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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

Where the kids sit stand

Where the kids sit stand, an essay: [Note: This essay draws its material from parts a number of previous essays that I've written on Girmindl's Ghost - my description of Shaker's H-gym new gym and the accompanying photo essay, my piece on student section cheering, my article on the Section 2 spectator Code of Conduct, my interview with the leaders of Shaker's 6th man, and my trip into the student section to watch the Saratoga game this year - and it also contains a lot of new material. Enjoy.]

Part I - Introduction

When someone asks me about the student section at Shaker basketball games, I don't really know where to begin. So many of my social memories of high school are tied to those bleachers: I got my first lessons in school spirit in those bleachers and it's where I first saw the good and bad side of being mildly rebellious against authority. I learned alot about losing, and a little bit about winning. I saw romances start in those bleachers and I saw relationships fizzle. I ate more junk food dinners in those bleachers than you can imagine. And believe it or not, I was sitting in those bleachers one night when I made up my mind to ask my wife on our first date. So you can say we (me and the bleachers) have quite a history.

But I never know what to tell someone who asks. But I think this recent picture captures a lot of it without saying a word:

To me, it was always about family. Students up there come from a lot of different cliques at the school, and often they aren't people who would normally cross paths socially at Shaker. But in the student section, everyone was always friends. If you were into Shaker basketball, that was good enough.

Part II - The never-changing Shaker student section

One of the more interesting things about Shaker's student section is how well the following axiom applies to it:

Student sections don't really change over time, and when they do, they change very slowly.

Since only 25% of the student body changes each year, the newcomers are simply absorbed by those who have already been there. The freshman arrive and internalize the practices of the older students. By the time they are the older students, they simply pass on to the younger kids all the things that seem like second nature up there: the chants, the mannerisms, and the rules about what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Sure, each class brings it's own style to the student section and sometimes people come up with creative new things that catch-on, but that's by and large a slow mutation. Over a 20 year period, it's unlikely that anything fundamentally changes in a student section.

That certainly has been the case at Shaker. From my earliest memories of Shaker basketball circa 1982 right up to the last home game this year, I can vouch to you that not much has changed in the Shaker student section. It's the same kids, the same cheers, the same occasional problems and the same lukewarm relationship with the school, and ultimately the same memories.

It's true for even the most basic of things, like where the students sit. There's no rule that the students have to sit across from the Shaker bench, in the quadrant of bleachers that is closest to the hallway that leads toward the pool. But they do. And that's because it's always been that way, and that's what everybody knows. There's no reason to change it. Here's an outline map of the new gym:

The students have always sat in area labeled F. And I don't think that will ever change. In fact, I'm sure of it. And even more to the point, where different types of students sit within the student section doesn't change. The sun will rise 10 years from now, and the sun will set 10 years from now, and by god I will be able to predict the location of where people are sitting in that gym down to the row. I could skip the next ten years worth of games, and the following would still be true:

Within the student section, the rows go something like this:

lowest rows: empty or mabye a some adults who have a relationship to the school but didn't go there and never had kids who went there, sometimes peolple who want to chat/flirt with/observe the cheerleaders. If the game is really crowded, you'll get a spillover adult Shaker contigent down there as well.

lower middle rows: upperclassmen who like watching basketball but don't like cheering that much. They will sit throughout the game, even though the students above them will constantly urge them to stand up.

upper middle rows: the rowdiest fans who love to cheer and get into the game. They usually stand up full time. Definitely the cool place to be at the game.

one or two highest rows: underclassmen or junior high schoolers who know its cool to be in the upper middle rows, but are too scared to actually stand there with the older kids. That's the one that makes me laugh every time. You can take it to the bank: the upper left corner of the student bleachers will have some kid there who half watches the game and half watches the upper middle row rowdy cheerers, wishing he were standing three rows down.

Of course, simply because student sections do not change, it doesn't mean they aren't different every year. Each class of seniors brings its own brand of cheering to the section, and the particular mix of kids that become regulars at the games tends to chagne from year to year. But by far the most important variable in what the student section is like in a given year is the quality of the team. A good team will have an enormous student section; a terrible team may draw only a handful of students. This is manifest best in the cheering. I don't have any statistical proof of this, but I'm pretty sure positive that the following hypothesis is true:

"Student-section cheers at high school basketball games exhibit a positive correlation between the quality of the team and the obnoxiousness of the cheers."

That's a fancy way of saying that as the team gets better, the cheers become more obnoxious. In fact, I'm going to divide student-section cheering into 5 categories of team quality, and discuss the cheers that go with each one. At each level, you seem to get all the cheers from the preceeding levels, plus some new ones. That just how it works:

Level 1, the team downright stinks: This is the bottom of the barrell. Often, you'll get zero cheers because no one is at the game, or because no one at the game has much to cheer about. If you do get cheers, they will be of the traditional variety: Let's-go-Sha-ker! or S-H-S or DE-FENSE! You can forget about getting anything that remotely taunts the opposition.

Level 2, the team is under .500, but not by much: At this level, you get all the standard cheers and you get them basically constantly. You also might add in some classic positive cheers, like drawing out the last name of a player on the team - Sheeeh-haaaan, Sheeee-haaan! - or organized "hands-up / whoosh!" for foul shots.

Level 3, the team is over .500, but not necessarily league leaders: This is where the cheers definitely start to turn negative and obnoxious. But first, this is also the level at which fan interest starts to really build. The traditional cheers happen quite a bit at this level - often every trip down the court in a close game. But the obnoxious cheers also start here. Now, first let me say that I don't have any problem with obnoxious cheers, in fact I think I really like them. The classic obnoxious cheer is probably "Warm up the bus! Warm up the bus!" when the team takes a double-digit lead in the beginning of the 4th quarter. Alternatively, you might get the "Na,Na,Na,Na, NA,NA,NA,NA, HEY HEY HEY GOODBYE!" The difference is usually a matter of when the game is "over" - if it's early in the 4th and due to Shaker going on a 7-0 run, then it'll be "warm up the bus." If it's with 2 minutes left and the star of the opposing team fouls out on a charge call, it'll be "Hey Hey Goodbye." Other cheers that can be spotted at this point include:

You-can't-do-that! whenever the other team committs a foul,
Not-in-our-house! after blocked shots, particularly relevent this year, and
Buuuuullllll-shhhhhiiittttt! after bad calls by the ref.

And of course, clever fans might whip out "The ref beats his wife!" for some retro-humor when cheering for a level 3 team.

Level 4, the team is aiming for the section championship: This is where the cheers really take off. First off, fan interest in the games skyrockets at this point, so there are simply a lot more people there to join in the fun. Second, the games tend to fit one of two molds: blowouts against inferior teams or big matchups against other good teams. The classic, tell-tale sign of level 4 is "Boink," a cheer that I swear you never hear until you're dealing with really good teams [note that some schools - including Shaker in some years - use teh word bounce instead of the word Boink. I've always preferred the Boink version, but its the same cheer]. Boink is the practice of shouting boink [or bounce] every time the opposition takes a dribble on offense and pass every time they pass it. BOINK, BOINK, BOINK, BOINK, PASS! BOINK, BOINK, PASS! and so on. I have no idea where the cheer originated, but it absolutely, without a doubt, the sign of a good team, at least in my experience. You just never see this cheer until the team is very good. It's like the cheering equivalent of a swagger. Want to know how Shen is this year? Just find out if they are doing boink at the home games.**

The other classic level 4 cheers are the updated "Warm up the bus," which goes something like this...

The wheels on the bus go round and round
Round and round
Round and round
The wheels on the bus go round and round
All the way back to Shen!

...and the cheers that begin to engage the other teams cheering sections (which are usually only there at the "big game" matchups). These include: We-can't-here-you!, Still-can't-hear-you!, and Check-the-score-board! Against teams supposedly better than you, you'll often get a good over-rated, over-rated cheer. Another good cheer, remembered by reader Marc M., is the classic "We-go-to-coll-ege!" cheer that was whipped out vs. Colonie last year. Awesome.

It's also not uncommon at this level to see the following things: face painting, bare-chested men (with or without chest paintings), homemade signs, and group t-shirts. This is also the point when the student section is required to stand for the whole game. Additionally, you can get rarer cheers, like the jeopardy theme song during opposition time-outs or spontaneous cheers based on the actions of the opposing cheering section.***

Level 5, the team is sectional favorite, or has already won sectionals: Level 5 is basically just level 4 with the addition of two key element: homemade noisemakers and outrageous costumes. This level of obnoxiousness is usually reserved for playoff games. The only time I've ever experience level 5 with Shaker was at the 1991-92 state regional game at HVCC, after Shaker had won the sectional title. Not only did airhorns suddenly appear in the student section, but so did confetti, rice, and an entire troop of guys wearing grass skirts, clamshell bikinis, and cowboy hats. It was like someone down at the factory pressed the "take it up a notch" button. Because that's what happened. I've written previouisly about the moment frozen in my brain when Haver opened the regional game with a three pointer, but my actual first conscious thought after his basket was "Why am I being showered in rice?" It's very strange what the state tournament will do to a cheering section.

Additionally at level 5, not only do you have to stand during the game, but boink becomes pretty much required for all trips down the floor for the opposing team.

I can't tell you why the student section is the particular section that it is in h-hym the new gym, but I can definitely say that it gives you the best overall view of the game, all things considered. This fall into two general categories.

Category #1, View of the game: The student section is definitely the place to be if you only care about the game. First off, you see both benches and the coaches from the front. That counts for more than you think. You can really get a sense of the mood of the team, and if there's a bad call you get to see all the great facial expressions. Also, if you don't sit too close to the baseline, you can see the scoreboard on the hallway end of the gym at the same time you observe the action at that end of the court. That means if Shaker has the ball late in the game, you don't have to constantly be turning your head and taking your eyes off the court to check the clock. Can't do that in the adult section. (I had always noticed this, but I never thought it was a big deal until the CBA game this year, when I found myself craning back and forth to check the clock and the game in the final 25 seconds.)

Category #2, View of the fans: It's fun to be near the cheerleaders, and not facing their backs. That's just true. Additionally, since the Shaker adult section is next to the visitng team section and the Shaker student section is next to the usually empty 4th section, you get the illusion in the student section that there are a lot more fans at the game than there actually are. It's also interesting to sit with a view of the Shaker adult section. It's been an absolute funeral parlor for the last few games this year, and that can't make for the best view from the student seats. And let's not forget, if you sit in the student section, you don't have to walk by the memorial to Julius and the '79-80 team as you enter the gym.

Part III - Personal recollections

There is nothing - I repeat nothing - like being in the middle of the student bleachers at a packed game, even better if it's the playoffs. It's so loud you'd think you were at a rock concert. It's so hot you'd think you were in a sauna. And there's so much energy you feel like anything is possible. It's incredible. From the time I was 14 years old until the day basketball season ended my senior year, it was probably the single thing I looked forward to most during the winters months at Shaker: Tuesday night and Friday night in H-gym, standing on some wood up near the ceiling of the gym.

Although I started going to Shaker games as a 6-month old in the fall of 1978, I never sat in the student section of the new gym until I was in high school. My dad and I used to sit in the 5th or 6th row of the Shaker adult section in the 80's. I can remember exactly the moment I decided that I wanted to sit in the student section: it was as the buzzer sounded ending the Shaker-Shen game in Feburary of 1992.

Shaker had just beaten Shen (no small feat seeing as they had been to the sectional title game 5 out of the last 6 years at that point) and clinched the Suburban blue divison title. It was the first time I ever saw students storm the court in H-gym the new gym. At that moment, my friends and I almost instantly decided that we needed to join the students, starting the very next game. We were in 8th grade and had been sitting up to that point of the season with our fathers in the lower rows of the Shaker adult section.

We had been discussing it all year - my friend and I, that it - because as fun as it was to go to the game with our dads, the student section was becoming more and more of a party every game in 1992, and we wanted in. Not only had we just become old enough to appreciate the antics of the student bleachers, but for the first time in my conscious life Shaker was good enough that there were antics in the student bleachers (as i turns out, it was pretty much the only time in my life until last year that this was true).

I can remember telling our dads that we weren't going to be sitting with them at the opening round sectional game. That was a tense moment for us - it wasn't clear they were going to let two 13 year-olds go join what was quite a circus across the gym - and I think it was a sad moment for my father.

We sat in the student section for all of the sectional games that year, except for the sectional title game against Columbia at Glens Falls. My father was a superstitious man to his core, and he had not only not forgotten about what happened in Glens Falls in March, 1980, but he was adamant that be sitting next to him when Shaker finally conquered the section for the first time since then, which they did later that night. I then sat in the student section at HVCC for the state regional game, and to this day my favorite spectator sports memory of all time is the feeling of being in those bleachers when Shaker took a 3-2 lead on their first possession of the game, on a Jamie Haver 3-pointer. Rice flying all around me, airhorns blazing, and the bleachers shaking so much I thought they were going to fall over. It was deafening and it was pure bliss. I was hooked.

When I was in 9th grade, my friends and I were the kids standing in the top corner of the student section, wanting in on all the fun but a little too young and a little too nervous to get in the middle of things in the bleachers a few rows down from us. On Tuesday games, we used to not go home from school before the game. I was a runner by that point, and I would go to practice at 2:30, shower up in the locker room, and then plop myself down in the 3rd row of the student bleachers sometime during the middle of the freshman game. Yes, I'd watch all three games most Tuesday nights! I'd literally be at Shaker from 7:15 in the morning until 9:30 or so at night. Hillarious. On Fridays I'd usually go home as to have dinner with my family and then head back to the game with my father, or just get dropped off if he wasn't going.

The thing I remember most from the bleachers in 9th grade was how much more devastating a Shaker loss was from the student section than from the adult section. The team struggled to a 10-10 regular season record that year, and coming off the sectional title year it was really tough up there. The spillover from the previous year had resulted in a student section that was probably far more crowded than it should have been, given the team's record. And we were really into it. But they just kept losing. And when you scream your lungs off for an hour and a half, you simply get more invested in it than you otherwise would. And look - my dad and I were into Shaker basketball more than most people in the adult section, but this was way beyond that. It's the combination of school spirit, friendship, and intensity. It's like the difference between the guy you voted for losing an election and the guy you worked for losing an election. You just can't compare it. Because whatever their external blaze attitude about it, the students standing in those bleachers really care about that team, even long after they go home from the game.

The thing I remember most about the student bleachers in 1993-94 (when I was in 10th grade) was watching Brian Galuski play and Jason Bishop play. In 1992, the student section was all about the team as a team. In 1994, the student section was all about Galuski and Bishop. Galuski was a senior and Bishop was a junior, and they were far and away both the stars of the team and the obsessions of the student section. Girls would literally be screaming, "I love you Brian!!!!" from the stands. Pretty cool, but also a little Beatlemania-ish. Galuski also had this habit of occasionally slamming the court with both of his hands as the opposing point guard brought the ball upcourt. We thought that was cool, so we started slamming our hands on the bleachers in unison with his slamming them on the court. Good times. The other thing that I remember from 1994 is the burger king hats. Somehow (only god knows) it became really cool to show up to the student section wearing one of those burger king crowns. By Feburary, you'd sometime see 15 or 20 of them up there. The team was very good in 1993-94. They were 15-5 during the regular season, good enough for 2nd in the Suburban. And they made the sectional finals by surprising CBA in the semis, 59-53 at Glens Falls. They lost to Albany by 4 in the finals. It was strange, though. The student sections at both of those games were very flat. It was nothing like 1992. I actually sat with my dad at the finals, and the student section - although pretty loud - never really seemed into it.

The coolest thing in 11th grade was that I could drive to the games. My friends and I used to skip dinner at our parents houses, pile into my car around 5:30, head straight to Taco Bell for those 69 cent chicken soft tacos, and arrive just after the JV tip-off with a bag full of fast food and one of those ridiculous 32 ounce sodas. We would then proceed to have a veritable picnic in the 4th row of the student section. They never have really enforced the no-food rule, and they sure as hell didn't back then. And that's when we'd do our best gossiping, sitting there watching the JV game, sitting on one bleacher but leaning back to lay on the bleacher behind us. We'd only half watch the game, it was really our chance to BS for an hour and a half and tell the occasional tall Texas tale. The topics weren't surprising: school, girls, practice, and - on Fridays of course - parties. Occasionally, it would turn serious - I spent the better part of two straight games waffling back and forth during the JV game with a buddy of mine about whether I should ask out this sophmore that I had taken an interest in. Finally, on a Tuesday night, he told me he was sick of talking about it and I should just do it. So I did. We got married 9 years later. Yeah.

Ultimately, the student section during my junior and senior years was a massive disappointment. I had waited a long time to finally be one of the older kids in the section. But the team stunk. They were 6-15 my junior year and 7-14 my senior year, losing in the first round of sectionals both times. Few people showed up to the games, and even fewer people stood on the bleachers for the whole game. To put it in my words circa 1996, it basically sucked. I skipped almost all the away games and even a few home games, something I never thought I would do a few years earlier. I don't even remember my last game in the student section - and that's saying a lot. It was that bad.

I can remember the following year when I was a frehsman in college, going to a game with my dad over Christmas break and sitting with him in the Shaker adult section for the first time again. It was like a lifetime had passed, but nothing had changed. We were right back where we were 5 years earlier. And then it suddenly dawned on me that I was never again going to be up in the student bleachers. Definitely a sad moment.

Part IV - Back to the Future

So you can imagine the combination of apprehension and excitment that I had when I decided that I'd go sit with the student for a night 10 years later, back earlier this month on February 3rd. Prior to sitting with the students, I did my best to remember what it is like over there. It's definitely different that the adult section.Some of them I remembered before I got over there, some of them I had forgotten:

Difference #1 (remembered): You have a totally different view of the game. I wrote about this a bit back.

Difference #2 (forgot): There are candy wrappers everywhere. You're not supposed to bring food or drink into the gym. This policy is univerally ignored at Shaker, but in the adult bleachers most people manage to take the garbage out with them. In the student bleachers, if you look down at your feet, it's basically a huge collection of Skittles wrappers.

Difference #3 (forgot): Half the aisle board are broken: When you are walking up the bleacher stairs, you have to be careful, because many of the boards are poorly attached. It's unbelievable that no one has actually broken through them yet. If the adult bleacher aisles had this problem, I bet they would be reparied ASAP. It's not that big of a deal in the student section, however, because...

Difference #4 (remembered): People just sit in the aisles, so you often have to meander your way up the bleachers. Some nights - like last night - this was out of necessity. It's just too crowded.

Difference #5 (remembered, but not fully): It is a good 20 degrees hotter in the student section. I had decided to go "full-student" and wear a sixth man t-shirt. Here's a picture of how I, as well as most of the kids at the top of the student section - were apparelled:

I had decided that I should wear a long-sleeve t-shirt underneath the 6th man shirt. Huge mistake. It must have been close to 90 degrees up there last night. Unreal.

Difference #6 (remembered, but not fully): Teenagers are loud, obnoxious, vulgar, and constantly flirting with each other. That all coalesces into what can only be described as a "youthful energy" in the student section. I certainly remember this from years ago, but I had forgotten how powerful it is. Somehow, the lens through which I was watching the game completely changed. It's the difference between watching kids play hoops and watching your friends play hoops. It was great.

I couldn't have picked a better night to sit in the student section. Senior night is always a fun time, but I never got the chance when I was in school to see a senior night when the team was great. This team is great. And the kids in those bleachers care more about this team than I ever remember students caring about a team - and that includes 1992. It truly was awesome last night. In one sense, it was the end: for Griff, John, Vernon, Brad, and Tom, this was the last regular season game. But on the other hand it was a beginning: the real season, the playoff season, is next. And you could tell that everyone in the gym knew this.

The players came out to warm up, and the 6th man (and I) moved into position at the top of the bleachers. We had been sitting and chatting, but now it was time to get serious. One annoying thing that has always been true in the Shaker student section is that the bottom half of the student section refuses to stand throughout the game. It's all students who like to go to the gmes and like to cheer, but refuse to partake in the more overt school spirit and standing and chanting all game. Nevertheless, the 6th man is huge tonight. The top five rows of the bleachers are all standing, it must be close to a hundred students. And we're packed in there. I'm standing next to Joe Bianchino, a senior and a ringleader of the 6th man. On my left is a senior name Ryan. One nice thing now is that tons of people have cameras in the student section, something that wasn't true when I was in school. Here's the upward looking shot of the student section and the 6th man again:

We're about 5 rows from the top, near the bottom of the people standing. Here's an approximation of what our view looked like from our seats stands:

The row in front of me is the first row of people standing. Directly in front of me are two underclassmen, Courtney and Kate, who are decked out in homemade t-shirts and sparkly boas:

They are both wearing homemade t-shirts dedicated to John Hans. Whenever Hans would score, they went completely nuts. I mean, completely nuts. And here's the other thing. Everyone is wearing those 6th man t-shirts. I mean everyone. Here's a good example shot of some girls, notice all the blue shirts in the background:

That is, of course, unless they've decided to pain their chests:

Four other made an impression on me during my return trip to the student section:

2) The game is totally different from the student section: I don't think it can be decribed, but every aspect of a basketball game just looks different when you are standing in the 6th man. Part of it is that you have the differnt view of the court that I've alluded to before - you can see the coaches, you can see the players on the bench, the cheerleader are facing you. But it's more than that. Offensive plays look different, the court looks smaller on fast breaks, you can see shots better. It's so wierd. And I know none of that makes sense. But it's true. And yeah, you have no chance of keeping track of the game. I thought I might have a shot at remembering things last night, but no way. You just get way too caught up in the moment. After the game, I was trying to think back on what I remembered that happend on the court. Here's what I came up with: I remembered the first 2 minutres perfectly, I remembered Hans had a ton of three's, I remembered Griff had lots of low-block layups, and I remembered the final 4 minutes when they took the seniors out. That's it. Sure - I have bits and pieces from the rest of the game, but nothing substantial. It was like being on a roller coaster - you remember how great it was, but you don't remember the deatils.

2) Damn, it's loud: You can remind yourself how loud student sections are, but you can never really remember until you're standing in the middle of it and the first chant starts. It almost knocked me off my bleacher. It was that startling. I instantly knew there was no way I was going to be able to remember much from the game. And I also knew there was no way I was going to sleep for a few hours after this one. It literally sends a shot of adrenaline through you the moment it starts. Wow. I had forgotten how loud 15 to 17 year old girls can shreik at a basketball game. Wow. The chants are actually the easiest time on your ears: you know what's coming. At any other time, 4 or 5 different people are shreiking or screaming something. Often just behind you and into your ear. Unreal. You really can't imagine how much is being screamed over there that you can never pick up from the adult section. It's amazing. You can listen to some of my time in the student section here.

And good lord what a rush. Right after Tom Duclos jammed home an alley-oop on the opening possession, my mind instantly flashed back to the 1992 regional finals at HVCC. On the opening possession, Jim Haver hit a three and I thought the bleachers were going to come down they were shaking so much. It wasn't quite that intense last night, but it was darn close. The entire 6th man was jumping up and down on the top 5 rows of the bleachers. What a great feeling. There really was a playoff atmosphere in there last night. And to come out and just blow the doors off Saratoga like that was the best thing that could possibly have happened. You could just see it in the 6th man and on the court: everyone knew this was something special, and something they weren't soon to forget.

3) Amazing coordination for chants: I've written about this before, but this year's 6th man is by far the best student section cheering I've ever seen at a Shaker game. It was intense in 1992, but this year it's just so darn organized. And I watched it in action last night. It's really just three people - Joe. B, Tom Maldonado, and Chris Caradori - leading the way. (Click here to read my interview with Chris and Tom. ) They spread out in the 6th man and signal to each other what chants should be started. Then one of them starts one and everyone joins in instantly. Wow. Just awesome.

We whipped through "Let's go Shaker!" several times, "De-fense!" a number of times. "Fun-da-men-tals!" after a missed Saratoga layup, "You can't do that" after a travel, "Not in our house!" after a block by Brad, "Griff's a beast!" after another bull layup, "Boink!"on several occasions, and numerous catcalls that probably shouldn't be mentioned. All in the 1st quarter. But they saved their surprise for Brad's birthday.If it wasn't enough that it was senior night, it was also Brad's 18th birthday. As the players sat down for the quarter break, the 6th man broke into a nice rendition of Happy Birthday, and much of the adult crowd joined in as well. I think it embarassed Brad a bit on the bench. We then shifted to a "Brad is legal!"chant, which probably wasn't joined in on by the adult section. Well done.

A could of times a game, they did a cheer called "Sevens." It's coordinated with teh cheerleaders, and involves stamping your feet clapping your hands, and lots of yelling. It's pretty much reached cult status in the 6th man - people demand it even though it's a pretty pedestrian chant. Then, after it's done, people give each other huge over the top high-fives, exalting the great and mysterious Sevens chant they have just completed.

At one point in the 4th, they started chanting singing the theme song to "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." That was followed by the Humpty-Dance. Man, I was in 5th grade when the humpty Dance came out. None of these kids were even born yet! But it is hysterical to hear 50 or 60 people sigining a TV show theme song at a basketball game.

4) The people you meet: There is a dedication in the 6th man this year that simply blows away everything I remember from high school. One girl I talked to, a junior name Kyla, had this to say:

I LOVE the 6th man. I'm so happy that this year it all came together to put out huge support for such an amazing team we've all been watching develop for the past few years. People in the 6th man see themselves as the most intense and dedicated fans, but we don't look down on other fans, we just wish they were as into it as we are. On the day of the game, a good number of 6th man members do wear the shirt
to school.

Man, I would have given anything to have a 6th man t-shirt to wear to school on gameday in the early 90's. Wow. Another student I spoke with, Moe, had this to say:

Because the 6th Man is a conglomerate of different "cliques" of our entire high school, in the beginning I attended with close friends, but as we all bonded closer and closer as a result of the team's success and the brilliantly high temperatures up there, I just attend and hang out with whoever is there...the 6th Man has become almost like a student lead organization to support the basketball team through their ups and downs (usually ups) and has turned into something to do on Tuesday and Friday nights. People often times wear their 6th Man shirts at school the day of the game to show support. Everybody in the 6th Man knows everybody else and we all get along, but we don't exclude anybody from cheering with us or
whatever, the more the merrier.

That's just so cool, and it makes it seem all the more absurd that the school things it needs to crack down on the student section. Other students I interacted with were less avaialable for comment: one sophmore named Sarah had worn herself out and had to sit down for the entire second half, clearly affected by the temeratures in the 6th man. Others - like Tom and Joe - were far too busy leading the section through cheer after cheer.

I spent considerable time during breaks in the action talking to students. I owe another thank you to all the students who took me in for a night last night. And particularly the students who gave me interviews: Emily, Kyla, Ryan, Sarah, Courtney, Kate, Mo, Bill, Jay, and Rebecca. And particular thanks to Tom, Chris, and Joe, who convinced me against my skepticism that I should come sit in the 6th man for a night. Thanks again, guys.

Part V - Conclusion

If you've made it this far into this essay, congratulations. Not everyone can read 8,000 words about a student section. But I think if you've made it this far you probably have a better appreciation for the world on the other side of the gym, where the temperature is boiling, the noise is deafening, and the kids never sit down.

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