Last Saturday was “Fan appreciation Day” at the Ohio University Men’s Basketball game (which is a PR hack’s way of saying, “There are no students in town to come watch our team play, so we’re inviting the community to come for just $0.25 per ticket.”) Since tickets are usually $12 each, we figured we ought to take advantage of the deep discount. We all wore our Ohio t-shirts and got great seats just above the away team—University of Delaware. (Incidentally, we couldn’t figure out if the other team was from Delaware, the state, or perhaps one of the many Delaware Cities somewhere else in the United States. There are no less than 5 Delaware Cities in the U.S. besides the one in DE. Turns out they’re from the State, and their mascot is something fierce like a ‘Blue Hen’). When we sat down, Delaware—“The blue team”—scored and Callan shouted, “Whoo hoo. I want the blue team to win!” I informed him that we were Bobcats, and we were cheering for “the green team.”
“Which one is the green team?” he asked, which was a good question, because Ohio was actually wearing their home jerseys, which were white with just a little bit of green striping. To Callan, who has not yet learned the subtleties of team color palette standards, there was a white team and a blue team, but no green. I pointed the striping out to him and he got straightened out. Soon he was shouting “OHIO! OHIO! OHIO!” at the top of his lungs.
After the game Nolan and I followed Callan down on the court where both of them joined a few dozen other kids who were running around the floor, shooting little white plastic basketballs into the hoop. As part of “Fan Appreciation Day” the players came out to sign autographs, but the line was worse than a Santa line on black Friday so we opted out. Instead I met a friend for racquetball and Melissa went with the boys and some friends to Taco bell to exchange their ticket stubs for free tacos (another “Fan Appreciation” gimmick). At $0.25 per ticket, and free tacos for each ticket, we all figured we should have bought a dozen tickets. Oh well.
The game had all the feel of a good college basketball game, including some impressive (if not spectacular) basketball by Ohio’s front five, a lively crowd, cheer leaders throwing t-shirts and plastic basketballs into the crowd, cheesy advertisement-cum-fan participation contests, and, of course, overly enthusiastic fans shouting at the referees (including one loud woman sitting a few rows in front of us who appeared to be connected to the Delaware team and who did not have many nice things to say about the officiators).
The small town twist for this game came at the half time show—eight ten-year-old synchronized jump ropers from Parkersburg, WV known as “High Five.” They did great, only messing up a few times. That kind of thing always makes me nervous. Not because I’m worried about them getting hurt, but worried about how they’ll feel if the mess up. As a ten year old who broke down into tears regularly after striking out in little league baseball, I can relate all too well to how it feels to mess up in front of a crowd. And in something like dance you just can’t stop in the middle, even if you really screw up. And when you’re just watching them, literally praying for them to do well, and they mess up, what can you do except cheer hard for them so they know you’re on their side—nothing to do but cheer and pray.