Turf on their shoes, mud in their eyes

I only wish that my cell phone hadn’t died and I wasn’t stuck doing an interview for a class story out in Bradenton because out of all the calls I receive each day, this was one I really wish I had received.

However, the miracle is that my voicemail still worked, so I feel not only obligated to put this news out into the air, but also sad, happy and a little pissed off. One can wonder how all these emotions can stir inside one person at one single moment, but the answer isn’t as complicated as it may seem.

The following is the exact voice message I received from a representative at Raymond James Stadium, where the USF football team plays its home games, in regard to the two occasions fans ran onto the field this season — a double overtime victory against Louisville on Oct. 4 and a double overtime victory against Cincinnati on Oct. 31.

“Hi Adam, my name is Barbara Casey. I’m at Raymond James Stadium and my telephone number is 350-xxxx. I was told to give you a call so we can talk about the fact that students who come down on the field will face ejection or possible arrest should they try to be on the field for this game. I know in the past some of the students have gone down there with impunity, but that will no longer be the case. I thought I’d kind of give you an idea of what some of the students should expect this time. Thanks, Adam. Bye.”

Congratulations to the few idiots who ruined the on-field celebration for God knows how long. Not only are fans not allowed to run on the field when they SHOULD, they now face possible prosecution for doing so.

When I wrote about this after the Louisville game, I expressed not only my displeasure with the fans who did, but explained the points why I felt it shouldn’t have been done. Just to be fair, I even tossed in some quotes from players and Coach Jim Leavitt, who all said they didn’t see any problem with it one way or another. I was already going to write the column, but I figured since I asked the questions and the players disagreed, I should include their statements.

I started a little uproar among Bulls fans who claimed I was trying to hamper school spirit, I didn’t care about the team, and I didn’t do this and that. I listened to the criticism, to people telling me how clueless I was, and how it didn’t really matter that fans were running onto the field.

After the Cincinnati game I was ready to rip into the fans who stormed the field again, but I got sideswiped in the Big East hoopla that week. But I didn’t forget. And when I got this message, I knew it was time again.

People argued that Louisville was a good team, and that storming the field was warranted. Louisville was a good team, which made it difficult to get my point across. However, those who felt the same way about the Bearcats, please speak up. I’m waiting to hear how great a team they were and that beating them in double overtime was our biggest win of the season, just as some people argued after Louisville.

Let me throw this out in the air: Was I the only person in this school who expected USF to beat Louisville? Was I the only person in this school that thought USF shouldn’t have even gone through two overtimes with Cincinnati? Am I the only person who expects the football team to win?

I originally argued that beating TCU would warrant an on-field celebration. The Horned Frogs were ranked, and still are. They were undefeated, and still are, and it would have extended the home winning streak. I thought TCU was the toughest game on the schedule, even tougher than going to Alabama to start the season, a game I thought the Bulls should have won.

But the simple fact is that now it’s all pointless. Now fans have to wonder about going to jail if they try and run onto the field after a big win. And why? Because a few fans felt beating Cincinnati and Louisville were big enough wins to warrant rushing the field.

What makes it even worse is that the two times fans did it this year, it was downright pathetic. There were more cops and stadium personnel on the field than fans. Nobody even tried to take the goalposts down which, although probably illegal and almost certainly a headache for the Bucs, is precisely the point of storming the field. No, as a university, we had to settle for people slapping shoulder pads, trying to bump chests and looking like idiots just happy to be on the field.

Instead of rushing the field for a crappy celebration attempt, maybe we should have called Barbara at Raymond James and asked her if it was possible to accommodate all the buffoons who wanted to run onto the field. Maybe she could have set something up like the Devil Rays had on Sundays, where all the little kids could run the bases after the games. Hell, Leavitt once said fans running onto the field was good because it gave them a little exercise. Maybe coach can go out there with a stopwatch and find a diamond in the rough, because if you can run the 40-yard dash in less than five seconds under the influence of a couple of big-boy beers at Ray-Jay after a day of tailgating, he might be able to find an open roster spot for you.

But who cares now. Those who thought you were showing school spirit by running onto the field, take a deep breath. Be happy with the fact that you’ve been down there. Be happy that you told Brian Fisher he was great. Be happy that you touched the turf. Because while you couldn’t continue to show your precious school spirit from the stands, like you had done for the entire game, like you do when the Bulls play Charleston Southern and Nicholls State, that’s the only damn place you can from now on.

I only wish I could have spoken with Barbara yesterday. Maybe I could have bought the smarter fans one more chance at storming the field without any consequences, so at least they could have done it once the right way — when it was truly warranted.