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To leave or not to leave?

I have a confession to make.

I left the Blue-White game at halftime.

Actually, that's slightly misleading. I technically left 1:32 into the second half, but that was because the women's basketball team was blocking my exit.

A lot of people would argue that die-hard fans should never leave a game early, but I just couldn't take it anymore. There's more on-court drama at an IM dodgeball game, and I was getting bored of watching Brian Zoubek try to foul out of a scrimmage. I felt as if my premature departure was justified.

The next day, I faced another conundrum. My beloved Redskins were being throttled by the New England Patriots. And by throttled, I mean down 52-0 in the fourth quarter. Things were so bad that Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel had more touchdown catches in the game (1) than the entire Redskins' receiving corps (0).

But I wasn't watching. Again, I couldn't take it. I didn't even make it to halftime for this one.

I had that gut feeling you get when you know the game is over, that your team is finished and your time would be better served doing something else. But some of my friends made me feel as if I had committed a terrible crime against my team.

"How dare you abandon your team at halftime. What if they had come back? Where is your honor?"

Which raises the question: is it acceptable to turn off a sporting event you have a rooting interest in before halftime?

There are obviously games that you can never stop watching under any circumstance because there is some type of external quality that makes them "events." These include opening day, rivalries, contests with postseason implications and playoff/tournament games. These types of events represent what sports are about and can be enjoyed regardless of the final outcome. If you win you can celebrate, and if you lose you can commiserate with your buddies.

Once the contest has begun, you should never stop watching a game that your team is winning or in which the score is close. If your team is trailing by a somewhat sizable margin but manages to swing some momentum its way before intermission, you should stick through the break. If your team is playing well but is getting shafted by bad luck or officiating, then it's probably wise to stay with them as well.

I am mainly concerned with the moments in between, when your normally competitive team just doesn't have it. In every sport there is that magic number of points that you know will be an exceptionally tall order for your team to rally from: eight runs in baseball, 20 points in basketball, 24 points in football. It's times like these that I feel it's alright for fans to contemplate checking out without losing the privilege to wear the team colors.

The exception to these rules, of course, is Duke football-perhaps the only organization in contemporary athletics where a team's fans find it acceptable to bail on a game before it starts. Even a long morning of competitive drinking can't convince people to go. Most leave the vicinity of Wallace Wade Stadium before the a capella group-of-the-week takes the field to butcher the Star-Spangled Banner (FYI, it's "home of the brave", not "HMMM of the brave").

Compared to most students-my so-called die-hard sports fan friends included-I am reasonably patient. I make a point of waiting until Duke is down by three possessions before deciding if I should head to the fried Snickers stand or to the exit. If I'm feeling generous, I stay for the next offensive possession to see if the Blue Devils can get something going. I feel this is a fair compromise and usually involves less than 40 minutes of my time.

Look, I know I sound like a fair-weather fan, but I have a hunch most fans out there are people like me. And I don't see myself leaving any men's basketball games early this year...unless Duke is up 50 on Shaw University at halftime.


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