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Why I'm A Fan of MACtion: Because It Felt Like Home

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CMU took a chance on me, and so I have to give back in the way that I best know how.

Gotta do the cymbal clap during the alma mater, don't ya know?
Gotta do the cymbal clap during the alma mater, don't ya know?
Central Michigan University

"I'm never going to go to Central."

That's what I told my mother when I was a sophomore in high school. My sights were set on somewhere bigger. Notre Dame, Boise State, Tulane, South Carolina... anywhere that wasn't po-dunk Mt. Pleasant, MI.

I cheered for God's Team growing up, as was my Catholic Duty, and had an attachment to the Carolina Gamecocks from my time living in Beaufort, SC, so I had big dreams.

Visits to Staples Hall, the music building on campus, where I competed in state choir my sophomore year, and a visit to Dow Hall, the science building, my junior year as a forensic speech competitor certainly didn't help the cause. I felt lost and overwhelmed in those buildings. Dow, especially, looked ugly to me.

"Besides Mom, everyone from Grayling goes to Central. I wanna go somewhere different."

All of that changed later in my junior year.

It was CMU and You Day, October 2, 2010. My best friend Jeremy and I got a tour of the entire campus, had lunch at Fabiano Hall, and then applied to college together. The day culminated with free tickets to a football game between CMU and Ball State. It was a smashing 31-10 loss, but we had tickets on the visitor's sideline and leaned up as close to the railing as possible.

We butchered out ways through the fight song and cheers, supplied for us on paper cards. We tried our best to make insults that obviously didn't work. Then, we drove back home to Grayling, about an hour up I-75.

CMU earned a soft spot in my heart that day, and when the call finally came in my senior year saying I had earned a full-ride scholarship, I threw out my Notre Dame and South Carolina gear and bought as much maroon and gold as my closet could muster.

It was a decision I never regretted.

I attended every basketball and football game that I could when I didn't have a class (although I did skip a "Religion and Film" class to attend the game where CMU basketball clinched the regular season title. Sorry, Prof...) Soon, I became known for my rowdiness and unique costumes at games. (I had the habit of wearing a straw hat and/or a full three-piece suit to games.)

James Flag Central Michigan University

Celebrating a touchdown on the sidelines during my senior Homecoming game.

Some of my best memories come from games I attended, such as:

  • The CMU-Kentucky women's basketball game where Crystal Bradford just missed a potential game-winning shot to beat the #13 Wildcats after being down 20+ to start the second half.
  • The CMU-New Hampshire football game where both Cody Kater and Alex Niznak were injured and then-third string QB Cooper Rush brought CMU back from down double-digits to win the game.
  • The first round of the NCAA Women's Basketball tournament, where CMU and Oklahoma battled in St. John Fieldhouse on Ohio State's campus and Niki DiGuilio capped her amazing career as a three-point sniper.
  • The triple-OT men's basketball game between CMU and Ball State where Braylon Rayson scored 12 straight points to end the game.
  • The game where CMU clinched the MAC regular season title in basketball for the first time since 2005 in my last basketball game as an undergrad. I'm not gonna lie, I cried that day.
  • The time I made a half-court shot during an EMU-CMU basketball game. I won an iPad Air and the admiration of all the CMU Twitter accounts as "Hat Man."
  • My senior homecoming when myself, Kara, Emily, Shannon, and Nick were all allowed to lead cheers for the student section from the sidelines. I got to run with the flag after every score.
There are, of course, many other countless memories as well, but you probably get the point by now.

Cheering for a Group of Five team is hard work, and mostly thankless. But, where else can you find a group of total dorks that worships (or loathes) guys such as Jordan Lynch, Dan LeFevour, and Charlie Batch and stays up to watch CFL games to watch Lynch, Juwan Brescacin and others?

Being a fan of a Mid-American Conference school in particular is a unique opportunity that many people overlook. In what other community can you have such long-lasting rivalries such as WMU-CMU and BGSU-Toledo? In what other community can everyone be united in their love of football on Tuesday night? In what other community can you find, say, a Ball Stater and reminisce about Nate Davis and the nationally-ranked Cardinals over a few craft beers, preferably out of a Mason jar?

My family has even joined in on the fun, with my mother cheering for EMU just to be a contrarian and my cousins Gabe and Jacob have attended multiple games with me and sport many CMU shirts and hats. Gabe even eschewed his Michigan State fandom to do so.

CMU (along with the wonderful guys at Hustle Belt) gave me the opportunity to pursue my dreams of being a broadcast journalist and explore life as an independent adult, and for that, I have to pay them back in the one way that I know how: by cheering for them, and the rest of the conference as loudly as possible.

Except for Western, of course.

(Shoutout to Tasia Bass, Kara Agby, Grant McPherson, Shannon Brandon, Nick Gembarski, G. David LaClair, Tyler Richards, and Emily Sinclair for being some of the best SuperFans I've ever had the pleasure of being associated with.)

James at aOSU James H. Jimenez
Shortly before the CMU-Oklahoma women's basketball game at Ohio State University; my roommate Brennan tagged along and took this photo.
James basketball crowd Central Michigan University
Grant, Nick and I embrace after a huge shot during a CMU basketball game vs. Bowling Green.