With the WVU Board of Governors considering the sale of beer at football games, Kyle Wiggs and Hoppy Kercheval debate the advantages and disadvantages of alcohol at sporting events.
Kyle: Most people who have a few beers at an athletic event do it in a responsible manner. But I see a long line of negatives that follow alcohol use that far outweigh any positives. We’ve been told that an emphasis has been placed on trying to control the coarseness of behavior inside the stadium that is fueled by drinking in the parking lot. Wouldn’t the best way to do that be to eliminate the pass-out policy without selling beer inside the stadium?
Hoppy: Granted, Kyle, I’ve yet to find an instance where behavior improved after drinking. You have me there. However, having a couple of beers inside the stadium over the course of a game is a lot different than some of the intense alcohol consumption that goes on in the parking lots for hours before the game.
Kyle: There are plenty of negative influences in our culture today. Why can’t an alcohol free (at least inside the stadium) college sporting event try to be a positive one?
Hoppy: Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so. Big time college sports have become a multi-billion dollar business. More and more colleges are following the professional model of trying to keep fans entertained while drawing as much money out of them as possible.
Kyle: You bring up fans, Hop, so consider this: West Virginians and Mountaineer fans very much have the right to be hyper-sensitive about the bogus stereotype that fan behavior is worse at WVU than at most places. Anyone at any other venue knows that there are rude, obnoxious and drunken fans everywhere, but we also know that WVU takes an unfair dose of criticism. It seems curious to me that the University would do anything that would contribute to the perpetuation of that myth. Can you put a price tag on a school’s reputation? Say, $500,000?
Hoppy: It’s true that WVU battles the unsavory image of drunken fans blocking streets and setting fire to couches. Perhaps you’ve seen the tee-shirt “WVU: Where students learn and couches burn.” I cringe every time I see that. However, let’s not forget that fans want, no they expect, a big time football program. That takes money. Beer sales will bring in at least another $500,000 a year, probably a lot more.
Kyle: True, but my last and most important concern with the policy is significantly more personal. I have two children that attend a small Christian school in Morgantown, and for the past several seasons, the students, faculty and staff have operated a concession stand to raise funds for the school. They’ve been told by Sodexo officials that their stand is annually among the most productive and efficient of the 16 concession stands inside the stadium. But what happens to them if they refuse to sell beer? I realize this is another minnow about to be consumed by the whale that is now big time college sports, but the school funds its entire extra-curricular activity budget with the money it earns by working Mountaineer football games. If the beer policy is approved, then it all goes by the boards.
Hoppy: Geesh, you want me to argue against your kids getting money for their Christian school?
Kyle: Yes, because I have a moral objection to alcohol consumption in any form. I can’t say it any more clearly or change the way I feel. I also know and accept the ways of the world. The fact that alcohol is consumed at sporting events doesn’t keep me from going and taking members of my family because it’s what we like to do. This is just one step I hope the University thinks long and hard about before it becomes an enabler in allowing people to consume alcohol at sporting events.
Hoppy: Kyle, you’re a good and decent family man. A rock. But the horse is out of the barn on this one. The Board of Governors, I believe, will approve the new beer policy and WVU will join every other Big East football school (other than Rutgers, which is also considering selling beer) in offering paying adults a cold beer on a warm September afternoon.