Student Fans Lose Points When Absent
Friday, February 26, 2010
Category: Opinion > Op-Eds
I am wrapping up my tenth year as the public address announcer for Cal basketball. It's been a great transition from my college days-first as a fan, then as the mic-man to now sitting behind the microphone announcing the game and handling post-game radio duties. I love being a part of Cal basketball.
Sadly, what I've witnessed over the last ten years is a student section that went from being the most ferocious, loudest bunch to one that is hardly present and has lost its power to impact a college game.
Here's what I remember …
Then: The student section used to arrive at games when the doors opened to the general public, ready to make some noise. This was usually camping out the night before or standing in line all day outside the arena to secure some premium front-row seats. In the old days, the opposing team would have to get off the bus and walk through a line of Cal students heckling them as they entered the building!
Now: The student section is nearly empty through tip-off and our ops crew invites fans to come sit in the student section. Really? Even though we've sold almost 1,500 student tickets, we can't fill-up a 1,200 seat student section for a team that's trying to win Cal's first Pac-10 crown in 50 years? Students, where are you?
Then: When the straw-hat band came on the floor twenty minutes before tip, the entire student section went nuts. It signified the start of a raucous atmosphere and made the walls shake. When the Cal team entered with about five minutes on the clock to the tune of "Fight for California," the entire student section led the crowd with their hands in the air, clapping through the first verse and then starting the traditional side-to-side clap during the second half. The image? Inspiring.
Now: The straw-hat band enters with a nearly empty arena and marches over to their seats on the south side of the arena. When the team comes on the floor, you can see a look of almost disbelief that no one is in the seats. Students, where are you?
Then: After the anthem, the entire arena would stay on its feet and sing "Hail to California," a cappella. The first time I was a part of this in the fall of 1990, I got goose bumps. It was-and I emphasize was-my favorite Cal tradition.
Now: I look at the student section and it looks like most students don't even know the words as we weave through an inaudible version of the song! Based on attendance, we have to ask the band to play during Hail! Students, where are you?
Then: Students were prepared to heckle and harass the opposing team. In 2006, USC guard Gabe Pruitt fell prey to a fictitious UCLA co-ed named Victoria who was allegedly waiting for Gabe to finish up his Bay Area road trip and to go out on a date with him. When he went to shoot his first free throws, the student section started chanting "VIC-TORIA, VIC-TORIA" and threw up Pruitt's cell phone number. Pruitt, a 79 percent free throw shooter, missed both free throws, shot 3-13 from the floor that night and Cal won by 11. I recently ran into former USC coach Tim Floyd who could only remark, "that was cold."
Now: We're lucky to get a tuna chant or any mischievous work out of the students. Students, where are you?
This is my personal rallying cry to UC Berkeley students to restore Haas Pavilion to what it was built to be-the toughest place for opponents to play college basketball on the West Coast.
A harrowing, blistering loud arena that prevented opposing teams from hearing their coaches in team huddles, caused them to play poorly and to walk out of the arena wishing their fans could hold a candle to our student section's brilliance.
By the time you read this you'll have one game left to leave your mark for this year and to re-establish your identity for next year.
Get to the game early.
Heckle our opponents.
Give me goose bumps by singing hail.
Welcome our team on the floor.
Get the alumni involved.
Impact the game.
At this weekend's game, I hope what we see is a student section akin to what I remembered then…and who you are now.
And who knows? If you make that impact and we win that elusive Pac-10 championship, come give me a high-five and we'll celebrate together.
Eddy Kleinhans is a UC Berkeley alumnus and the men's basketball announcer. Reply to [email protected]
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