Basketball season is right around the corner for the Notre Dame men. They start the season Sunday against Lafayette in the south dome of the Joyce Center. With men's basketball season comes the return of the Leprechaun Legion, Notre Dame's now-"official" student cheering section. I've been critical of the Legion in the past - if not here, then everywhere else. But, I wanted to clear things up - for lack of a better phrase. I'm not against the idea of an organized student section. I simply don't feel that you're living up to your potential. Here are a few thoughts from one of those staples of college basketball, a crazy old man in a sweater:
Be loud. I don't know how many times I've heard a TV announcer point out the sudden silence in the JACC after an opponent sinks a big shot. It seems like it happens at least once a game, and it pains me every time I hear it. Sure, it's easy to be loud when the Irish are doing well. But it's when they're down, or when the momentum is turning away from them that the team needs you the most. Show your team that after a missed shot, or after a big dunk by the opposition, that you're still behind them. Keep your spirits up, and maybe they'll keep their spirit and determination up as well. Plus, if you stay loud, you stay in the other team's head. If you get quiet after a big shot, the other team knows they have the edge. But, if you get louder after a big shot by their team, they'll start to notice. You'll get in their head, and you may even be able to take some of their attention away from the task at hand.
Second, be smart. You want to be like the Cameron Crazies? You want to be better than the Cameron Crazies? You'd better bring your A-game. When a Duke opponent travels, or even comes close to travelling, the whole student section rolls arm over arm. When a Notre Dame opponent travels, a spattering of 20-30 Legionnaires mimmic the ref's signal. You say there's more to being a great student section than immitating Duke? Well, how's this: Several years ago, there was a situation late in a tight game against Syracuse where the Orange were taking the ball out on the sideline. After getting the ball, the Syracuse inbounder started to step along the sideline with it! I didn't recognize it at first, but my friend immediately did and called it out. After a second I yelled, "Wait a minute, you're exactly right?" Did we have two thousand green-clad undergrands screaming and booing this no call? No. Instead we had a quiet student section watch Syracuse dump the ball down to Carmelo Anthony, so he could push off for an easy bucket, and the two rows in front of me turned around and started as if my friend and I were trying to argue Clifford Jefferson's Heisman candidacy. Now, what will it take to educate the "troops?" An impromptu pep rally before each game? Handouts? How about a website or a blog - those seem to be popular these days. Use it to post the chants and player nicknames for the upcoming game, keep people update on the Irish players' progress, and throw in a few rules and terms while you're at it.
Any band kid with a fair amount of sense knows that 10,000 people don't pack the Joyce Center to hear the band play Smashmouth's "All Star." They come to watch the team play. Likewise, CBS and ESPN don't bring their cameras to the JACC because they enjoy filming green clown rings and blue body paint. The cameras are there for the team, and you should be too. Get on TV because you're loud, spirited, and know what's going on with the game, not because you fit into your dad's polyester jumpsuit.
With all that said, what's the point of this letter? When the Leprechaun Legion was first form, one of their platforms was a Joyce Center seating realignment that put them in sideline seats behind the team benches. Now, did the original Legion want to be as close to the action as possible to make the most impact, or did they just want to be on TV? I hate to blatantly guess, but I'd have to say it was a bit of both. Unfortunately, the seating change has yet to come. Here's my challenge to you: Don't give them a choice. Sure, its easy to simply ask to be moved, but that hasn't worked yet. You need to be so loud, so boisterous in your current baseline seats that the administration sits up and takes notice. "Wow, the Legion is such a force at games, we do need to move them behind the benches to make them even more of a force." That should be your goal.
Finally, here is a second goal for you: Go to the women's games. Trust me on this one. They're good: #15 in the country this preseason. You say their brand of basketball isn't as good? The men have four guards passing the ball around the arc until one forces up an ugly three or someone dumps the ball down to Torin Francis, who then gets molested by a triple team. The women execute a triangle offense complete with backdoor cuts that are a thing of beauty. You say there are no dunks? First, TiVo the old McDonald's All-American dunk contests the next time they're on ESPN2. Then, remind yourself that there's more to sports than home runs, go routes, and slam dunks. If you're mature enough, you can even judge the girls on the team for their ability and not their looks. Who will fill in for Jackie Batteast? Can Charel Allen ever regain her tremendous speed and quickness after a knee injury? Then there's sophomore center Melissa D'Amico. At 6'5, she's the same height as Ruth Riley, and she's supposed to be loaded with talent. And don't forget Meghan Duffy. Duffy co-captained the US under-21 team to a gold medal at this summer's World University Games, and she's an All America candidate. This is a good team, and Muffet McGraw is sure to take them far into the NCAA tournament.
I wish the Legion the best of luck this year. If nothing else, it should be an interesting year for both the men and the women. Will you be able to make a difference?