M. Basketball Commentary: A fan-tastic turnout

As a sports fanatic, I could list a million and one reasons why I love sports. The games and the politics behind them fascinate me — everything is exciting and unpredictable. Nothing can top the high that comes from being in that environment.

People love to talk about momentum in games — one strong play leads to another and the team gets going and it’s history.

The atmosphere is a huge contributor to the momentum and outcome of a game. If it wasn’t, people wouldn’t get so caught up in the idea of a “home court advantage.”

A large part of this atmosphere and momentum is the crowd. A crowd’s energy can directly affect the energy on the floor. Clearly the fan section is not the only determining factor in a team’s success, but it would be wrong to say it doesn’t have an impact.

While Idaho basketball games can draw a crowd, it is nothing compared to a crowd at a bigger school, and it doesn’t compare with the massive crowds the National Basketball Assocation games attract. Idaho isn’t a small school, but it isn’t a huge one either. The fan base can only be so extensive. Many Idaho basketball games have fans show up but rarely fill the Cowan Spectrum entirely.

With that said, every fan at an Idaho game in some way has an obligation to feed into the atmosphere and help build it up. Often that’s enough to get the team wound up and inherently the rest of the crowd as well.

Idaho clearly recognizes the importance of a strong and amped up fan base. At several of the last home games the fans have been decked out and yelling for the duration of the game.

At first, it caught me off guard as I am used to relatively quiet games. The fans came prepared for several planned fan nights thanks to incentives for the most spirited group there. College students will never miss an opportunity for money or free food.
Some wore hunting-gear, others came covered in their team gear and others came completely uncovered with Idaho letters painted across their chests — but they all came filled with Idaho pride.

This is a method Idaho has been pushing and seems to be finding success. Even on game nights without fan incentives, it is easy to see the crowd getting more into the game as the season continues.

The Idaho men’s basketball team pulled away from Sacramento State with an 81-67 win.

I wouldn’t imply that the victory is solely due to a strong Saturday night crowd — the team played good basketball. But it would be overlooking a key aspect of the win to not acknowledge the energy the crowd brought to Cowan Spectrum.

Junior guard Victor Sanders acknowledged the impact of a strong crowd after defeating Sacramento State.

“It is always good to have a good crowd,” Sanders said. “It gives good momentum — we feed off it and the crowd feeds off us, so it goes hand in hand. We appreciate it, definitely.”

As a fan, it feels like you are there just for you. It is hard to imagine that being a fan means something more than just being someone who shows up with a ticket and a team T-shirt.

A strong fan base has the potential to pump a large stadium full of life, and to excite the players beyond their own anxiety and nerves. Individuals in the stands have the power to impact a game in ways a coach trying to rile up their team does not.

As Idaho heads into the final stretch of the regular season, hopefully they will carry the excitement and energy fans brought to Cowan Spectrum and punch the final ticket in Reno.

Meredith Spelbring can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu

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