Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sports Talk: Student Fans are the Best Fans

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Jan. 23, 2013.
Casey County sporting events may not draw the massive crowds of some high schools in the Bluegrass State, but I have thoroughly enjoyed some of the recent home basketball games, and not only for the games themselves, but the student body in general as well.
I know I didn’t graduate a really long time ago, but there are already distinct differences in the high school experience of today as compared to what I remember it to be and technology is one of the biggest proponents of the changes.
Cell phones were just on the rise when I was in high school. Most of us had them but texting was a seldom used feature—if you even had the ability to do so. A smartphone was non-existent, as was Facebook and social media was hardly a term.
With these things a regular part of life for high schoolers today, students are so much more connected than we used to be; constantly connected. Having a constant connection to what your friends are doing and where they are going to be in a given moment means the need to center your social life around events and activities is less pertinent.
Knowing this, I love seeing students fill up the pep section of the bleachers on game nights, knowing this is still where the heart of the high school experience exists. I have always been a fan of theme dressing. It adds a new level of fun and involvement from fans, so seeing everything from the neon wear to the country/hillbilly dress from the students is great fun.
The cheerleaders are as loud and powerful as ever from the stage and then on the floor in no time during any pause in play to pump up the crowd.
I have to admit that I probably admire Rowdy more than most do. The guy goes and goes and goes all through the game, cutting up and interacting with everyone from the ball players and coaches to kids and parents.
The dance team varies the routines regularly and using Rowdy is a great bonus of fun. I love their encouragement, at times, of the crowd to join them on the floor for Cotton Eye Joe and such.  
Then there is the pep band. Sure, hit music over the sound system is always fun tfor dancing around with your friends in the bleachers, but there is something about hearing the pep band in the gymnasium. That makes it a sporting event. I am always thrilled to have them present.
All of these elements—cheerleaders, dance team, Rowdy Rebel, the fans and the band members—they make these sporting events what they should be.  And note that all of these are students themselves.
The athletes play because they love their sport, but when the big-timers take time to “thank the fans,” I truly think they mean it. A true athlete is always going to be a competitor and play hard, but fans have a way of unlocking a special type of adrenaline in an athlete.
I commend the Casey County student body for their involvement in the entities that help make a successful sports program. It is about the athletes, but those athletes—your friends—do need you there and love your enthusiasm. (And so does a Rebel alum like me!)
There may be plenty of options today for how you can spend your time with friends; maybe going to a game isn’t the only way you can find them and make plans and communicate. But relish your opportunity to be the heart and soul of Casey County sports.
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We have our Super Bowl teams! Or, should I say, the Harbaugh Bowl? The San Francisco 49ers will face the Baltimore Ravens. Tell me your game predictions!  (Don’t care about the teams but plan to watch? Which commercial are you looking forward to? Or the halftime show??)
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