During the last couple of years in Chicago I became friends with a man by the name of Brian “Boomer” Roberts. Boomer coaches basketball at Trinity International University in Deerfield, just north of Chicago. We attend the same church in neighboring Lincolnshire, and instantly became friends after talking one Sunday.
Boomer’s team has become like family to me and have helped me realize what it feels like to be a fan. I come to games, I yell, I scream, I harass the refs – you know, usual fan stuff. His team made the NAIA DII tournament for the first time in 10 years, and I, being a fan of this team I now call family, had to come support them. I thought it was the perfect set up. Our team playing the host school in the prime time game: us against the world. Things couldn’t have been primed for a better situation as a fan. But boy, was I wrong.
I entered the arena in my blue and white Trojan shirt, as one of about 30 fans who made the eight-hour drive (or four-hour flight from Dallas, in my case) to come support the team. We were surrounded by a sea of maroon. From college students, to faculty, to locals and even out-of-towners, no one gave us a chance. And my job, as small as it may have seemed, was to cheer as loud as humanly possible, and bring others along with me. I was ready for anything that the opposing fans had to give me. But it is what I WASN’T ready for that almost had me leaving the game early.
About five minutes into the first half, a Trojan fan came up from behind me and tapped me on the shoulder. “Can you please sit down?” he said. “People behind you can’t see.” I was so confused. The one reason I came was to cheer on the guys in the best way I knew how, and now, someone who was supposed to be on my team was telling me to stop.
“No,” I replied. “There are plenty of seats in front of me. If someone can’t see, that person can move to one of these seats.” Needless to say, the other Trojan fan wasn’t happy with my response. A few minutes later, ANOTHER Trojan fan came up and asked me the same thing. “Please, if you don’t want to sit down, at least move to the front so we can see.”
Anyone that knows me knows that this kind of thing goes against every fiber in my being. We are FANS – you know, FANATICS. In other words, our job – especially in this single-elimination tournament – is to stand and cheer, not sit and watch. My reply was the same, “Sir, there’s an entire student section for the other team standing up and cheering. One of the players’ family members is standing and cheering. I’m not going to sit down. I’m here to cheer for my team.”
In the middle of our conversation, a SECURITY GUARD comes over and asks the guy I’m speaking with if there are any issues. Even the security guard, though he acknowledged my right to stand, asked if I would move to a different seat. This situation made no sense to me. I came to the game, waited in line, paid for my ticket – and in my opinion, I had every right to stand and cheer, no matter who else said otherwise.
I was starting to get a little perturbed and, quite frankly, a little bit angry. But it wasn’t until a gentle word from the person sitting next to me that I changed my approach. “Hey,” she said. “I’m totally with you. But this is such a great moment for the boys, let’s not let anything detract from that. How about this, if you move, I’ll move with you. That way, this doesn’t keep going on. Sometimes you have to take one for the team.”
She was right. This game was not about me, nor was it about the person behind me. It was about the team and everything they were trying to accomplish. They had come this far, and my emotions and frustrations had no place at the table that night. So subtly, but humbly, I moved. I went to a side of the stands where I wasn’t in anyone’s way and cheered my socks off for the Trinity International Trojans.
Sometimes, it was just me. Other times, the other Trojan fans joined in. But I made sure that our voice was heard and our presence was felt. The team went on to win that night and advance in the tournament. Though my pride took a blow, I knew I did the right thing when the players came up to me after and thanked me for yelling.
“We felt you out there, bro. Thank you for coming.”
Those are the ten words every fan wants to hear. Thanks guys, and Go Trojans!