What do you know about Western Michigan? Probably not as much as you do about Northwestern's week six opponent, Ohio State, or even last week's opponent, Syracuse. Tempted as you may be to ignore WMU in the week leading up to Northwestern's game against it Saturday, you really should reconsider: they're an interesting lot, the Broncos.
Last week, new coach P.J. Fleck made headlines by introducing new “gameday traditions” – the paradoxical nature of which less funny than confusing – to be carried out at Broncos home games. He hinted at implementing new ideas to spice up WMU’s home atmosphere in the spring, and released details last week in the video below.
If you couldn’t make it through the entire clip, here’s a brief synopsis: the PA announcer is going to blare horns and songs prompting celebrations during various stoppages in game play. The initiative and creativity Fleck took was fun and cute and admirable, and you really couldn’t blame him for trying to create buzz around a program backsliding after a disappointing 4-8 season.
One week later, after the Broncos fell to FCS foe Nicholls State (victim of Oregon's school-record 772 yards of total offense week 1) at home Saturday, fans are already beginning to question whether Fleck is more flash than substance. From MLive.com’s David Drew:
Just days after coach P.J. Fleck unveiled a video describing new game day traditions, his Broncos looked flat against an FCS opponent and fell to 0-2 on the season.
Fans and readers really opened up about the loss in a post where beat writer David Drew shared his grades for Saturday's performance and fans could vote in polls about the team's performance.
I won’t link to the comments here, but Broncos fans really do seem genuinely irate – to the point the new “traditions” already feel like a series of tone-deaf jokes, a context-agnostic complement to a lousy on-field product. Playing songs over the loudspeaker to break intermittent gameday silences and entertain the crowd sounds like something any fan base would be interested in (though probably better reserved for NBA arenas)….if their team is winning games, or at least performing to an acceptable standard, and showing the improvement they expected when the team fired its head coach last season hoping to turn a new page.
Bringing in Fleck was supposed to be a positive move for the Broncos; on Saturday, Western Michigan looked far less competent than it did at any point last season under Bill Cubit, the man largely responsible for Illinois’ miraculous offensive resurrection. No matter how jovial the gameday audio is meant to be, or how well-timed the PA announcer’s sound drop and ballad dispatches, if the home team doesn't hold up its end of the bargain, fans aren’t going to enjoy themselves.
The only sounds Broncos fans will have to deal with Saturday are Northwestern-dedicated ones – like the famous “Go U Northwestern” fight song and the only slightly demeaning “Put Your Hands Up In the Air” tradition at the end of the third quarter. Compared to a “Row the Boat-themed song,” that’s a musical swap fans of all stripes would welcome. The game itself, wherein Northwestern is expected to roll the Broncos, could be just as discouraging as last week’s.