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Commentary: Football 101 — The full Tribe effect

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November 10, 2015

12:26 AM

Oh Tribe, how you vex me. As a community and body politic I love your energy, your passion, and love for this establishment.

But for the love of all things green and gold, you have got to understand the realities of football, and in particular what it means to be the home crowd.

Much of football hinges on where the game is played. When playing at home, the advantage is supposedly in the home team’s favor. This is because of crowd noise. Much of football is simply about a team’s mastery of communication: getting the correct intricate play-calls and alignments from the coaches on the sidelines, lining up perfectly and in sync, and getting the play started. Without perfection and extreme focus in the pre-play stages, any play could be a disaster waiting to happen.

Much of football is simply about a team’s mastery of communication: getting the correct intricate play-calls and alignments from the coaches on the sidelines, lining up perfectly and in sync, and getting the play started. Without perfection and extreme focus in the pre-play stages, any play could be a disaster waiting to happen.

This is why you should make noise when the other team has the ball, and not when we have the ball. Especially don’t do this when we are trying to score or are in the red zone, and never, ever, ever when we attempt a field goal. It is usually hard enough for us to generate any noise at all, but it is detrimental and flat out embarrassing when the Tribe spirit magically manifests itself at the wrong times.

This is why we have cheerleaders, and a dance team, and sophomore defensive tackle Isaiah Stephens on the scoreboard screen yelling, “Let’s make some noise.” Noise itself is not enough — it’s the timing and the impact. Because that noise is critical, it can absolutely dictate a game.

In some cases, the crowd and fan base of a team make enough noise that they are referred to as an extra participant in the game. This fan participation is taken to an extreme in venues like the Seattle Seahawks’ CenturyLink Field, where the crowd has grown into a legitimate participant referred to as the “12th Man.” Their spirit is known to damage hearing and break man-made noise records. Zable Stadium, despite having games played in it since 1935, remains naive and adolescent in comparison.

It’s not for a lack of capacity, or intelligence. The flaw is a lack of conviction. Too many times have I heard, “If only our team was good” or, “I don’t care about football.”

But our team is good. Our spirit, if we cared, could make it great.

The final moments of the James Madison game on Oct. 31 proved it is possible.

With the game on the line, for the first time in all four years of my undergraduate career at the College, the Tribe spirit became a force to be reckoned with.

William and Mary was up 44-41 in a tight game against its ranked rival, and with less than a minute left, the Dukes were about to start a final drive from their 35-yard line. With the game on the line, for the first time in all four years of my undergraduate career at the College, the Tribe spirit became a force to be reckoned with. When the Dukes came up to the line of scrimmage for their first down, the crowd made more noise than I have ever heard in Zable Stadium. So much noise that it drew an offside penalty from a James Madison player, turning a 1st and 10 into a 1st and 15.

Then, realizing the implications, our crowd miraculously turned it up another level. The noise level was amazing, and even some of our own players on the field looked shocked. This time, when the Dukes came up to the line of scrimmage, the noise really took its toll. Confusion reigned as the James Madison quarterback, back in shotgun and trying to make calls and adjust the play according to the Tribe’s defensive alignment, could not be heard by his own teammates. In football, this is a recipe for disaster, and the Tribe spirit provided an unforgettable one in this moment.

The Dukes cracked under the pressure and the noise. The ball was snapped early. It flew over the unaware quarterback’s head, and skidded down the field until it was recovered by redshirt junior defensive end Peyton Gryder. Those last two plays had sealed the win.

The Tribe spirit had manifested itself, for a brief moment, and literally willed victory into reality.

As the Tribe went wild, both on the field and in the stands, I could not help but think of how glorious of a moment it was. Epic. Energized. Perfect.

As the Tribe went wild, both on the field and in the stands, I could not help but think of how glorious of a moment it was. Epic. Energized. Perfect.

We need more where that came from.
The Tribe returns this Saturday at 1:30 p.m. for its final home appearance of the regular season with a senior day matchup against Towson.

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About Author

  • Dominic Burkett

Dominic Burkett '16 is a government and history double major from Chesapeake, VA.

  • Sandy Fagan

    Bring it Tribe Family! Look who’s on the field…. they’re just like you…. like us. #onetribeonefamily

  • RichmondVaCane

    The geek factor at W&M sometimes is a real problem. It lacks vitality. Come on geeks, let your hair down, stand up, and, as Aristotle would say, make some f–king noise!