Too many fans don't practice what they preach.

Joseph N. Abraham MD, University of Louisiana Ragin' CajunsOver the years, I have spent some time on the Cajuns sports boards, reading the comments, posting some of my own. Politeness is often at a premium, and I have to admit, I'm as confrontational as any of them.

There are some things I have learned about the boards, however. First, virtual communities can become real communities. The group who tailgates at the Eauque™ (oak) by Bertrand started out as a group of squabblers from one of the early UL sports boards. We started getting together out of sheer frustration one season when the Cajuns were horrible, and it rained every home game besides. But the group has survived, and grown.

Another thing, a lot more people read the boards than post. Most of the boards will show you how many people are visiting at any time. You quickly figure out that there is a great mass of people who are spectators, not warriors. My take on that is, I figure if I fight a good fight, maybe more of them will root for "my" side, and pass on some of the issues I hope to foster at UL and in the community.

Supporting that suspicion, I've learned that the boards can change opinions, at least among the more open-minded visitors. Several of us constantly emphasize the central position of academics over athletics in the University, and that UL's rapidly rising academic reputation has too often been overlooked. We believe that we have had an impact, because more and more people join in on the academic discussions, and even take up the topic on other schools' boards.

And I have-- unfortunately-- learned that there is a small, but disproportionately loud group of people who believe that our University exists simply to give them bragging rights on Monday morning.

They would never admit that, of course. But it's easy to figure out when you look at the gap between what they say, and what they do.

You've come in contact with them. These are the people who spout off opinions that make it clear they think they're more knowledgeable about the game than the coaches and the players are. They think buying a ticket, and perhaps throwing a few dollars in the hat, gives them the right to run down our students, our programs, and our University.

John James Audubon, Brown Pelican, University of Louisiana, Ragin' CajunsRegular bunch of daisies, they are. And more to the point, they promote a double standard: on the one hand, they expect a high level of character from our teams; on the other, they expect very little of themselves.

For instance, they believe that our teams need to be tough, and to stand up to adversity. But then they run for the exits whenever the team begins struggling.

They insist that our players exhibit teamwork, be selfless, and look out for one another. And then they viciously turn on the program at the first loss.

They preach fervently that the players can't assume that wins will be given to them, they have to fight every minute, and struggle for every point. But then they act like the world owes them a victory each time we play.

They loudly declaim how critical it is for our coaches to instill in our players the right mental attitude, and that players should never blame others for their difficulties. But they whine and point fingers at every setback.

They demand that our athletes and coaches give everything they have, and "leave it all on the field," every time they play. But they won't make any sacrifices for the team or the University unless they get their bragging rights on Monday morning.

Where do people learn this stuff? Why do they think fans should behave in such two-faced ways?

I think it comes from this mistaken idea that the "big" sports programs must be attached to the "good" schools. Obviously, the big successful schools, and the fans at those schools, must know what they're doing. They must be doing it right.

And a lot of them fill stadiums-- larger than most cities-- with rude, hypocritical fans.

Is the assumption accurate? Are the big time schools, and their fans, doing it right?

Clearly, there is a correlation between budget size and sports success, simply because winning leads to political support and donations.

But that political and financial support precisely points up the problem. When politicians and supporters won't rally around a school until-- and unless-- it's winning, then exactly how much do those politicians and supporters understand about what's really important in a university? Fact is, the politicians and supporters who think that way, make a mockery of everything education stands for.

Worse. If those politicians and supporters are also alumni of the university, then they make a mockery of their own educations. They make it clear that they acquired very little of substance in their college careers.

In fact, if you think about it, they could serve as poster children for going to school somewhere else.

But your average man in the street sees the the big sports programs, with the rich donors, the powerful politicians, the huge crowds, the lavish budgets, the hoopla, and thinks, "That many people just can't be wrong."

Only problem is, everyone else in the stadium is thinking just the same thing: "This many people just can't be wrong."

That attitude, however, is exactly the problem. If everyone is making a decision based on what everyone else is doing, then exactly who is deciding what we're all doing?

Or to put it another way: If everyone thinks the same way, then who's thinking?

We can do better than that. We can be smarter than sheep. Lafayette and Acadiana comprise an amazing community. We do many things here better than anyone; we do a few things that others can't even figure out how to do. So let's build a strong athletics program, designed to build an even stronger University. Let's build a program that fosters character, and toughness, and teamwork, and effort.

And let's do it by starting with ourselves.