Here’s the deal: I’ve spent plenty of time and print space critiquing Texas A&M football this season. But the mark has come for the maroon and white’s fans in the stands to start taking accountability for the team’s performance on the field.
With last year’s COVID-19 protocols restricting attendance to 25 percent, the atmosphere of Kyle Field suffered. Then-Head Yell Leader Keller Cox’s yells failed to echo throughout the stadium, “whoops” were few and far between and the War Hymn was sung without intensity. So, when it was announced there would be no such occupancy limit for A&M’s 2021 campaign, Aggies across the nation — myself included — were ecstatic.
“Finally,” I thought. “The 12th Man can return to Kyle Field in full force, and we will bring back the hype associated with Fightin’ Texas Aggie game days.”
Instead, we saw the opposite. A fanbase which was once synonymous with respect and support had evolved — or rather devolved — into something almost unrecognizable.
In A&M’s season opener against Kent State, the maroon and white’s student section made headlines by yelling expletives at the game’s referees, then further worsened the issue by starting vulgar chants attacking the president of the United States. Head Yell Leader Memo Salinas issued a statement in a letter to the student body, urging the 12th Man to reevaluate its priorities before the next home game.
The student body was embarrassing, frustrating and outright unacceptable. The following game was just as bad.
Against New Mexico, Kyle Field began emptying before halftime even began. Listen, I get it. A 34-0 blowout isn’t entertaining to watch, but that shouldn’t matter. As Aggies, our commitment isn’t to supporting the football team when games are close or exciting. Our job is to support the team always. Point blank. Period. Had the Lobos taken advantage of the significantly less-hostile environment, who is to say they couldn’t have begun mounting a comeback?
And to top things off, there was the feathered “elephant” in the room. Even in their 26-22 loss to the Mississippi State Bulldogs, the Aggies held their own, threatening to steal a victory until the very last second. But what were the fans doing while the maroon and white fought tooth and nail to avoid an 0-2 start in Southeastern Conference play? Chanting for a bird that found its way onto the field. At one point, the student section interrupted a passback from the Yell Leaders, screaming and demanding for the Kyle Field camera crew to “Show! The! Bird!” on the Jimbotron. Neither its focus nor support was on the tightly contested game which saw six lead changes. Once the bird disappeared during halftime, the student section was noticeably quieter, and the energy never returned.
How the hell can someone possibly expect A&M’s football team to succeed if the 12th Man isn’t doing its part to support the program?
I came to A&M in the fall of 2019, which means I got to experience one “normal” A&M football season in its entirety before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Back then, I was proud to support the maroon and white — even if it was from the top row of the third deck while dehydrated and sunburnt. Now, I’m not so sure.
It’s no secret the Aggies have struggled on the field this season. It happens, and I’m at peace with that reality. But the student body shouldn’t and can’t compromise A&M’s Core Values. The 12th Man needs to remain Respectful, Excellent, Leading, Loyal, Integrous and Selflessly Serving at all sporting events.
This season, the fans in Kyle Field have been none of these things. It’s time for that to change — now.