For four years I’ve represented Western Carolina at athletic contests as either a member of print or electronic media, or as a member of the media relations staff. Sitting along the press row or high atop Whitmire Stadium in the press box, emotions are not tolerated. Rather than being a student willing their team on to victory, I have had to be an innocent bystander alert with pen and pad, waiting to tell every gory detail.
This reign of terror came to an end Saturday night as I made my way out from behind the solitude and seclusion that the rail and yellow curtain provides and made my way to the resounding metal bleachers.
At last, a fish back in water, a predator back in its element – I was a Fan. And I’d like to think that my contribution helped the Cats to the 82-62 thrashing of the Keydets Saturday night in the Ramsey Center.
Through the course of the game, cheering and jeering for the Catamounts, several of the Keydet faithfuls took exception with the Cat House band and the small, but rowdy, group of fans that had congregated behind the VMI bench.
“Don’t y’all know the Southern Conference code of spectator conduct!” shouted the VMI followers, which was appropriately followed with the customary “flipping of the bird” by the Keydet fans. I’d like to say that we do know the code, and as it says we “urge” you to come on back next season …
Stares, jeers, and even profanity were hurled by the Keydet fans who made the long journey down from Lexington, but the Catamount fans kept right on. There’s just something inspiring about opposing fans cheering for their team that fires up the other side.
Again, this point was revealed this past Monday night in Greenville, SC. Again I shed the titles and burdens of media to be a college student, to be a fan. This time, it was on hostile ground: Timmons Arena in Greenville, the home of the Furman Paladins.
The FU faithfuls surrounded the five brave students who loaded up late in the afternoon to make the two-hour trek.
“Let’s go CATAMOUNTS!!” resounded throughout pregame. Shouts of support, rants of frustration, and the occasional jeer “GOOB!” rained down from section G. However, instead of birds being flipped or profane words hurled, the Furman fans showed appreciation and accepted the challenge of the rambunctious five.
They tried to discourage us and to drown us out as FU went on a 20-2 run to end the game. Mission impossible. Not even the rude waitress at Hooter’s, who’d never heard of cobbler and didn’t know where Chapel Hill was, could dampen the spirits of the bunch. We were fans.
Now we turn our attention to the upcoming game Monday night in the Ramsey Center against arch-rival Appalachian State. The athletic department is offering WWF night as they will bring in big screen TVs to watch “Raw is War” following the ball game with ASU.
Ball game, wrestling, free food, and drink – The only thing missing? Students.
Western Carolina has the rowdiest, raunchiest, and dare I say, best pep band in the Southern Conference. We have the best basketball venue in the conference. We even have a very select few fans who are among the best in the league. The problem: we just don’t have enough fans to fill the greatest venue to assist the best damn pep band in the conference.
Imagine this, if you will: every fraternity, every sorority, every student group, every student, all joined as one for at least one game filling the pullout bleachers, which are delegated for students. Picture Cameron Indoor Stadium as the students surround the bowl and scream as one. Now imagine that in the Ramsey Center Monday night.
That’s all I’ve got to say about that. Let’s make it happen.
So, in retrospect, lessons learned from my out of media experience in the Southern Conference: One, we’ll never have blueberry cobbler as the “Cobbler of the Day” again. Boysenberry is the way to go.
Two, just because a woman works at Hooter’s, forgets to bring silverware, is overly rude, lacks a sense of humor, and takes 20 minutes to figure up the bill, despite only having one table, and STILL doesn’t charge for everything ordered, doesn’t mean she’s dumb.
And finally, the most solemn sound one could ever hear is the sound of windshield wipers and electric windows rolling up on a cold and rainy Monday night on the back side of Balsam.