Four ways to perfect Engelmann

Though there is definitely the possibility that the Milwaukee Panthers could be playing on Engelmann Field as early as September 26th, it is likely that the first true home match for the Black and Gold will be October 8th, when the women’s team takes on Valparaiso in a conference battle.

So what does that mean?  Well, the bad news is we have almost four weeks before the first game on the new FieldTurf, at least.  The good news?  We have three-and-a-half weeks to make sure that the FieldTurf isn’t the only thing that’s new.  With a lack of football, I’ve devised five ways the Milwaukee Panthers can make these association football games feel like American football games, which the American public embraces far more.  I should note that I am not including any physical improvements unless they can be done extremely cheap and before September 26th.  Without further ado, my ideas:

IU's Crabb Band performs during the game

March in the Pep Band. All right, maybe they don’t have to march, but the fact of the matter is that the easiest differentiation a fan can make between pro sports and collegiate sports is the atmosphere and ambiance at college events.  So why not embrace this difference?  Currently, soccer games at Engelmann are accompanied by music on a CD picked out by the players on the team (I think we may have moved past the CD’s by now, who knows).  Why not replace that sound with something that screams “college” like a pep band?  There are several reasons this works.

Scott Corley has a marching background. The director of the Panther Band played a big part in the marching bands at South Carolina during his undergrad and Georgia for his masters.  He has the passion for college athletics and this would be a great opportunity for him to work out other ideas.

Big pep band sound fills up dead space. Listen, I’ve got nothing against that random song from the Boondock Saints, but let’s get serious – no one is getting in on it.  People aren’t going to be psyched to here a violin and some tap dancing.  They are gonna like the fight song, and they’re going to like music they can sing along to, a lot of which the band plays.  You want people to enjoy their time there, and the time when the pep band would play full sets (before games and halftime) is filled with random music the players like.  Hell, they’re not even out there most of halftime!

– They can play during the game! Imagine my surprise a couple years ago as I turned on the Big Ten Network to find Indiana playing soccer against Akron.  Great game, but guess what was going on during the game?  Members of IU’s Marching Hundred have formed the Crabb Band, a special section of the marching band that plays at soccer matches.  During the games, when scoreless doldrums drive away some ADD-ridden student fans, the Panther Band can drop some sing-along music and get the party hoppin’ again.

– There’s a spot for them already. In the end zone, Klotsche Krazies take up one full bleacher next to the concession stand.  The other usually remains empty, except for a few scattered fans at the occasional game.  If you drop them there, you get an excellent sound for fans (buildings are closer) and a perfect set-up for the “Great Taste-Less Filling” chant between band and students.

There are negatives, of course.  Well, there’s one: paying them.  Pep band members make $30 per basketball game during the season.  However, being friends with more than one of them gives me the great pleasure in telling you that they would love to play if they were paid, even if it’s less than basketball games.

Say you pay each player $20 and the director $40, you’re spending about $440 per game.  Is that cheap? No.  Is it necessary for a dynamic and inviting college soccer atmosphere?  Absolutely.  Of course, you can cut that in half by having a ten-piece band at soccer games and spend a couple hundred.  I’m sure that IU’s Crabb Band, which has 20 members, needs that many because their sound goes into empty space.  The Panther Band has the walls of Engelmann and Chemistry.

Imagine this in black and gold, all over the lot.

This is Milwaukee, Wisconsin – let’s tailgate.  Did you know that visiting baseball fans are dumbfounded by our commitment to tailgating at Milwaukee Brewers games?  It’s our birthright; our German heritage brings out the beer and sausages more than any other place.  The fact of the matter is no other baseball team tailgates, and if they do it’s very little.  Brewer tailgates are the reason many college students show up at games.  Why not take advantage of that with soccer?  The lack of a college football team leaves a gaping hole where the college student would like to tailgate, or at least enjoy a pre-game party.  There is enough parking in the Cunningham lot and along the streets, why not shut down the architecture parking lot to anybody other than tailgaters?  Turning the Arch lot into tailgate central not only improves the atmosphere, but brings in some cash; charge $5 to get into the tailgate lot, beginning with cars that leave the lot at 3:30 on gamedays.

Look, I get the stigma around tailgating.  We have a drinking problem, blah blah blah.  This is college, it comes with the territory.  Really, though, since the party is taking place on the parking lot, UWM cops have a pretty small space to walk around and check ID’s if they like.

Right now, men’s soccer matches usually have a group of alumni and parents that tailgate, especially at weekend games.  My friends and I usually tailgate 2-3 times per year, but if there’s a tailgate going on at every game?  We’re in!  People want to be a part of something, and if there’s a real tailgate going on at Milwaukee Panthers soccer matches, then people will want to bring their own tailgate.  Then it snowballs, the west Cunningham lot becomes a tailgate party too, and all of a sudden we’ve got hundreds of people tailgating for Milwaukee Panther soccer.

March to the Match. Fans of the Seattle Sounders will know this one well; every soccer match, they meet by the hundreds at some bar, restaurant or landmark around the stadium.  Timing the march, they begin marching to the stadium the second warm-ups begin, walking in as a steady stream and yelling loud.  This could be the perfect way to get students involved in Panther soccer.  Get the usual group of Klotsche Krazies cheering and being generally boorish inside the atrium of Sandburg dorms, then begin the short one-block march to Engelmann.

I guarantee you’ll get hundreds of people at least aware that there’s a match going on, and that may bring a few of them to the game.  A couple years ago, we marched back from a home victory and pulled this cheering in the atrium afterwards.  It was great, and people were into it, but it was at the end; once it was over, it was over.

Seattle fans marching

Tifo and Noisemakers for students. The vuvuzelas are overrated, overused and I’m not a big fan of them.  It was funny today when one lone MSU idiot brought one, piped on it for ten seconds and realized he was the lone asshole, so he shut it down.  That is, however, one of the only noisemakers I’d be against.

Contrary to popular belief, noisemakers are not illegal for NCAA soccer fans.  Not drums, not horns, nothing.  So let’s get the best: drums.  It wasn’t too long ago when UIC was up here, drowning our cheers out because they had drums.  They don’t even have to be good ones, just drums our students can bang on and give the stadium some much-needed percussion.

The audio is taken care of, then.  But what about the visual?  Apart from clothing ourselves in black and gold, we don’t really do anything.  Why not get into some tifo? We can use many cheap things, like cheap tablecloth sheets sewn together to make black and gold banners to cover the bleachers.  Anything to improve the atmosphere, right?

Let’s get real: without football, students lose interest in athletics by the time basketball rolls around, which is a major hindrance to basketball attendance and, in turn, school spirit.  If the university isn’t interested in bringing football to campus, it needs to create the atmosphere around soccer that you see at universities like Portland and UC Santa Barbara.  Is it any coincidence that those schools don’t have football, and lead attendance at women’s and men’s soccer (respectively)?  Of course not.

Let’s capitalize.  We’ve got a big school, a great soccer tradition, a fantastic home facility right on campus, and a fiery head coach who wants nothing but the best.  Chris Whalley takes care of what’s on the field, let’s take care of what’s off it.

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