Full disclosure: I almost didn't become a #MACtion fan. I was holding scholarship offers from Central Michigan, TCU, Western Michigan, Boise State, and tiny little Madonna University in Livonia. If Central hadn't offered me a full-ride scholarship when they did, my mother was willing to pay full tuition for Madonna or John Paul the Great University. (My family is very very Catholic, if you can't tell. My first application was to Notre Dame.) Madonna is in the NAIA, and JPTGU has no athletics. I would never have had the opportunity to cheer for a Division I team if not for my grades or for Central's generous offer. (TCU, WMU, and Boise were only offering half-payment.) So this makes me all the more loyal to the university and what it does. I feel especially attached to CMU's performance because I feel as if they represent me. Central Michigan is my future alma mater, and if that isn't something to cheer for, I don't know what is.
Besides, #MACHoops (or #MACsketball, as I like to call it,) is hella fun to watch. Our editor-in-chief Alex Alvarado and a fellow contributor, Marissa McNess, wrote about this issue back in the day from the scope of Eastern Michigan, but to summarize: mid-major basketball in general is where players, coaches, and students can feel closely connected to one another because of the size of the school. MAC Basketball has produced some interesting products in its past (Chris Kaman, Dan Majerle, Dan Roundfield alone came from Central,) and this season, the MAC is one of the most competitive leagues in the NCAA , as four teams are tied for second. FOUR!
Which is why tweets like these get me all riled up:
I want to know why BGSU students aren't showing up to basketball games...product is good & they're winning. What's it gonna take?— Jordan Strack (@JordanStrack) January 29, 2015
Why does CMU's student section look embarrassed to get hyped? That Scott dunk should have brought students to their feet.— Hustle Belt (@HustleBelt) January 31, 2015
Well, I've had enough.
The product is good. And in basketball, unlike football, fans really can affect the course of the game for their respective teams. Especially fairly coordinated fans. Why is CMU 14-1 at home? Because they can fill the stands and make noise when appropriate. Why is Eastern struggling? They barely average 1,000, and that's a generous number. Okay, there are other factors too, but crowd support certainly helps. I've got a few rules on how to properly appreciate and get the most out of the on-court #MACtion.
Rule #1: DO NOT WEAR ANY OTHER TEAM'S GEAR TO THE GAME.
This applies to high school stuff as well; unless you're a recruit on an official visit, you shouldn't be wearing anything that is not your college's colors. Yes, Walmart Wolverines and Value City Buckeyes, that means you leave that B1G crap back home. This is MAC country.
Rule #2: ACTUALLY WEAR YOUR SCHOOL COLORS.
Yes, I'm sure that neon highlighter yellow t-shirt with "CENTRAL" or "EASTERN" or "BGSU" or whatever looks hella cute on you, but it just doesn't fit here. You may as well transfer to Oregon if you're wearing that. Also, black and white, unless it is a designated blackout or whiteout day, sticks out like a sore thumb. You want the opponent to see only your school colors. You want your opponent to walk into the arena and see absolutely zero support. You want the opponent's eyes to burn out of their retinas and impact their shooting percentage by at least 10 percentage points, if not more. You'd be surprised how many people break this rule.
Rule #3: BRING A FRIEND.
Everything is better when you share. It's no fun to tell your friend what you did at the game; you may as well let them experience it with you! There is nothing like the atmosphere of a college basketball game, with the live band, the natural energy of the game, the small space that everyone is contained in. Basketball is the true spectator sport.
Are you pleased with your school's National Signing Day class?
There's a lot of optimism that comes with our football teams this time of year. Some like to sip on the Kool-Aid more than others, but could these classes really help our teams out in 2015?
Rule #4: STAND UP.
I cannot reiterate this enough. The players on the floor are running up and down and get slight respites as the game goes in, if they get respite at all. Looking into the stands and seeing your fellow students sit down is frankly a sign of disrespect. Players feed off of the energy in the arena, and if the arena is dead, then what is the point of taking the floor, regardless of it it is filled to its maximum capacity? These players are representatives of you and your university and sacrifice and put in a lot of hours for your entertainment. Stand up and show them your appreciation.
Rule #5: GO ABSOLUTELY BONKERS.
Hell, it actually might be better to over-do it; photographers love that ish, yo. Dance your heart out. Jump. Throw your hands up in the air like a crazy person after a three pointer. Don't be afraid to paint your face or wear a top hat. I dressed up as deadmau5 in a pirate costume once when Michigan State visited CMU for football. For basketball games, I alternate between full suits and a maroon and gold referee outfit. Seriously though, it's okay to dress up and be crazy. You might find yourself actually having more fun in costume!
Rule #6: BE THE HOME COURT ADVANTAGE.
Scream your lungs out, do a school cheer, wave a towel around or shake a sign. This goes hand in hand with Rule 5. At Central, we continue to have this problem of only one student section making noise/distracting people. I'm not sure if this is the case at any other MAC school, but if it is... fix it. And quick. It does your team no good if you just sit and watch as the other team scores on your end of the floor. One half of the arena cannot do the work of two. It absolutely must be a coordinated effort.
Rule #7: SHUT UP AND LET YOUR OFFENSE SET UP ITS OFFENSE.
When your team is on defense, be annoying, but when your team has the ball, be encouraging but do not shout. If a three goes up, go silent and put your hands in the air. Let the offense do its work. Results will come.
Rule #8: WHOA, WHERE YOU GOING? GAME'S NOT OVER.
Too often, I have overheard conversations where someone says "how did we lose that game? We were up by 10 when I left" or "We came back!? Oh man, I wish I hadn't left." Don't be that guy. The game isn't over til the buzzer sounds. It's a different deal if you have to work, but otherwise support your team through thick and thin.
Rule #9: KEEP THE FAITH.
Basketball is a weird game that goes through many tosses and turns. Don't get caught up in the moment if you end up down by a few possessions. Be the optimist and cheer your team on, even if it looks bleak. The last thing those players want to hear is dissent or booing, unless they truly (and I mean truly) deserve that treatment.
Rule #10: BE A FAN AT HOME.
Do your research. Get to know the stories behind the players. Learn about the coach. Follow the players on Twitter. Know their strengths and weaknesses. Embrace them and celebrate them whenever you can. They are fellow students, like you. And you'll find yourself more attached to the game if you know your players. They'll feel less like something in a newspaper or television, and more tangible, more real.
Cheering them on will leave you happy and will help the student-athletes feel like they have respect and appreciation for all of their hard work. Having grown with CMU basketball since my freshman year, I have found myself emotionally attached to the 2014-15 roster, and can celebrate their successes knowing the hardship of the last three years. Yes, it's sentimental and sappy, but it really does improve the experience. And it certainly helps you to remember that one game that was simply unforgettable twenty years from now when we recall some of our best college memories.