Saturday afternoon was beautiful in Atlanta and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. The aroma of tailgating hit me as I passed by Georgia State fans on my right and Appalachian State fans on my left. I was immediately overwhelmed by the sight of family members in town for the Thanksgiving holiday proud to see their favorite student-athlete in action. Little did I know that there would be a surprise inside of the new Georgia State stadium just for me. We’ve covered Georgia State University’s football team since the program started back in 2010. I was just a fan back then, but I wrote on my blog about how excited I was to see Georgia State get a football program. I talked about the process and literally watched it all happen over a course of a few years here in Atlanta.
I got to the game later than I expected, but just in time for pregame warm ups. I went to the concession stand to grab something to eat before the game started because I knew that the press box wouldn’t have anything for me to eat. I love the falafel sandwich at Georgia State Stadium and think it’s a great option for vegetarians or vegans like me. While waiting on my sandwich (because I think I am the only person that orders it) I saw an older lady who looked familiar standing in line. I walked right up to her and asked her how she was doing. She replied that she was fine and then I asked what she was ordering. She informed me that she was ordering for a group of kids she brought to the game and instantly I put it all together. To my surprise this lady is a member of my church and she helps with our young people. So I asked a few fans if it was okay that I pull her up in front of the line and they all said it was okay. Here she is ordering about 4 hot dogs, a few sandwiches all with fries and drinks and I don’t know how she thought she would be able to carry all of that herself. Once I knew she was good I reported to the press box to get started with our game day coverage.
The first half of the game was pretty good until I could see how Georgia State was going to lose the game. Georgia State in the first quarter had more possession of the ball than Appalachian State and once Appalachian State scored I said to myself, “Well that’s a wrap!” At half time I went back to look for my church member who was sitting in section 217 with about 7-8 kids. These kids never sat down and were having the time of their lives. This was their first college football game and they could tell me who their favorite players were. After I chat with them I let my church member know I would move them closer and possibly get some of the players to greet the kids after the game.
— Dawn M Greene (@BreakofDMG) November 25, 2017
The second half of the game wasn’t pretty at all for the Panthers and the Mountaineers just let them have it. Appalachian State’s fan base traveled almost 5 hours for this game and you could tell they enjoyed their experience in this new stadium. Comments made by fans about how awesome the field looked and how they were amazed that this baseball stadium is now the home of a local college football team. With about 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter I made my way down to the field and moved my church members closer towards the field. Once the kids got closer their smiles got even bigger. One of the kids asked me what did all of the camera men do and what was my job for the day. I sat with them long enough to explain a few sports industry jobs that they could see in action on the field and they all replied, “I could do that!” Two of the young men in the group kept saying, “I want to be a player. I want to be on the field.” It’s moments like this I am reminded why Georgia State needed a football program and why I do what I do in sports. I miss a lot of Sunday services because I am either out of town covering a game or I am exhausted from covering a game the day before. They got a chance to see me in my element and even my church member remembered that I worked in sports, but didn’t know exactly what I did.
My church Big Bethel A.M.E. has the “Jesus Saves” sign that you can see from the highway when you are traveling through downtown Atlanta. My church is a landmark that Georgia State students recognize when they walk to and from class. We are located near student housing and a few GSU academic buildings that are near Auburn Ave. The fact that young people from my church haven’t attended a college football game and were able to says a lot about what college football does for our communities. We know that for various reasons fans may not be able to attend games, but I saw 8 fans that enjoyed their experience and were rewarded for their attendance.
Appalachian State won the game, but Georgia State’s football team won new fans. A group of football players greeted me after the game & immediately ran over to where my church members were to greet the kids. One player, I have to find out who he is, gave up his gloves, headband, wristbands to the kids. A small gesture that made a huge impact. One of the boys that received his glove yelled, “I AM GOING TO BE A FOOTBALL PLAYER NOW. I HAVE A GLOVE TO DO IT!”
— Dawn M Greene (@BreakofDMG) November 25, 2017
I know that players greet fans all of the time and I’ve seen this all season long. This was different. These players motivated them to dream and actually work towards something that could give them a chance at gaining an education beyond high school. I can’t describe the feeling, but I will say that I will work towards making sure that fans have experiences like this every Saturday. This is how you WIN off the field and how you create a loyal fan base that will support you. You can’t tell a fan how to have their experience, but you can enhance it by doing things like this. I am grateful that we’ve been a part of the fan experience at Georgia State and we appreciate the fans that follow our game day coverage!
I want to end this by saying that your Georgia State Panthers are going “BOWLING” and we will keep you updated if Fans Favorite Fan will be able to share that experience! There’s still one more regular season football game next Saturday at Georgia State Stadium, but we want to say Thank YOU Panther family for another great season. It’s time for us to prepare for post season college football coverage!