EVER LISTEN to the comments in a crowd? This particular crowd said things like "Wait! I need my arm!" and "I can't breathe!" "Ouch" and "cut it out" were popular as well, but my favorite was "I hate every person at this #$!&ing University who didn't camp out and is in front of me right now!"
It was game day, and it was not a pretty scene. After eight days of camping for some, fewer nights in the cold for others, standing outside in the rain for five hours for almost everyone and the biggest food fight I've ever seen, the wait was over and the push - and the frustration - began. Hundreds of students crammed onto the University Hall ramp hoping to get the best seats for the UNC game whether or not they had waited in line and no matter who they had to crush. I don't know who the idiot in the back was who started the pushing, but he or she was not the main problem. The problem was the sad attempt at organization and its failure to follow through at the end.
A list was the original plan. Everyone signed up on a team with as many as 12 members. The 12 rule was the first to be broken. Then there were periodic roll calls - if at least one member of your team didn't say here, forget saving your place in line.
These became less and less frequent until the ultimate failure made the system lose all credibility - the supposed 6:30 a.m. call. Everyone in each team was supposed to be on the spot at 6:30 game day for roll call.
It was 6:30, U-Hall was buzzing, but no roll call. It was 8:00, all tents were down, everyone was in an orderly line, but no roll call. By 9:00, people were getting nervous and slowly inching forward to grab whatever spot they could.
Later on that morning, some students made a feeble attempt to follow the original plan - they came through asking everyone to go to the left if they were even or right if they were odd. Then a few guys walked through shouting out numbers and pointing. It worked to an extent - some students were honest and listened at first, but other serious discrepancies went unaddressed.
Some groups who held a position in the 80s were mixed in with some in the low 60s - a difference of several nights spent in the cold. Some 90s were mixed in up at the 40s - a difference of at least one night spent in the snow. As soon as the mob noticed that no enforcement system at all would be in place, the carefully-ordered list went out the window.
Students who showed up two hours before the doors opened crept up the sides and squeezed through the sorry excuses for barriers. Anyone who could suck in their breath enough to fit in a small space did it, often edging out kids who had spent time and body heat waiting for their legitimate chance to get in the door. The result was a mass of people pushing and shoving and squeezing and slithering in a giant river toward U-Hall's doors. We're lucky no one was seriously hurt.
Three hours later, Coach Pete Gillen and several of our beloved Hoos were thanking those who had camped and crediting them with the victory. "We saw all you people camping out - we couldn't lose this game!" they said. Everyone learned the power of crowd support. Unfortunately, students also learned that it doesn't pay to camp out - there's no guarantee that place in line will be secure.
Better to avoid the cold and snow and rain and just show up late and cut in line. True, diehard fans camp out simply to support the team, and kudos to them, but the numbers will be severely cut if from now on games are literally painful to get into.
Leaving the athletic department and any role they could have played in crowd control aside, students could have and should have controlled themselves. In a University with such a long history of student self-governance, someone, like a student council member, athletic department member or someone from event staff, should have been able to come up with a better system for organization.
One proposed idea was a Hooville Town Council - asking one member from every group to gather to come up with a plan. When asked or told, students for the most part would have respected the rules if someone with some credibility had attempted to enforce them. We want our Wahoos to be as good as they can be, but we also need some guarantee that our efforts to support the team won't go to waste or literally be crushed at game time.
The "me first," "everyone else is doing it" crowd mentality is not only unfair to those who put in the time, it's dangerous. For the one more home game this year and the ones to come next season, fans beware, be aware, and be safe.
(Emily Harding's column appears Wednesdays in The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)