Opinion: Finding the balance when cheering for BYU

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As sports teams inch their way closer to their respective playoffs, the teams are battling for the coveted championship. But there is one other luxury teams are fighting for: the advantage of playing at home. Why is this advantage so sought-after? Why is the most comforting feeling for a sports team to be the No. 1 seed and know they will be playing at home for the majority of the playoffs?

The main reason is that it can be a real advantage if the fans show up, cheer their team on and create an environment other teams fear. However, fans can also have a detrimental effect on their own team and on the outcome of the game. The important key is to understand the large impact fans can have on the game, for one side or the other, and then to find the comfortable, yet powerful, medium.

I don’t think the majority of fans understand how powerful their influence and participation can be. Obviously, the players are the ones who throw the touchdown passes or shoot the game-winning shots. The officials determine penalties and ultimately call the game. But the fans have more of an effect than most would think.

Here at BYU, we have a large disparity between our two main sports. In football, we need to come alive; and in basketball, we need to tone it down slightly.

When you watch college football on Saturday mornings, and see the most respected venues such as The Swamp at Florida, Death Valley at LSU, and The Coliseum at USC, among others, there are a couple of constants: first, they all have distinguished themselves by traditions and a fearsome name, which other schools fear to play at. Even at the University of Utah, just 40 miles north of us, they have become known as The MUSS (The Mighty Utah Student Section).

In BYU’s first road game of the season, at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, the BYU offense was plagued by false starts and illegal shifts and other pre-snap penalties, to which virtually all of the players attributed to the noise level in the stadium, showing that fans truly can have an impact on the game.

Second, there are very few empty seats. The fact that all of the games are televised either on ESPN or BYUtv is not an excuse to not come to the games and support your team. These other venues are filled to capacity with loud, involved fans.

And finally, the fans come on time. LaVell Edwards Stadium rarely fills up until midway through the first quarter at the earliest. Our homecoming game was frankly embarrassing to see the Oregon State fan section filled to claustrophobic capacity twenty minutes before kickoff, while the remainder of the stadium displayed only small clusters of BYU fans here and there.

We need to come alive for our football games next season and put some fear into the hearts of our opponents. Fans can have a huge impact in football, making enough noise to disrupt the opposing offense, causing false starts and other offensive penalties, while causing intimidation when cheers reach high decibel levels whenever BYU makes a big play. We have one of the largest stadiums in the West. Let’s use it to our advantage!

In basketball, we are much better. Maybe it’s because of the recent Jimmermania that swept the country two years ago. Or the more confined space of the Marriott Center. We are already considered one of the toughest places to play, certainly in the West Coast Conference, but even throughout the nation. Our upcoming opponent recently compared the Marriott Center atmosphere to Cameron Indoor Arena — the home of the Duke Blue Devils, one of the toughest places to play in the nation. However, sometimes we go over the top and need to tone it down.

I remember last season, during a game against Saint Mary’s College, how the fans directly impeded the progress of our team. With BYU fans shouting awful chants toward officials and Saint Mary’s players, and even throwing objects on the court, our opponents were awarded technical foul shots and possession of the ball. If that’s not directly helping an opponent, I don’t know what is.

We can have a huge impact on the outcome of the game, with a raucous crowd of 20,000 plus, easily the largest in our conference. Keep it loud, keep it crazy, but keep it helpful to our own team.

We need to find a balance between the zombie-like atmosphere of our football games and the rabid wolf-like atmosphere of our basketball games. As soon as we find the right combination, we can turn some games to our team’s favor and become a respected, and yes, even feared, place to play.

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