COLUMN: Passionate fans begat successful teams
There’s a certain feeling an athlete gets before a big game. It’s a blend of nervousness and adrenaline-fueled anticipation, which too often goes misdiagnosed as simply “anxiety.” It begins when cleats are laced up and uniforms are donned, gradually building throughout pregame warmups and eventually peaking about halfway through the national anthem.
No athlete is immune, regardless of experience or skill. NBA legend Bill Russell once said in a radio interview that he threw up before every game.
The magic of sports is this sensation’s ability to transcend the action on the field and reach into the stands, entering the heart and soul of die-hard fans and creating the effect known in sports circles as “atmosphere”.
When 10,000 Aggies shouted “I believe that we will win” before the overtime shootout with No. 7 San Diego State, that atmosphere was impossible to ignore. The noise in the Spectrum had a tangible impact on the game, pushing the players to compete harder than they had all season.
And what a peculiar phenomenon that is. The idea that a crowd of dedicated fans can have a noticeable effect on the players and their ability to perform. That isn’t merely a perk that some teams enjoy — it affects the quality of coaches a team can hire. It affects business decisions on the management level. Having a strong home field advantage can impact a star athlete’s desire to play in a certain city, be it college or professional sports.
A fanbase can literally shape an entire multi-million dollar organization.
For verifiable proof, look no further than the 2014 Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. Those fans, known as the team’s “12th man,” are as important to the players as the players are to the fans. Days before Seattle’s showdown with San Francisco for the NFC Championship, Seahawks defensive back Earl Thomas released the following message:
“12th man, this is as much about you as it is about us. You can have an impact on this game. We need you to be loud, snot-coming-out-of-your-nose crazy. We need everyone and everything you have. Think about the simple fact that after 60 minutes on Sunday, we could be headed to New York. Together.”
That’s how Seattle built a feared home-field reputation — with a team that played hard and fans that cheered harder. Their fans aren’t spectators, they’re participators. As one Seattle Times writer put it, “We aren’t here to be entertained, we are here to make life miserable for the enemy.”
That’s something USU fans can get on board with.
The fans in Seattle shaped their team, cheered on their team, believed in their team, and it worked — the franchise won its first Super Bowl in February, due in no small part to the Seahawks’ hard-earned home field advantage in the playoffs.
If that’s not something that excites Aggie fans, it ought to be.
USU football is now a presence in the Mountain West Conference and the state of Utah. Volleyball is as good as it’s ever been, and as a bonus will play in the brand new Wayne Estes Center next fall. Men’s basketball is recruiting and starting with essentially a brand new roster, which may not be a bad thing. Women’s basketball is reloading. Soccer is going to be great. The list goes on.
Together with the Hurd, USU sports can excel in the Mountain West. The atmosphere created by Utah State fans is something special, and it helps the athletes here play hard. When the players play hard, the victories start coming, and the fans get louder and everybody wins.
– Logan Jones is a sophomore majoring in journalism so he can get paid to go to Trail Blazer games someday. Feel free to contact him at email@example.com or @Logantj.
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