, outside the Omaha city limits. My mission was twofold: to see how fans treat visiting fans, and to get a better feel of how the average Beef fan feels about his or her team right now. I wasn't disappointed on either account.
Upon stepping off the bus in Sioux City, it wasn't long before the memories started coming back to me. That feeling of vertigo you get when you have to lean way over the railing up in the nosebleed sections just to see the play. The Hostess fruit pie shape of the too-small end zones. The players and cheerleaders standing in the tunnels because there are no benches along the sidelines. The fear that what little plaster is left on the ceilings of the tunnels is going to fall on your head at any moment. And the smell. The hot, humid air, laced with that familiar tang of mold that the whole place exudes, quickly assaulted my sense of smell. I'd been to this bastion of antiquity several times, shrouded in my cloak of anonymity, but somehow, this time was different.
It started with a young child, no more than nine or ten years old, who, upon seeing my Beef gear, had the temerity to question my parentage. In no uncertain terms, mind you. Considering the source, I just ignored the poor child and went about my business. Next, it was the guy who came up and informed me that I was in his seat, and I'd better move or I'll get kicked out of the venue. Despite verifying that we did both in fact have a ticket for the same seat, this individual insisted that as a home fan, it was his right to get the seat. And that I should go try and do something anatomically difficult with my ticket. Once again, not wanting to cause a commotion, I acquiesced to his demands and carried myself up a little higher into the stratosphere, hoping that the oxygen wouldn't run out up there. Finally, it was the woman who asked why all the Beef fans were waving small American flags during the National Anthem and throughout the game. My polite explanation that it happened to be Flag Day here in the United States, and we were honoring it, was greeted with a blank look. And, yet once again, the hot topic of parentage, not only mine, but that of all Beef fans, came into question. All this and a bag of peanuts, too.
My point is simple, people: do unto others. Fans throughout the NIFL, in the context of good sportsmanship and taste, let's not look down upon each other in any serious light. Let's instead revel in the fact that we are all fans of a common sport, sharing a common interest, and be kind and polite to each other. Don't be rude for the sake of being rude. Remember, the fan that travels is the fan that is spending money in your venue. Save your spiteful remarks for those that truly deserve it, like the local sports editors of your local newspapers. Having spent a lot of time lurking on the NIFL site, I can honestly say that most teams aren't getting any support from their local press. Take some time and let the sports editor in your area know how you feel about that pathetic bird cage liner they call a sports section. With the 37-34 loss to the Bandits, the Beef won't finish the season undefeated in the division. Ask the average Beef fan, though, and they'll tell you that's of little consequence. Several important thoughts were thrown around the bus on the way home, first and foremost being that the average Heifer fan isn't pushing the panic button right now. The Beef have far exceeded their road win total from last year, and have already guaranteed themselves a playoff spot. Making sure that there are no more serious injuries before the playoffs is fine with fans, and getting new players like Nick Daniken and Quincy Roe some time in the secondary is a great move, too. So is getting quarterback of the future Matt LaFleur some playing time now.
Colonel Sanders made a wise choice in not forcing the issue at Sioux City this weekend. Sure, running back Clinton Childs could have had a lot more carries (12 for 48 yards) on the night, and quarterback Troy Travis (9 completions on 26 attempts for 75 yards and 1 interception on the night) could have stayed in the game longer, but why take the chance. Neither offense could crack the 200 yard mark for total offense on the night, and frustrations on both sides could have led to tempers flaring and unnecessary injuries. Besides, I don't think there's anybody outside the Utah and Bismarck organizations that had a better inkling than Sanders on how the weekend would play out. The odds still lie in favor of the Beef hosting a second playoff game with the Utah loss this weekend. And that's all Beef fans can ask for. They remain loyal to the team no matter what happens from here on out.
Things have been quiet from out west this past week; Beef fans and players are assuming there's going to be a game this Friday night in Casper. The Beef will be facing yet another team that has had two weeks to prepare for them, and another conservative effort here wouldn't be a surprise. Or would it? The time to peak is almost here, and Travis never has two bad games in a row. Look for this one to be a tune-up as the Beef make the race for home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
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