Together we make the game

When talking about zone defense, my high school basketball coach would always use the metaphor that each player was connected to the next by an invisible rope. When one moves, the others move, together.

Games should be this way, too. There should be a connection between what’s happening in bounds, what’s happening on the sidelines, what’s happening on the baselines and what’s happening up in the stands. When one moves, the others should, too. They should all be connected, they should all be together.

Did anyone see the game?

Connection was lacking last week at the Peter W. Stott center when the PSU women’s basketball team fell to Weber State. The girls played an incredible game, and I’m not insinuating that they were off-kilter. Rather, we were. Few stayed put to watch the game, they trickled in through the gymnasium doors as consistently as they trickled out. Interest and enthusiasm at games is hard to foster when the audience is disconnected from what they’re watching.

That night we all attended a basketball game, to be sure, but there wasn’t just one sports team out on the court. Basketball, cheer and dance all come together on game nights.

I asked Portland State Dance Team member Julianne Phillips what, in her opinion, the difference was between cheerleading and dance, since many people mistake the two as the same sport.

“Cheerleading is when you pump up the crowd and try to cause pep by chanting, whereas pom dancing is what I do on the sidelines, which is simply dancing with poms. More for looks than pumping up the crowd,” Phillips said.

If it is their job to pump up the crowd, why is it that they seem more concerned with their hair, makeup and last night’s gossip than the game in front of them or the crowd they are supposed to be engaging?

We say Portland you say…something? Anything?

You see the basketball players on the court filled with vigor, fighting for loose balls, sprinting back and getting on defense, fire in their eyes and passion in their hearts. That same heat is missing in the cheerleaders and dance team members on the baselines. Six cheerleaders stand on one baseline cheering while eight dancers stand on the opposite dancing, and all of them look disinterested in being there. And although they execute their routines flawlessly, they aren’t doing much with regards to actually building up hype in the audience. There isn’t any engagement between dance, cheer, the crowd, or the game. And these four parts should be acting as one, together.

As a cheerleader or dancer, I’m sure it’s hard to engage in something that you aren’t passionate about. They’re passionate about cheer and dance, not necessarily the game that they are supposed to be supporting. But there isn’t just a lack of support toward the basketball team.
There was little to no so support toward any of the athletic teams at Stott that night. The dance team did a number during a timeout in the second half, and once finished there was not a single sound of applause. It’s sad, because each of the sports teams out there on the floor put in a lot of work and seem to get no acknowledgment or support whatsoever. Basketball games, dancing, cheering—these things are supposed to be fun, but the pathetic show of support across the board was just disheartening.

Come for the game, stay for everything else.

The university has made attempts at getting students and fans more involved and excited about attending games. For example, there are free hot dogs, popcorn and soda in the lobby at every game. The food’s good if you get there early, too. Hot dogs are hot, popcorn is fresh and, well, sodas will be the same no matter what time you get there. While the gesture is appreciated, it’s disheartening that free food is one of the main draws that gets students to attend the games. But to be sure, it is a quirky and refreshing attraction that makes PSU stand out a little.

Breaks in the main game are filled with mini activities put on by Robbie Parmess, Director of Human Entertainment here at PSU. I remember at the first PSU basketball game that I attended back in November, Robbie was scrounging the stands for people with November birthdays. Having a November birthday myself, I timidly raised my hand and he directed me to come on down and wait in a little group of people on the sidelines. At halftime, he led us all out to the center of the court and on the loud speaker asked the entire gymnasium to sing us all happy birthday. It was a really great experience for me, especially with it being my very first game.

Perhaps Robbie does his job too well, for attendees were more excited over local high school student Madison making a half-court shot at halftime than they were for the game itself.

According to Robbie, the last men’s basketball game almost reached the gym’s maximum capacity at 1,000 persons. Now I know that pretty much wherever you go men’s basketball is going to draw a bigger crowd than a women’s basketball game, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Games should be fun!

Imagine walking into the Stott center and being immediately overwhelmed by the noise echoing from the gymnasium. Imagine walking in and spotting that cute girl from the fifth floor and your best bud from chem class in a sea of green, Vikings showing support for the game at hand regardless of records or standings, men’s or women’s, winning or losing.

I know that school spirit isn’t the number-one selling point here at PSU, but why can’t it be? We are the largest school in Oregon based on population, exceeding Oregon State University by 1,500 and University of Oregon by 5,000. Why is it then that we can’t seem to be able to get our fellow Vikings to attend and support our teams?

With our mass in numbers we could fill the gymnasium 30 times over, but we can barely fill it once. We don’t even have a student section because there aren’t enough students attending to need an entire section. We’re missing our opportunity, Vikings. While we may not always have the opportunity to compete athletically with some of the more prominent schools in Oregon like OSU and UO, we should be able to compete in terms of spirit and support.

We all chose PSU for a reason, whether it be for a love of the city itself, the outstanding degree of diversity, or quality of academics. No matter the reason, we’re all here now and we should work on ways to come together as a community. Showing support at games is a pretty good place to start.

Next home basketball game is on Thursday, Jan. 29. Come support our men’s basketball team as they take on the Montana Grizzlies, and help yourself to some popcorn. Hope to see you all there, cheering, together.