That's a scene from the October 6, 2007 Purdue loss...uh, routing at the hands of Ohio State. Don't let the large smattering of red in the stands fool you, this was a "home" game for the Boilers.
Sure, it was two weeks ago, but the issue of 15,000 plus OSU supporters at this game is still riling the most loyal Purdue fans, especially with related news from the NFL. More on that later.
The kernel of the argument is this: what good are you doing for your team by giving up season tickets to fans of the opposition? Most Purdue fans smarting from the OSU beat down will answer: none.
Tickets for the endzones of Ross-Ade stadium are offered to the public and allotted for the opponent's fans, so it's natural to find the red there. But at this recent matchup, there were Ohio St. fans at the 50 yard line, between the 30's and throughout the crowd filling seats belonging to long-time season ticket holders and John Purdue Club members. These were not casual Purdue fans or desperate individuals giving up their tickets to feed their families. These seats belong to folks who've forked out lots of money over a significant amount of time. To put it in perspective, my wife and I are John Purdue Club members and have had season tickets eleven years. We've just now crept to the goal line for our seats.
It's unacceptable to let season tickets held by long-time donors and fans fall into the hands of the opposing team, especially if my theory holds up that many older (read: richer) fans decided to forgo the game because of its "late" 8:00pm kickoff. Were they afraid they'd miss Matlock?
Purdue coach Joe Tiller even noted that, "The thing that concerns you some is when you see so much of the opposing team's school colors in what's considered premium seating."
Of course the situation isn't that simple.
The instant counterargument goes a little something like this: They're my tickets. I bought them. I can sell them if I damn well please.
That's true for most things like shoes, cars, and maybe a Fender Telecaster. But buying a pair of shoes does not bring along the inherent obligation to cheer for Nike. You wear them till you blow out the soles and get a new pair. It's a simple utilitarian purchase. On the contrary, no one accidentally joins the John Purdue Club, gives thousands of dollars to the Purdue athletic department, and purchases tickets just to have something to do on Saturdays. Your purchase, by definition, is to support the program. Selling tickets willy-nilly just because you can, especially to the opposing team, greatly undermines that support our team depends upon.
Another counterargument: I got a deal I couldn't pass up.
You know who probably needs a little scratch to make it to their next paycheck: students. And they didn't sell out. The student section was almost 100% decked in Boiler black. (In fairness there was a very small smattering of OSU fans in the student section, but not to the nauseating degree of the rest of the crowd.) If you needed the money, why spend the hundreds of dollars in the first place?
The best counterargument: I did what the university wanted. I couldn't make the game and sold my tickets on the "official secondary ticket provider" Stubhub.
This one hurts the most. How many folks couldn't make the game? I know, I know, that Ben Matlock is one cagey old coot. Again though, this is where the university is cutting off its nose to spite its face. They encourage fans to use Stubhub (read: make money from) to get tickets then are aghast when those same tickets are delivered by FedEx to an Ohio address. Still, the onus is on the fans to guarantee giving the support the team deserves. That means keeping OSU fans off of our sidelines in OUR STADIUM!
In steps the New England Patriots.
The Patriots just won a legal battle to gain the names of 13,000 (not a small number) of ticket holders who sold their seats on Stubhub. If they determine that these individuals were season ticket holders, they just might lose their season ticket privileges.
Of course, the relationship between the Patriots and Stubhub is not akin to Purdue's, and Massachusetts state laws do tend to differ, but the spirit of the Patriots' action is admirable. It's our stadium, it's our team, and damn it when you buy tickets you're agreeing to support us. When you sell the tickets, that agreement goes up in flames and puts some ornery Redskins fan within spitting distance of Bob Kraft's uppity french cuffs.
On the college level - and with a team that tends to sell out despite not having season tickets - Notre Dame takes a very active approach to police the secondary sale of tickets, even using undercover agents (I'm not kidding, I know this for a fact) to scout out scalpers on campus for the games. They too threaten to revoke ticket rights if they find people profiting off of their tickets.
Where's the answer? I think teams have every right to hold their fans to being fans. That doesn't mean you can't voice your displeasure with a sucky performance - like Purdue phoned in against OSU. Instead, if you're tired of things don't come, or better yet, don't buy tickets next year. And if your tickets and your support are such a burden, get the f*ck out. No one will miss you or your money. Most of us are tired of hearing you bitch anyway. But for Purdue Pete's sake, stop giving quarter to the enemy.
Next, Purdue and the Big Ten need to get out of this deal with Stubhub and start making the 15% commission themselves. And if fans have a legitmate reason for not making a game - say, a Matlock-a-thon! - the university needs to establish opportunities to put the tickets into the hands of Purdue fans and not an open marketplace. Do something incredibly draconian like selling only to certain zip codes, I don't care. Students would be the obvious first choice, but since most of them already have tickets and actually show up and cheer, maybe the greater community of Lafayette and West Lafayette could step in. Aren't there some orphans who'd like to watch a football game? Establish a not for profit where fans could donate tickets for a tax write off and the tickets get passed along to schools or community organizations.
In the end, millions of dollars - some of them my own - have been invested into this program and that should preclude surrendering our stadium over to another team's fans. Being a fan allows cheering when they're up and bitching when they're down, but never sabotage or treason.