February means a lot of things to a lot of people. Some like to re-watch Bill Murray get depressed about a rodent holiday over and over again (me). Other people dive right into the snow with sleds and snowmobiles (not me).
It also means that the winter sports seasons are winding down. Well, I say winding down, but really the ante is getting cranked up.
Whether it’s basketball or wrestling or hockey; prep, college or pros — the homestretch is do-or-die time for teams everywhere.
At the professional level it means March, April, May and June will be filled with playoff games (seriously, 3-4 months? What is this, BASEketball?).
In the college ranks, it all boils down to those couple of beautiful weekends we like to call “March Madness.” If you’re smart, you schedule off a couple of Thursday/Fridays from work, set up a pair of CRT televisions under the living room big screen and soak in 8-16 games a day for a weekend or two. If you forgot to put in your PTO before January rolled around, pay attention to the symptoms of whichever flu is hitting this year, and start your slow coughing and throat clearing on Tuesday, that way you can call in sick on Thursday and still bask in the glory of the NCAA Tournament.
While there are no Vegas odds on the prep scene, the high school playoffs are a great time for an entire team to rally together.
Nothing screams “Happy School” like a student section that is loud, rowdy and fun when the tournament starts.
What I’ve noticed this year, however, is that a lot of schools are behind the 8-ball a little bit. While the Monroe student section from 1998 to 2004 were about as loud and amazing as it could get (anyone else remember the Randolph game in 2004, or the state title game in 2000?), these days it’s more like a whimper.
Sure, there are more restrictions on what students can and cannot say, and that’s all hunky-dory with me as a 33-year-old, but crowds can still find ways to have fun.
From Dribble-Dribble-Pass, to the rollercoaster and fishing — plus all the “defense,” “let’s go [insert name here],” random yelling of the word “hey” and singing songs during free throws, 90 percent of the game’s chanting is staked out for you kids. There’s not a pressing need to be original in every chant.
But please, chant.
As a former player, and a person who has had this conversation a hundred times with other former players — the louder the crowd, the better. The energy, the excitement, the heavy air of sweaty bodies and costumes — it all makes the experience better for everyone.
This past Wednesday, Feb. 20, North Carolina played Duke in a regular season college basketball game. While Zion Williamson was the big draw, to me the bigger draw was watching the coveted Duke student section at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It’s still on my bucket list of places to attend a game.
The crowd is loud, chanting the entire game. It can get comical, and, unfortunately to those with sensitive ears and thin skin, it can also get mildly offensive.
I love a good burn, a good rip, a cut that hits under the surface. I also know that in today’s society I am slowly becoming more of a minority than ever in that regard. I’m not advocating for the kids of today to be rude or profane. Just be loud. Just have fun. While the kids on the court are the ones everyone is paying to see, it is the crowd that makes the atmosphere great and the night even more memorable.
If I show up at one of your games, a game where your senior classmates might just be playing in the last basketball game of their career, I’d better hear some loud cheering (I’m looking at you, Cheesemaker faithful). It’s the least you can do as a classmate, a friend, a neighbor. Help those kids on the court. Help them by screaming during opposing team’s free throws, help them by being goofy with loud giggles during timeouts, help them by showing up in large numbers. This isn’t a debate about quality versus quantity. There is no reason Monroe shouldn’t have 200 students in the student section at each game — there’s nearly 700 kids in the school. Darlington’s house was packed for the Mineral Point game Feb. 18, and Monroe should be able to replicate that action.
Be proud of where you’re from. And be loud wherever you go. Because it will all be over soon.
— Adam Krebs is a reporter for the Times and spent March of his senior year as a freelance student section fan, joining forces with Oregon and Monona Grove students for their deep runs into the playoffs when Monroe wasn’t playing. Adam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.