Friday, February 25, 2011
The SDSU Aztecs have one more day to get ready for the nationally-televised rematch with Brigham Young University. BYU beat the Aztecs a month ago, but that game was in Utah. This time, the home team will have thousands of fans cheering for them.
The big game is a chance for San Diego State University to shine. The national television spotlight will shine on Viejas Arena as two top ten teams battle for the top spot in the Mountain West Conference.
SDSU employee Emilio Ulloa braved chilly early morning temperatures to get a seats durning this year's basketball party.
"From the chants that the students do," said Ulloa, " to holding your finger up for free throws -- the routine that you go through is a lot of fun. It’s very participatory."
He called game day a blast because the entire arena rocks when the team gets on a roll.
The seats in the student section of Viejas Arena may be the most under-used pieces of furniture on the San Diego State University campus. The rows rise up from the court to the rafters behind the basket on the east end of the building. But the seats serve only as dividers. The students never sit down. They probably expend enough energy from tip off to the final bell to qualify for a college level physical education credit.
"It’s the thing,” said SDSU basketball coach Steve Fisher. "To get on your feet and sway and sing and do crazy stuff in a good positive way."
Fisher knows a lively student section can create a sea of noise that swallows up a visiting team’s will. "They set a great example," Fisher said.
Fisher said the home crowd makes Viejas Arena a tough place for visitors to play, and that’s what the Aztecs want. He also gave the SDSU student section credit for originality.
The students stand behind the visitor’s basket and lift up big cardboard cutouts of celebrities. The faces are both famous and infamous. They include Chuck Norris, Kim Il Jong, Snookie and Abe Lincoln.
"I think if you go back," Fisher said, "...when did the big heads come into play? I think they started in Cox, now Viejas Arena with our crew, years ago."
"The Show" got its name in 2004, said sixth-year senior Mathew Bishop. Someone suggested the students were trying to steal the show from the basketball team, so the student section stole the name. But they did not have to steal enthusiasm.
"We do everything from finding personal information from the players that we can chant, to just unique and creative chants that we can come up with,” explained Bishop. "We love making noise. We love being loud. We love the Aztecs.”
The group is organized. There are loose rules, cheers and some guidelines.
"But it is not about everyone being the same," said SDSU senior Gina Abbamonte. "We’re really unique and creative, in that, you’ll see the most random costumes. It’s not even necessarily related to SDSU or related to basketball. There are people out there dressed up as a gingerbread man, dressed up as a gecko. Everyone’s a unique individual, but we all come together and make the show.”
The team seems to be as big of a fan of the student section, as the student section is of the team.
"The show has a way of electrifying the arena," said Senior Aztec Point Guard DJ Gay. The players know a good cheering section can make a difference in a close game. And a good performance can make a difference elsewhere.
"It’s not just the students anymore. It’s the city," said Gay. "You know, I don’t think we would be having this great of a season if it wasn’t for our fans."
A national television audience will get a taste of the Aztec-BYU excitement on Saturday at 11 a.m. Coach Steve Fisher is urging the students to have fun, but keep it clean. Last year, the student section wore white shirts, skinny black ties and bicycle helmets when BYU came to town. Not everyone appreciated it, but it got noticed. And that’s exactly what "The Show" hopes for.