Things today are quite a bit different than they were even just a few years ago. Not only with technology, but even the way we speak and carry on with our daily lives. Maybe I’m just a bit old fashioned, but in this age of “political correctness,” I think we can tend to get a little reserved and lose site of the big picture of things from time to time. With that said, for whatever reason, I have noticed a decline in the enthusiasm throughout the stands at the Oneida football games over the past several years. Sure, we make some racket in spurts for touchdowns, big plays and things alike but the predominate roar that used to emanate from the stands is not there like it once was years ago. 

I can recall in my early years as the PA announcer not being able to even hear myself on the speakers because the fans were so loud, and that was when the speakers were still mounted on the side of the press box! Where has the passion gone? I’m not by any means questioning the support that all Oneida fans give. We are one of the most loyal and supportive fan bases you will find anywhere around. Many times in traveling to support the Indians in away games, we will have more of a fan base there than the home team, even at larger schools than Oneida. Also, we all know it is not cheap to go to a game. With all the cuts that have to be covered from the gate now days driving ticket prices up, we still can fill the stands. Not an easy task especially if you have a large family to bring. We have a tradition across the area to be very proud of. A reporter from one of the Knoxville TV stations said this a few years ago on the air, “If you are a fan of high school football in East Tennessee, you owe it to yourself at least once to attend a game at Oneida High School.” What a huge complement!  Keep in mind, this guy would have covered events at virtually every school in East Tennessee. What an incredible statement to make about our school and our people. But once again the question is: Where has the passion gone? 

This really came to light last week when we hosted Upperman High School. Many times at key moments in the game, there just didn’t seem to be a lot of enthusiasm coming from the stands. The fans from Upperman sure didn’t hold back any. Sure, we had pockets of fans cheering and getting loud, but I could not help but notice from my perch above the crowd that when we had the ball at midfield with the opportunity to drive and take the lead with less than three minutes to play against a team that most people did not even give us a chance to compete with, a lot of us were just sitting quietly. I can tell you from my own experiences, when you have your fans getting loud and cheering you on, it really does make a difference. A huge difference! You will do things that you did not realize you could do as a player. 

Oneida fans, let’s get loud again! Let’s be honest: if you were at the game you know that Upperman fans were very loud and vocal. More than we were. They should be loud in supporting their team. However, this is our house! We should be the ones making the most noise. We need to make sure that other teams’ fans do not take away the homefield advantage we enjoy by making more noise than we do. I long for the days when players say you could actually feel the noise on the field from the stands. It fires up our kids, and intimidates the visitors. We do a fantastic job here in supporting our student-athletes in many ways. Let’s make sure we do it in the stands as well, not only with our presence but our voices.

Before the game, I was walking up to the Upperman head coach to get their starters.  He was standing out in front of the visitors’ field house looking back at our stands. Before I said anything to him at all, he had a look on his face of pure awe and said, “What a great facility to play a football game at!” A tremendous amount of work has gone into making this a great place to play a game of football. We need to do our part as fans to make sure that this is also a place that visiting teams feel intimidated to come play a football game at by being as loud as we can!

We have two more regular season home games this year. Both are huge region games. We are passionate about our Indians on the field; let’s let them know it from the stands and drown out the cheers from the visiting fans. 

This is our house! Go Indians!

Kevin Acres is Oneida High School’s long-time public address announcer for football and basketball games, and also does some PA work for Lincoln Memorial University.