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Four Ways to Take Advantage of the Cardboard Fan System

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Why just send in a picture of yourself when you could derail an entire program for years?

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports. Banner Society Illustration.

If you’re a baseball fan, you’ve already seen numerous examples of cardboard cutout fans taking the place of an in-person crowd. In some cases, these cutouts are dogs, and those cardboard dogs get hit by home runs.

College football’s still figuring out home attendance policies, but some schools are starting to roll out their own versions of the 2-D experience.

Rather than encouraging you to participate in these programs as the schools intend (Ask Me About How My Head And Torso Saw The Hokies Lose At Home To Miami By 26), we would like to suggest a more noble path: messing with the system for your own amusement. Here are four ways you can abuse these alternative attendance paths within their own rules (we think).

1. Send an unwilling friend

Say you have a pal who loves UVA. Won’t stop talking about the basketball championship, named their two cats Tiki and Ronde (Tiki’s the one constantly humping table legs), argues that Bronco Mendenhall’s actually the ACC’s best football coach when you consider what he started with, and so on.

Now you can send this friend to every game in Blacksburg game, dressed in Virginia Tech gear you’ve photoshopped onto them. Want them to have a script ROLLIN’ WITH MY HOKIES neck tattoo? Add it!

Hopefully, your quietly submitted cutout will make it onto a broadcast; but if not, Virginia Tech’s said they’ll announce how fans can claim their cardboard likeness after the season. So you’ll either get to reveal this prank while watching a game or give this friend a weathered, Hokie-fied version of themself for the holidays. Whenever the discovery happens, congratulate this friend* on becoming a Virginia Tech supporter from a distance, and then go sign them up for every Hokie mailing list you can.

*They will not remain your friend.

2. Make the Playoff Committee’s job even harder

They’ve already got to choose four teams using a model that wasn’t built for this extremely weird season, but the Playoff Committee will really be miserable once you start sending them to every single Texas game. Think of the furious outcry! Why is Georgia Tech’s AD watching the Longhorns instead of his own team? What did Iowa’s AD get from the Big 12 in exchange for a guaranteed playoff spot for Texas? And how did these Austin lowlifes turn beloved Aggie R.C. Slocum?

Sure, reasonable people will point out that a) these aren’t the literal Committee members and b) anyone could have sent these in. But the screaming Facebook accounts furious over this clear demonstration of Playoff bias won’t hear any of that.

3. Undermine a coach

Schools have already said they won’t let you send in a photo where you’re wearing a “FIRE COACH SO AND SO” shirt. You could try to spell out that message using hundreds of color-coordinated cutouts like the Great Rose Bowl Hoax of 1961, but that’s hard to pull off without guaranteed seating locations, and some TV producer will likely alert the school before your plan is revealed on air.

But you can sneak in a few cutouts of candidates you’d like to get the job. Is that Willie Fritz at this Virginia Tech game? Wait, is he sitting next to Bryan Harsin? And they’re both just in front of Josh Heupel? If you want to increase the odds of getting these cutouts on TV, settle on one less-recognizable coach and submit twenty or thirty different photos of them. Pat yourself on the back as the camera pans over a row of Lance Leipolds serenely taking in the action. You’ve just manipulated the rumor mill and maybe changed the course of Hokies history!

4. Stretch the definition of “pet”

Texas specifically says pet photos are welcome, but they do not specify what counts as a pet. So what if you and a few hundred friends fill an entire section of Darrell K Royal Stadium with glowering, oversized cardboard raccoons? That’s how you turn five home games (if they happen) for the Longhorns into a ruined season:

HOME GAME 1: Texas beats UTEP in the home opener, but only by five points. Several players remark that the rows of cardboard raccoons were a humorous distraction, but not one that will linger as the team focuses on conference play.

HOME GAME 2: Texas loses to TCU and drops to 2-1. A short fight breaks out in the third quarter, when the Horned Frogs root through garbage cans on their sideline after a score, and the school asks the Big 12 to penalize such celebrations going forward. (The conference quickly agrees.)

HOME GAME 3: After a big win over Oklahoma and a bye week, the Longhorns lose badly to Baylor in a sloppy, unfocused effort. In his postgame press conference, a rattled Tom Herman chuckles that “the raccoons got a lot bigger this week.” When questioned about the cutouts, puzzled Texas staffers insist they’ve been using the exact same ones all season, making any growth impossible.

HOME GAME 4: Before the game, reports emerge that several Texas players have complained to the athletic department about raccoon infestations in the Longhorn facilities, though a thorough review of security footage reveals no animal presence. West Virginia, penalized seven times for sideline trash rooting, beats Texas by thirty.

HOME GAME 5: At halftime, a shirtless Tom Herman announces he’s quitting as “Nocturnia, Queen Regnant of all Raccoondom, has a greater purpose in store for [him].” Iowa State has the go-ahead touchdown called back on a highly questionable holding penalty and Texas wins by two.