**With all the gratuitous pictures around here, thought I’d add a little something for the ladies-You’re Welcome!**
On March 22, 1998 I was 12 years old. I finished my quiz bowl practice, bounced into our min-van and asked my mother what the Kentucky/Duke score was. When she said “We’re behind by 18” my heart dropped, not only because my beloved Wildcats were losing by so much but also because I knew I was going home to a potentially homicidal father whose shouting could be heard many blocks away. But to my surprise, when I walked in the door there was no noise at all; neither the TV nor my father’s banshee screams. It was completely silent. And there sat my dad on the floor of our den with the TV on but no audio and with even his beloved radio shut off. For the next hour, we both sat like that. Even when we started to win again, my father adamantly refused to turn the sound back on. I missed all the iconic phrases “Turner, burner, and one”, “Wojo slaps the floor”, “He’s hurting him! Magloire is hurting him!”. And why? We were afraid that any sudden movement would put an end to the team’s incredible run. That March evening, my father passed onto me, as had his father before him, the incredible responsibility that comes with being an at-home fan.
Yes, we all know the responsibilities of the fans at the games-to encourage the team through cheering, to create a hostile atmosphere, to come up with clever acronyms in order to get on TV. But my dad taught me that day that at-home fans have an important role to play in the outcome of the games. From our clothing choices (the lucky/unlucky shirt/pants/underwear) to our audio choices (TV sound/radio sound/no sound), we play the role of the 7th man for our beloved Wildcats and it’s time for us to stand up proudly and take credit for all the games that we have won, simply by wearing the right color underwear and refusing to shave our legs during the season.
Here are my Five Steps every at-home fan should follow in order to maximize their talent
Step 1: The preparation phase-or as we called it in college “pre-gaming”. Perhaps the most important step in capturing the win, this happens before the game starts. This is when you choose the right outfit and you decide where you’ll watch the game and with whom. Prior conditioning can and should be used wisely here. If we lost the last game while you sat on the left side of the couch, make sure you switch it up. If your wife, who never watches a game, watched our last big win, for the good of the team, tie her to the couch and force her eyes open. Yes, a restraining order and/or jail time may be in your future, but at least we won’t lose to Gardner Webb again.
Step 2: The experimentation phase- This phase lasts through the college years first half and allows you to test the hypothesis you came up with in your preparation phase. I always say it’s better to wait until half-time to make any adjustments, but if you see us being Florida-ized in the first 15 minutes, go ahead and change that underwear. In our house, we use this time to decide the audio situation for the rest of the game. Do we go with the radio and leave the TV on mute, the TV announcers, or no audio at all? These are major choices that we continually discuss throughout the game. Above all, the at-home fan must be flexible.
Step 3: The adjustment phase (half time)- This is your time to change the game up. Are we losing? Change shirts. Winning? Spend the entire 30 minutes trying desperately not to tempt fate by doing anything that would negatively impact the team. When it comes to being the best at-home fan you can be, you must be willing to adjust to the changing needs of the game and be willing to lose feeling in your extremities if need be.
Step 4: The implementation phase- You’re in the home stretch, and here is where you use all the knowledge you’ve built up during the game to make the win happen. You must push through the pain and the temptation to take the easy way out. Your teammates on the court/field are not giving up and neither can you. No, you won’t get the glory but you’ll have the quiet satisfaction of knowing that you willed those free-throws in by the sheer force of your desire.
Step 5: The prayer phase- Like two rabid dogs, I normally try and keep my religion and my sports separated, but occasionally a little divine intervention is necessary. By the last two minutes of a close game, the best at-home fans will have completely abandoned their set position and everything they have developed before and during the game and will have dropped to their knees in a prayer position. Personally, I tend to create bargains with God in order to secure the win. As a UK basketball fan, I’m pretty sure I’ve run up a huge tab using this method. As a UK football fan, I’m pretty sure it all comes out in the wash.
There are people that will call this crazy. They will say that my choice to sit in the car and listen to the radio whenever we are playing at home and ahead by less than 5 with 2 minutes left cannot possibly effect the play of a bunch of 20-something men. But those people have never seen a simple sock change turn into a 2nd half comeback. They’ve never seen the miracle of the mute button or the religion that is found at the end of a close game. Behind every great team are those great fans watching from home, knowing that the choices they are making will spur their team to victory.