Are DHS students bad fans?


An empty Adams Field has become a more common sight in the second half of football games. Image by Uri Uziel

We have conference champions, all-state athletes, and college commits; but why are Deerfield students such an inactive fanbase? Maybe that’s not the best way to put it, but through the showings, or lack thereof, at many fall sports events it can definitely be pinned that way. We’ve proven that we can be selectively excellent–the varsity hockey team’s Halloween game against New Trier proved that the fanbase can flex–but the normal trend is to “dip” from any sporting event at the end of the half, or even not show up at all.

We’re going to games, not necessarily because there is a sense of fun in seeing friends and classmates play their hearts out, but because of some social obligation as a high school student. And that’s for the big-ticket sports. For the uber successful girls tennis season and both cross country squads, student support is rare at best. Not to mention the lack of recognition the conference champions girls swimming and diving team received. Going to a game or meet isn’t a social contract. It’s a rare chance to have fun and even show a little school spirit.

The fairest way to truly examine the status of DHS sports culture is to put it on trial. Put the two opposite sides juxtaposed and see how they hold up against one another. Let the trial begin.

The case for the quality of DHS sports fandom:

Not going to a game doesn’t make you a bad person, and with the midweek trials and tribulations that plague most DHS students, squeezing in a Tuesday or Thursday night game is difficult to say the least. What’s more, it’s not as though teams are too talented or exciting to miss. For someone with little to no vested interest in the sport, lack of excitement is a huge factor on whether or not to go. This goes both ways. If we’re getting blown out, why stay to watch disaster unfold? And if we are crushing the competition, the job is already done and we don’t need to stay, right?

Key Game: Deerfield vs. New Trier, Hockey, Twin Rinks, Halloween

Another example of great fan support in the middle of the week, the Deerfield fans showed up for the hockey boys. Having 300 screaming fans berating New Trier players with absolutely tasty chirps helped propel the lads to come from behind and tie. This was definitely the fandom highlight of the year. Fans got behind the team and showed how solid a crowd we can be.

And now for the case against the DHS student body:

Every second half of football games can be used as evidence against the student fan, but let’s talk about more fundamental points. Yes, even if the team is losing, stay at the game; and if the team is winning, no matter the margin, stay at the game (See: Week 2 football against Grayslake Central). While high school athletics can be tedious, that’s not the point at hand. Going to football games shouldn’t be about winning, losing, or drawing; it should be about having fun, relieving some stress from the week, and supporting, if not the school, the student athletes. This extends beyond the football team. Girls tennis had multiple state competitors, and a state finalist, and both boys and girls cross country teams had extremely successful seasons, but rarely ever do they see prominent levels of support. While it’s unrealistic to expect every sport to get the same level of support of the Halloween hockey game, knowing that students fans can reach that high a level is a starting point for where Deerfield fandom should be.

Key Game: Deerfield vs. Highland Park, Football, Away, Week 7

In the biggest rivalry game of the season, our student section was thinning out by halftime. And by the fourth quarter, only 30 student fans remained. Regardless of end result, this is one of the few games all year that fans are supposed to support their team all the way through. We didn’t. If there is any metric to measure the quality of high school fandom, rivalry games are as good as any. And we measure as not good. This is Friday Night Lights. What’s supposed to be the school’s great unifier of social dynamics and grade levels is just another failed opportunity at school spirit. An extension of the shortcomings of kickoff, spirit week, homecoming, and turnabout.

My Verdict: DHS sports culture is not good, but has potential.

When speaking to members of the football team, the words that came up the most were: bad, disappointing, sad. Captain Ari Nadler said, “It’s bad…. It’s really bad… high school can be a common place for everyone to go and hang out and support the school and town. I think it’s great, but we definitely don’t have that.” He makes a strong point. The hockey team seemingly fed off of the energy of the crowd, and this energy was crucial in getting the team hyped-up and ready for a comeback. But most important, everyone was having a great time supporting the team. Being active members of the game makes the event more exciting for fans and more fun for the team. As the winter and spring seasons begin, going to games with passion and excitement will make the sports more memorable. Let’s support our teams and have fun while we’re at it.