University of Minnesota sociology professor Douglas Hartmann sees something else when he sees empty seats: "Minnesotans having a good perspective about sports."
"It is, 'If they're winning, that's great, we want to be a part of it. If not, we'll do something else,'" Hartmann said. "It reflects a certain, almost enlightened perspective on sports. We don't have to let it drag us down if it's not going well."
In fact, Hartmann wonders if that perspective is one reason why the Vikings' quest for a new stadium has been so difficult.
John Tauer, an associate professor of psychology at University of St. Thomas, played basketball for the Tommies. He is now the interim coach of the men's basketball team and studies sports psychology. He knows fans can take sports way too seriously.
Sports, Tauer said, meet our competitive needs, gives some people the feeling of being a part of something bigger than themselves. He can cite studies of how applications skyrocket when a college team has big-time unexpected success.
"People want to associate with winners," Tauer said. "It makes us feel good about ourselves. At some level, being a fan, it is connected to a basic need of feeling good."