Fan authenticity is a common sore point within fan bases.
The divide between the Sidewalk Alumni and actual alumni does exist even though in the end they are on the same side much of the time. Sidewalk alumni are often times just as passionate about UGA Athletics as actual alumni, but there should be an adherence to protocol that applies to both. When donning the Red and Black and sporting the Power “G”, it makes an individual a representative of the institution regardless of affiliation. It is different from a generic sports fan wearing a Baltimore Orioles, Dallas Cowboys or Montreal Canadiens jersey because these professional sports are for the masses and are professional sports franchises, after all nobody has a degree from “Dallas Cowboys University”.
Just the way an alumnus that commits a crime (Jared Fogle, an Indiana University alumnus, is now basically disowned by his own) or has a bad professional reputation, a fan that is unaffiliated with the University of Georgia by acting uncouth or embarrassing themselves can make the institution look bad. Students that do not show proper spirit or commit crimes that make the Crime Watch section of the Red & Black have that same reputational impact.
Alma mater in Latin means “Nourishing Mother”, the differentiation between the Sidewalk alumnus and the student or alum is that connection to the nourishment and reverence for the University like it was a family member that played a care-giving role during a formative time in a young individual’s life. The Sidewalk alumnus gave their money to the athletic program in some form and thus have the right to be called a “fan”. The ties are specified and the loyalties to the academic institution are tepid at best for the Sidewalk alum. There was no right of passage nor daily cultural indoctrination, just a few trips to Athens every year along with sports-related memories and transactions. The Sidewalk Alumnus can disavow at any time, but the alumnus and student cannot do so, for it is always a part of their history. The Sidewalk alumnus is valued for their financial support and passion, but is entrusted as a friend of the University not to embarrass it, wish it harm nor cause harm to her reputation. It is fandom with more responsibility than being a fan of a professional sports team.
Alumni should not be snobs with an elitist approach toward Sidewalk alumni, but should be quick to correct, inform and remind the Sidewalk Alumni that they are representatives too. It is hoped that Sidewalk Alumni may choose to further their education in the future at the University that they support and enter a different status as being more than just a patron of a sport.
There are some behaviors that do not reflect well and happen far too often. These behaviors may seem innocent and even at times fun, but they are embarrassing.
- It is a rather awful act to donate and root for a school that an individual never attended and completely neglect their own alma mater. A University of Georgia alumnus choosing to give $15,000 to Auburn University and go to every Auburn Football game and greet people with “War Eagle” sounds rather repulsive, doesn’t it? Since both institutions are rather large, it doesn’t seem to be excusable. However, there seems to be an exception that those that attended smaller schools seem to have. The shame is that the smaller school could have put the money to good use as well. They may have needed it far more! There is nothing wrong with being on the ground floor of helping a smaller school rise up the ranks in academics and athletics.
- Mocking another school’s academics is an absolutely wrong thing to do if one did not attend the school that is supposedly superior in the eyes of the fan. Sidewalk alumni of Georgia should not make jokes about the value of an Auburn University or University of Tennessee education while representing the UGA point of view. Making fun of another school for their educational value is not quite right anyway, many alumni put in a lot of effort into their degrees. Not all majors are equal and the education that one receives depends upon what the student turned alumnus makes of it. Not to sound awful, but an Art History major at UGA is not the same as an International Business major at the University of South Carolina or an Aerospace Engineering major at Auburn. Those that support other institutions other than their own also unwittingly denigrate the institutions they attended as well.
- The misrepresentation of one’s academic background is never a good idea. If an individual is a Georgia fan and did not attend UGA, it is a horrible idea to claim that one attended the University of Georgia especially in a professional or networking setting. When claims do not match the LinkedIn profile, it is just embarrassing. This is something that really does happen.
- Supporting only one sport does not grant an individual the status of X fan, it makes you a X [insert sport] fan. Support all the teams offered by the institution, this is College Sports after all. If one is going to root for Georgia in Football, then one stays consistent and supports Georgia in everything else actively and passively. The cafeteria fan mindset is for professional sports. After all, professional sports are just the act of rooting for laundry.
- Being proud of not supporting a particular sport at an institution or diminishing the efforts of student-athletes that do not participate in the sport one cares about is shameful and common. This has to stop. Pride of ignorance is sad.
- The most disgraceful act is the gleeful reaction to the mistakes of 17-23 year olds. Alumni and Sidewalk alumni are both guilty here. It is one thing to react with embarrassment, wonder what could have happened that led to the mistake or be angered over the most sickening of allegations. It is another thing to make it a punchline, immediately assume guilt and speak ill of the academic institution as if the school fosters such behavior. It may seem like fun with friends, but when it is your child busted for public intoxication and urination or gets into a bar fight or sends a threatening text to someone, it is far less funny. They are still 17-23 year olds, let us not lose sight of this fact. Almost every academic institution has arrests due to youthful mistakes and transgressions.
Alumni, Students and Sidewalk Alumni: Let us all be better representatives of our institutions in the 2015-16 school year and beyond regardless of our affiliation and institution we support.