What defines a true-blue, dyed-in-the-wool fan?
By Charlie Barnes, Executive Director - Seminole Boosters
What is the true measure of the Seminole heart?
What would you think of me if I told you that a particular fellow couldn't be a good Seminole because he didn't have much money? What would you think if I said no one could be a true, loyal Seminole fan who didn't make large contributions to the Boosters every year?
What if you were told that someone who had been out of college for 30 or 40 years was by definition less enthusiastic and less vigorous a Seminole fan than someone who graduated in, say, the 1990s?
While you are digesting all of the above, consider your reaction to the statement that when hard times come for FSU athletics - especially football - it will be the small contributors who bail out quickest, and that the large donors will stay the course, win or lose.
My guess is your first reaction to all this would be indignant if not downright hostile.
"What absolute rot," says you, "to even suggest that your heart's loyalty as a Seminole is necessarily tied to your financial statement, or to your age!"
You are quite right, of course. But more than I care to hear it I am told just those things. The difference is that they are stated in reverse. The logic of the speakers is just as wrongheaded and unreasonable, but the truth doesn't dilute their passion.
I've received finger-waggling lectures to the effect that Florida State was the "poor folks' team" 40 or 50 years back, and we'd better not forget our roots, or it will be bad for us.
I've been warned with a sanctimonious, "you'll see" sneer that when hard times come 'round again, the fat cat donors will be the first to go over the side.
Well...what rot indeed, as you have already said. I was there for the 0-11, 1973 season. I was in the stands for every home game that year and at the end of the season journeyed south to attend the 49-0 bludgeoning we took at Florida's hands in Gainesville.
I believe that my friends and fellow 'Noles felt exactly as I did: we hated it. We hated every minute of that dreadful season. Losing is bad; there is no virtue in it.
We didn't hate the team; it wasn't their fault.
But losing didn't make my friends and me more loyal; neither did it lessen our feelings. We are what we are. If you are Seminole, then that's what you are bound to be. Maybe that's why the success of our program means so much to many of us; there's nowhere else we can go.
Looking back on that circle of friends so many years ago, it can be noted that some are very large contributors today, and some give what little their limited means allow, but each and every one is a heart's loyal Seminole, no one more or less than the other.
The Golden Chiefs, our $5,000-per-year donor class, was founded in 1976. Except for those no longer living or whose business no longer exists, every one of those founding members is still a Golden Chief 22 years later.
It is a fact that our roster of donors with the highest turnover is the list of those who give at the two or three lowest levels. Does that mean that they are not loyal, or not as loyal as the Golden Chiefs? No, not at all. It probably means that they give what they can, when they are able.
Loyalty isn't measured by how little is given, or how much. I know plenty who would give more if they had it. I know some who have it and are glad to give it; I know some who give a little now, and will be happy to give more later, as their careers advance. We all do the Seminole War Chant together on game day.
The Seminole Booster organization has engaged several studies and surveys in the last year, and the results have been interesting. I'll write another column soon to tell you about the responses to a contributor mail survey we ran last fall, but right now I want to tell you about two findings by the consulting firm of Marts & Lundy, out of New York.
Both these findings illustrate the unique nature of Seminoles who give to support the Athletic Program. The first of Marts & Lundy's discoveries is something we already knew. Seminole Boosters Inc. has many donors, as many or more than any other college program. Most everywhere else, the Boosters are those people who own season tickets to the primary sport, football or basketball.
What makes Florida State different is that we have more than 1,000 donors in south Florida who don't have season tickets and who are not likely to be able to attend even one game on campus. They give just because they want to help give our teams what they need to win.
If you are already inclined to think well of fellow 'Noles, then Marts & Lundy's second finding is likely to increase your affections. The firm conducted a rather elaborate, electronic screening process designed to compile information about the financial profiles and lifestyle indicators of more than 18,000 contributors to Seminole Boosters.
The firm reported Florida State to be different from almost any other university when giving levels are compared to financial indicators of the ability to give. The contributions of many Seminole Boosters, it seems, are considerably higher on average than particular economic indicators would predict. "A whole lot of your people stretch to give what they do," was the less formal assessment.
What is a true measure of the Seminole heart? It is to cheer those who can and do give a great deal.
It is to express sincere appreciation for those who give to the extent of their means, even if it is only a little. It is the old Seminoles welcoming the young Seminoles into our camp, with the affection and tolerance inherent in the understanding that all of us have been their age and none of them have ever been ours.
It is to not listen too closely to the yammering of those who demand as much as they can get for themselves while giving as little as possible.
"Where we love is home," wrote Oliver Wendell Holmes.
"Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts."
A true measure of the Seminole heart is that it is always here.