Sunday, April 13, 2014

The 6th Man

Welcome back to Overseas With A Carry On for all of my returning readers and 'Welcome' to my first timers. A lot has happened in the sports world since our last visit; namely the NCAA 2014 men's basketball champion was crowned.  The Final Four included Wisconsin, Florida, Kentucky and the University of Connecticut. UCONN defeated Florida and Kentucky was victorious over Wisconsin; both were great games. In the finale, the 'veteran' UCONN squad proved to be superior  and knocked off the young and talented Kentucky Wildcats.  I actually didn't get to watch the championship game because, well, I simply fell asleep trying to stay up into the wee hours of the morning for the game to be streamed online. Another quirky fact about the game: when I woke up the next morning, to find out who won the game I did not go to, Facebook, or Twitter; I simply checked my Instagram timeline. How about that - sports update via your photo sharing app.  The 'perks' of life in 2014.

Getting into the main theme of todays' entry, I'd like to discuss a huge part of basketball that we sometimes overlook. It's not a secret that teams are more victorious playing at home than they are while playing on the road. I'm sure there are a plethora of reasons for that: gym/rim familiarity, sweet spots on the court, maybe a spouse/significant other in attendance, etc.  Whatever the personal reason, I truly believe the collective reason is what many refer to as "The 6th Man."

No, not the J.R. Smith or Jamal Crawford award but the psychological idea that the next important player is none other than the fans.  The crowd. The spectators.  The ones who mindlessly shout chants of "D-Fence", roar at the sight of a string of good plays and shout "Boooooooo" to the opposing teams' best players. The group of people who make the arena so loud that opposing coaches cannot communicate tactics to players during timeouts and huddles.  These are the die hard fans that that give you the energy to feed off of when the game is deadlocked and you need a big defensive stop to seal the game. They undeniably play a large role in the psyche of players and coaches.

In college basketball, due to their success on the hardwood, many would argue that Duke Basketball has the most influential student section and crowd.

 Grant Halverson/Getty Images

These group of "crazies" are known as the Cameron Crazies.  The name is taken from the name of the gym where Duke plays their home games, Cameron Indoor Stadium.  These fanatics are active the entire game, dressed or painted in blue and make it a nightmare for opposing players inbounding the ball as they pack tightly into the tiny arena.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
I have never played at Cameron Indoor Stadium so I cannot comment on the effect of the Crazies personally; I can only go by what I've seen while watching countless games over the years and peers of mine who have played there.

One gym that I can personally comment on and in my opinion, is the craziest collegiate atmosphere to play in is The Spectrum of the Utah State Aggies in Logan, Utah.  These fans are such a well organized group of spectators.  From their chants, to their taunts to the fake media press release they have waiting for each person in attendance, these guys are clever as ever. They have been known to befriend you on Facebook only to steal an embarrassing picture of you, blow it up as a life size poster and have it plastered all throughout the stadium on gameday! Please watch the following videos because, well, pictures just don't do The Spectrum justice...

Well . . . As you can clearly see, this is not one student section to play around with. Under head coach Stew Morrill, the Aggies are 194-13 at home. Until a surprising early season loss in 2009, Utah State boasted the second longest home win streak in the nation behind Kansas.  During my tenure at Louisiana Tech, we came close but were never able to scratch out a win there. The Spectrum is a tough environment to play in, especially when you have this guy distracting you while shooting free throws.
Boyd Ivey

As far as crazy home court advantages overseas? One word, Partizan!

I hope you enjoyed that snippet. Though I have yet to play at Partizan, I do have a teammate who has. He sent me this photograph that left me in awe. Most stadiums prohibit the normal threats fans may carry such as bottles, beer bottle caps and things of that nature. At Partizan in Belgrade, these are what the signs outside the stadium advise you not to bring:


I guess bringing guns and knives is not so unthinkable out there. Needless to say if I ever play in Belgrade, let's say a prayer now that I make it out alive! I think it's clear to see why it can be so difficult to win on the road and why big road wins count for so much more than just a win in the standings. A group of individuals went into enemy territory and overtook them on their own turf. Takes a lot of focus, discipline and resiliency throughout an entire game to pull off those kind of wins against top level teams. 

With that said, appreciate the fans and never never sleep on The 6th Man!


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