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Girmindl's Ghost

A diary of Shaker High School's 2005-2006 basketball season, a retelling of Shaker's fabled 1979-1980 season, and general commentary on high school hoops, updated daily...

"I like sitting in the back row. I found that sitting against the wall is just easier on your back." -Dean Smith, on the comfort of the H-gym bleachers

Ghosts of 6th men past..

The Ghost of 6th men past?: I got this email yesterday afternoon from Jon Bernstein, who played Shaker hoops and graduated in '03. Very interesting, and quite funny. I don't have much to add, as the email basically speaks for itself:
I played for Shaker during the 01-02 and 02-03 seasons and wish my team was given what you are giving the team this year. I love your writing style and your evident passion for Shaker hoops. During my recent Christmas break I only missed one game and can see why you have fallen in love with this team this year.

However, there is one thing that has been bothering me about your page, and it is something that many of my buddies from high school have also brought up after going through your blog; and that is the story of the 2001-2002 Shaker 6th man. I have some faith in my writing, so I figured I'd try a little essay that maybe you could use on your blog.

Also, I am having my sister send me a picture of the old 6th man shirts we had made.

6th Mans Ghost
"The Rise and Fall of the '01-'02 6th man"

As I enter my sixth semester here at the University of Virginia there is no question that I will bleed orange and blue forever. However, my sweat will always be white and (royal) blue. I played shooting guard for Shaker in during the '01-'02 and '02-'03 seasons, and my memories is the H-gym are some of the fondest I have. Our teams were never very good; we won maybe 10 games in two years. While there may not be many good stories on the court from those two season there is a great one that took place in the stands that seems to a be a forgotten one.

It all started during my junior year. The varsity team that year featured Cedric and Josh Ward, Pat Dunphy, Greg Saulz, and sophomore Joe Burns. They had incredible amounts of talent and won several exciting games in the extremely competitive Suburban Council that year. The JV team that I played on finished about .500 but never really had the talent to be one of the top teams. Therefore the true treat of being on the JV was being able to watch the Varsity each night. In our blue warm up suits we joined the other juniors and seniors during each and every varsity game to make as much noise as we could. We had no name, but we cared, and we cheered. This passion began to spread throughout the season and more and more people who had never come to games began to show up. By seasons end, the team had a pretty impressive home court advantage but in the end underachieved and never made it very far during sectionals.

Which brings me to a fall afternoon in Taft cafeteria (the old-school Taft... not like the fancy one you all get to enjoy today). As I sat during my free prep period with fellow junior Jack Sise and senior Joe Sposito the topic of the upcoming basketball season came up. I was excited to be playing on the Varsity for the first time and the other guys were excited to finally be cheering on a bunch of their buddies. As my teammates Joe Burns and Jason Reed entered the cafeteria, followed by Shaker fans Nick Bramen and Justin Charton, the talk turned serious. We knew we did not have the talent to truly compete in the Suburban that year and that any advantage during the season would help. Remembering the season before, it was clear that the Shaker fans could make some noise, but they needed an identity... something to unite them. And thus, on that fall afternoon the 6th man was born. Jack Sise would be in charge of making and distributing shirts (see picture), Damian Cross was in charge of gaining supporters, and the players were responsible for giving these guys at least a good game to cheer for.

By the time the season rolled around the 6th man was ready to get going. The first home game was against Shen and I still remember running out onto the court and seeing the student section with 50 guys and girls standing up with their 6th man shirts on. That night Shaker gave Shen, who was at the time the best team in the Suburban, a great game. We didn't win, but we knew we could compete, especially with the 6th man behind us. The highlight of the game came when Shen's best player Anthony Pizzo, a 5'8" red-headed point guard, stepped to the line to shoot two. The 6th man began chanting "San-ta's Help-er," striking Pizzo off-guard and causing him to miss 'em both."

The 6th mans greatest moment however came during a home game against Guilderland. Our center, Jason Reed, had been seeing a girl from Guilderland unbeknowest to her boyfriend who also went to Guilderland. During a timeout in the 2nd quarter the 6th man broke out in unison, "Jay's got your girl-friend," which was directed towards the boyfriend who was sitting in the section diagnal to the student section. I was sitting on the bench and remember seeing a huge linebacker type guy sprint past me headed for the student section. Luckily he was cut off by the security guards who threatened to have him arrested. This moment is still talked about my former 6th man members.

However, the 6th man was too good for it's own well being. The Shaker administration was not ready for such an unruly anauthorized student group to come to it's basketball games and cheer against the other team. This always seemed a little unfair to us players seeing with what we dealt with in other teams gyms (i.e. Colonie). Needless to say, after being warned several times, the end of the 6th man came during a home game against Mohanason. After yelling "OHHH" in unison during an oppposing players free throw, Mrs. Rose scaled the bleachers and informed every single person in the sixth man section to immediately leave the game and that they were suspended from the next 8. Truly a sad day in Shaker Athletics.

The reason I wrote this is because I have been following this years team very closely through this blog and reports from my father who still attends the games, and I am incredibly impressed. The 6th man has been stellar and the team looks to be as good as ever (although I'm still mad at Brad for signing with G-Tech and not UVA). However, in reading the blog I am currently reminded of this years 6th man and the fans from 1992. Both teams were amazing and I have no doubt the fans were as crazy as ever in 1992. However the 6th man from 2002 seems to have been forgotten and I did not want that to happen. They were as dedicated a bunch as ever, and there is no doubt in my mind that the seniors now remember seeing the 6th man up there four years ago. I speak for the first 6th Man in saying that they do not want any praise, they only want to be remembered.
Well, what do you know. Lots of great moments in that essay. If anyone else has recollection of the student section from past eras, send 'em in. I'll post the picture of the old 6th man T-shirt as soon as I get it.
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