Sunday, December 2, 2007

A founding father weighs in

This hurts.

The issues I’ve heard going on with the student section are disheartening and I’d like to comment on a few things. But before I do that, I want you to know that I never intended to be “that guy” who graduated but always seems to find a way into supposedly petty current student happenings at the university. Let me assure you that when you do see my name or face around an issue, it is because whatever is going on is of huge importance to me. I loved and cherished my time at SU and want you all to leave with the same positive feelings that I did.

When the bunch of us founders graduated in May and left the brainchild that is Otto’s Army behind, we thought we got the message across. I thought, at least, that its core values would be upheld.

If you attend SU sporting events, you are part of Otto's Army. It is not an elitist group and does not separate students from one another for seating purposes or otherwise. It is a group promoting spirit for SU athletics, a fair and fun student fan environment, and for the betterment of our relationship with the community. We do this through events and gatherings, representation of the student body to university and athletic administrative bodies, and service to our university and community.

The most active student fans have been doing great work for our athletic department and in supporting our teams. We hosted the Winter Carnival Pep Rally, we advertised and helped get more than 200 students sitting TOGETHER at the first men's lacrosse game last year (which typically has poor or scattered student attendance), and we raised thousands of dollars for Relay For Life.

However, there have been current students contacting me, distraught that the student section may be heading in the wrong direction. As I watched the Tulane game tonight, I noticed some of those complaints come to life. They became very real when I received phone calls and text messages after the game from upset student fans.

The Dynasty

I love the Dynasty gesturing and posing and think it created a unifying element for the team.

It should have stayed at the pep rally. I don’t think it is necessary for me to go on about how bringing stuff like that over to games that count make the team look way to focused on their ESPN image. After a completely senseless loss to UMASS, it looks like our team got the picture from Jimmy B. I didn’t see any posturing or diamond-throwing against Tulane.

Do I like that students still use the hand sign during games? Not particularly, and I can’t totally fault people for using it to be more personal with the team. I do, however, have a problem with the athletics department running promotions for Manny’s version of the dynasty t-shirt. And I have an even bigger problem with our own bookstore trying to cash in on this arrogance.

Most of our players aren’t 10 games into their collegiate career and you have to go turn their heads into hot air balloons. Selling that shirt represents the opposite of what should exemplify a collegiate athletics program – respect, humility, and pride. How is anyone going to take us seriously when the institution itself anoints them as gods? Could they win the championship in their time here? I do hope so, but it is not necessary to endorse the kind of behavior that the team now (hopefully) has behind them.

Player-Fan Interaction

I only read on blogs and message about the incident that occurred between Eric Devendorf and a student fan at the tail end of the UMASS loss.

I don’t support heckling your own college team. If you’re one of the culprits of this in our student section – and I know there are some – please stop. If you’re dissatisfied with their performance, just be quiet. They’ll get the message. These kids work hard to put on a good show for you and, although you’re probably ready to retort that they get free tuition – think about all of the money their talents bring to SU every year.

Alas, they sometimes make mistakes on the court. Dimwitted, ridiculous, “oh my god are you serious?” mistakes. You know what screaming and yelling at your peers on their home court accomplishes? Not a damn thing except making one of them snap at the end of a bitterly frustrating game. Eric should have kept his cool, yes, but what kind of messed up fan situation is it that we need to debate about an altercation between people on the same side?

Actually, heckling and fighting with your own team does appear to accomplish something. According to students who contacted me after tonight’s game, Eric looked angrily at the student section, and a number of reporters sought out “that kid” who fought with him. This is not the kind of attention our program needs.

The Hey Song

I watched the game tonight and noticed that people were singing it with about 10 minutes left and ‘Cuse clinging to a slim double digit lead.

Let’s go with bullet points for this one, because it’s getting late and I’m realizing how ridiculous it is that I actually need to write some of the stuff in this post out, most of which should be common sense. The Hey Song does have the words “suck” “shit” and “fuck” in it. This makes it incredibly fun to sing, which brings me to my first point:
  • The Hey Song has the words “suck” “shit” and “fuck” in it. Some of the community dislikes it and the university officially dislikes it for that reason. We should not overuse it, lest we might (a) sever important relationships with the community and (b) face action from the university.
  • In my 4 years at SU, if we sang the song before the game was in hand, 99% of the time someone on the opposing team would have the 5 minutes of their life, we’d lose, and make us wonder why we were so stupid to prematurely declare ourselves the victors. Ask Quincy Douby. And that brings me to…
  • The Hey Song is a song of victory. It really should be brought out in moments of true elation, unexpected outcomes, and torrential beat-downs against hated rivals. Did that happen tonight? No. I saw people singing the song with 10 minutes to go with a minor lead against a school whose shirts we recently sold in our own bookstore to aid their hurricane ravaged campus. Yea, we ended up winning by 13, but they also lost to Buffalo by 14 a couple of nights before.
During my junior and senior years, we pretty effectively taught people the simple principles of The Hey Song: please, don’t be a prick. If you started the song for the sake of starting it, or because it “is a totally awesome song” or because you thought you needed to cheer louder, you missed the point completely – and you eventually listened to us who directed you to hold and cherish the song’s sacred words for the most spontaneous and fulfilling times. Now, I’ve heard that those same cries for moderation are falling on deaf ears.

My red-eyed conclusion

It’s now 3:30 in the morning and I’m still here pouring my heart out about this stuff. I could’ve still been at the bar putting $20 in the Buck Hunter machine or, better yet, sleeping. Instead, I answered the calls and text messages of my fellow befuddled Orangemen and Women who are not quite sure why there were students fighting with each other during tonight’s game.

I really do care about every one of you.

So, I’ll leave you with this: being an SU student is an amazing experience. Being an active SU sports fan while being an SU student is a couple of steps from heaven. Being in the student section is something you’ll keep with you long after you graduate, so don’t degrade it all with politics, anger, and cockiness.

Support your team whether at their highest highs or lowest lows. Or, if you really need to, just be quiet.

Don’t take for granted your 4 year excuse to be completely wild and rowdy at sporting events – no one looks at you strange. In fact, they love your enthusiasm.

Most of all, treat your onlookers, your team, and your fellow students with respect, humility, and pride.

-Menotti Minutillo
Founding Member, Otto's Army
Syracuse University Class of 2007


Jameson Fleming said...

Menotti, you really nailed the whole dynasty thing, it's all fun and games, but the fact that S.U. athletics supports it is kind outlandish. Also completely agree with you on the heckling.

Pat said...

I'm a huge fan of the SU basketball team. I don't usually get down to where most of you guys are by the front row, but I am usually pretty close to the court. I'm sure you'd recognize me if you saw me, I'm a loud and rowdy fan that is always screaming and heckling (the other team).

Anyways, it's getting sickening to see how our student section is performing. Sure, we get screwed over with the location of our seats and the opposition going away from us in the second half. But it's like church in the Dome at times. People turn around when I'm screaming at opposing players like I'm diseased. My behavior should be normal. I've always expressed my grievances about this (I used to write a column in the DO), but I figured it'd be good to take it to you guys.

There's no real reason to listen to me, but as a Senior and die hard fan i think i have some good opinions/ideas.

First of all, I agree with the Dynasty (which i still havent done seeing that we're 5-2) and the Hey Song. The song should be saved for rare occasions.

- We need something else to chant other than "Let's go Orange." We need to try to mainstream "here we go orange here we go" or something else. We could do a we are - clap clap- SU. I realize this is hilariously corny but hearing Lets Go Orange every possession is frustrating.

- Get the rest of the crowd involved. We were doing a GOOO, Orange to the rest of the crowd but we stopped. This gets them involved, which is important because those fans need some spurring on. Bring it back.

- We have to encourage more noise on defense, and organized chants against opposing players. Also, chanting bullshit after every call is absurd.

Now, I understand that these are changes that won't happen overnight. It's going to take time, and I probably won't be around to see it happen. But I think that we need to start encouraging this stuff. I've tried to do it up by me and i know that you guys can definitely get it started and spread. Sorry for the long rant, I just want to see Cuse get a legit homecourt advantage back. Let's get loud.

-Pat DiSalvo

Lisa said...

Great ideas Pat. I feel terrible that I can't picture your face even though I'm sure we spend a decent amount of time together waiting in line. Come down to the front row Saturday and let us know what we can do to help get some of your ideas off the ground. We're all "diseased" down there...

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I think you're taking "your" brain child, otto's army, a concept that you had no part in coming up with (I know, because I did, back in 2004 if I remember correctly), a bit too seriously.

Fans will be fans. Some of them will do stupid things, most of them will not.

Personally, I have no problem with the players and fans throwing up the dynasty sign whenever the hell they want. If that helps the players to have more fun, and that helps them to win games, then all the better. If you haven't noticed, this team plays their best with huge grins plastered across their faces. So if the dynasty concept keeps them happy, I'll be throwing up my pseudo gang symbols all game long for them.

side note: I do agree with you about the school trying to cash in on the excitement, but what do you expect? College sports is, and always will be, a business. (Don't let them try to fool you)

Sadly, we alums can cry about this all we want, but the changes need to happen at the school, at every game. If people don't feel truly involved in otto's army, they're not going lose their voices cheering on the orange in the dome. Honestly, by calling yourselves founding fathers (what is this, a fraternity?), you're creating a wall between you and the lowly normal otto's army members. You can say the group isn't elitist, but it seems as though the upper echelon is.

Just some things to think about...Go Cuse! (Anyone else scare for singletary??)

Menotti said...

I wish you would have posted as yourself instead of anonymous so I can understand some of the things you're referring to.

Anyways, if you reread the post, I did not claim for this to be my brainchild. But to say that it was "a concept that [I] had no part in coming up with" is untrue.

Maybe "founding father" wasn't a wise choice of words for a title, but it's shorter than "a person who feels they at least played some important part in the formulation of Otto's Army weighs in". Know what I mean?

It was a combination of a ideas put together by quite a few people, and I continue to thank and give credit to them. I am not laying claim to it being my idea, but I do feel that I was an important part of its beginnings (as early as Fall 2003), helped manage the first line processes, wrote and published the line processes to every season ticket holder, met with the Dome directors to allow us to camp outside the Dome (which was targeted for dismantling by them after a parent complaint), etc.

Of course it wasn't all me. I never said that and am not trying to take that credit. However, I feel that I did have a big part in it, and I don't think I am being elitist when trying to express the basic tenets and original goals of the group: promoting student spirit for athletics, working to change policy that affects students, and bettering the community through community service and improved relationships with them.

The most I can do is explain things through experience and hope that at least some of the ideas remain intact...
- The Hey Song is fun, but the school, media, and some of the community do not like it. They do tolerate it on occasion, though, so I'm just recommending against its constant use (we've been warned about it before). And besides, I think that using it less makes it more fun when that perfect moment arrives.
- I actually said in the post that I can't fault students for using the Dynasty sign.
- There is no "upper echelon" of Otto's Army. There are people who have volunteered their time and energy to be committee chairs, work with the media, and create programs to further the group.

I'm not trying to create any waves here and I hope I didn't insult anyone with my thoughts. All I know is that I had people call and text me after and during a couple of games saying that there's senseless fighting going on over some basic principles of OA, so I felt that the opinion of an alum who was at least around it all held value.

Thanks and keep up the good work. Remember, we're all workin towards the same goal. Go Orange!

Anonymous said...

I see a lot more of what you're saying. Thanks for the clarification.

Like I said, I'm no longer a student, so I can only hope for the best for the section now that I'm gone. Being no stranger to the front row myself, I like to think I harassed and heckled (the other team) with the best of them, and I hope, as I am sure you do, that things will work themselves out in the section.

Thanks for your response.