To whom it may concern…

Dear Vikings Fans,

A couple of weeks ago I wrote in this column about athletes needing to engage with non-athlete students so that we can create a better, more exciting and enjoyable atmosphere at all home games. That’s only a small part of what ’s needed to help create the best home field/court in the Big Sky. Another portion needed to create it revolves around you, the fans.

I can’t count how many Vikings athletic events I’ve been to where it seems as if there are more players on the field or court than there are fans in the stands. Sticking with this week’s theme surrounding Vikings spring football, I will use last season’s game against Cal Poly as my example.

That week was Viking Week at Portland State, where over 150 events were put on to engage students and show new students what PSU is all about. That Thursday, the Vikings football team was slotted to play Cal Poly at what was then called Jeld-Wen Field. As part of the Viking Week celebrations there was a  barbecue to rally fans before the game. After the barbecue, students went to the stadium to cheer on the team. Once I arrived there and found my seat in the student section, I noticed something was a bit off—the students weren’t cheering.

I’ve been going to Seahawks, Ducks and Beaver football games since I can remember. At every game I’ve been to the fans were loud and passionately cheered on their beloved teams, even when their teams were not doing well. I wasn’t expecting the environment at Jeld-Wen to be anything near what I’ve experienced at the Kingdome, Century Link Field, Autzen or even Reser Stadium, but what I saw surprised me quite a bit. At the time, the Vikings were one of the top three producing offenses in Division 1 football. Fans 21 years of age and over were allowed to drink in the stands, and you could easily get a seat within the first 15 rows. Yet only a small portion of the student section was cheering enough to make an impact on the game.
It only took a few minutes for me and my friend to realize that something needed to be done to make this experience exciting. We talked to some friends who were in the smaller but louder section in the front row, and they agreed to follow our lead. At the same time, my buddy and I yelled, “P-S-WHO?!” to which the section of our friends energetically responded, “P-S-U!” Before long we had about a third of the student section following our lead, while the rest of the student section laughed and scoffed at us.

That situation sums up exactly what needs to change at Vikings football games and other athletic events. Rather than worry about what your peers may think of you at these games, I encourage you to let loose and yell as loud as you can in support of your team. It’s actually amazingly exhilarating when it leads to a turnover or false start penalty. Knowing that you can affect what happens on the field has the ability to transcend you being a spectator, to feeling like you have a stake in the success of your team.

So Vikings fans, next season when your defense has their (or better yet, our) opponent backed up on their own goal line and you hear that rowdy bunch of students screaming at the top of their lungs, I ask that you step outside of your comfort zone and yell louder than you have ever yelled before. If we can get even half of the stadium doing this, we’ll have the ability to create something new and special at PSU: a home field advantage.

Matt Rauch
Vanguard Sports Desk