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Take it from a 'Club Tril' member when it comes to chants

I'm a proud, card-carrying member of "Club Trillion."

Though the term was coined in the 1980s, it has come into common parlance only somewhat recently, referring to a seldom-used basketball player — a benchwarmer who, on the rare occasion (s)he sees playing time, fails to record a single statistic.

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"Club Tril" as it has come to become known, gained popularity in the late aughts thanks Mark Titus, to an Ohio State walk-on-turned-blogger-turned-writer.

(As the New York Times points out, "yes, Trillion is a misnomer. Sources vary, but most modern box scores have minutes played along with 15 other statistics, so quadrillion would be the proper term. But we'll stick with the colloquial version.")

Much like American Express, membership in "Club Tril" certainly has its privileges, particularly when you warm the pine as a member of a program playing at the game's highest levels.

I'd never been on an airplane before college. I didn't much care for steak, as the version I knew was of the too thin and too well done variety. I'd certainly never been to Hawaii or dreamed of being at, let alone participating in, the Final Four. Actually, come to think of it, I recorded the last of my Trils in the national semifinals — the last game of my basketball "career."

But, being in Club Tril can leave you a little punch drunk, "like a dog that's been beat too much," like Rocky after being bloodied by Clubber Lang. Getting incessantly dunked on, and being the worst player in the gym can take a toll on your ego. And those are just the occupational hazards that come with playing in practice, behind closed doors.

You also need thick skin and/or a good sense of humor to sit at the end of the bench, especially when you're playing, err, sitting in an opposing team's gym. There are times when I think, maybe I don't take myself seriously enough — maybe I use humor to deflect some version of frustration, defeat, or feeling not quite good enough. Looking back, some version of that mechanism may have been borne of my time as a benchwarmer, because back then, I heard it all.

"Does Coach even know you're on the team?" is one that stood out as being both funny and mean-spirited.

In one gym, a particularly creative fan made a sign of sorts that was probably more appropriate as a prop in a Cialis or Viagra commercial. (Keep it classy, Clemson fans.)

My teammates found it so funny that the recreated one and put it on my locker the next day. Oh, the memories.

The moral of my story — fans can be relentless. But, being the brunt of an opposing fan's or of opposing fans' chants, heckling and good-natured ribbing comes with the territory.

If you watch any episode of ESPN's College Game Day, or just about any big-time college game on TV, you'll see that taking shots at opposing teams' players has become an art form, literally.

Creativity thrives on college campuses. At times it is best on display in the stands, on the signs, and in the chants and choreographed flash-mob dances of college students.

Creative chanting is as much a pastime and part of the in-arena experience as warm-up music, the national anthem and lines for the bathroom at halftime. But, there is a line.

Chants should not be vicious, malicious, or salacious.

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That's not to say they can't be "personalized." But, they shouldn't be "personal" in a wholly derogatory or attacking way.

People may find Duke's Cameron Crazies annoying. But, having played, err, sat the bench in Cameron, they're not malicious. They may be a condensed collection of smart, (somewhat) nerdy college kids, but they're a choreographed, creative throwback to pep-rally-inspired fan-bases that cheer, positively for their team — not malicious.

Unfortunately, sometimes, when people seek to imitate an art form or a character trait, they do so in a way that personifies and/or makes a caricature of a perceived component of the original that may or may not have actually existed therein.

Though they've come a long way (their move to the Big Ten notwithstanding), back in the early aughts, when Maryland wanted nothing more than to be seen as Duke's rival, their fans tried to be like the Crazies. Unfortunately, they became a couth-less caricature thereof. Most notably, taking pride in their low-watermark, completely uncreative and totally inappropriate for an audience made up at least in part of children, not to mention ignorant to say to a college kid playing a game, chants of "(Player's Name), You suck!" and/or "F-You, (Player's Name)!"

Today though, to their credit, Maryland fans are, for the most part, better. You still get some fans, at Maryland and in general, who think (i) paying for courtside tickets entitles them to being ignorant, loud-mouths, and (ii) that making rude, personal attacks is fair, funny, and/or appropriate.

They're wrong, and they're not.

I tend to agree with much of what Jay Bilas says, both in his in-game and more general social commentary. Though I missed the initial story, I caught up on the story about the Great Wisconsin Chant Saga by way of Bilas' Twitter commentary on the same.

Earlier this month, an executive with the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) circulated an email to school and athletic officials outlining a need to curtail the use and/or occurrence of certain unsportsmanlike chants by students.

The email gave "some specific examples of unsporting behavior by student groups including chants directed at opposing participants and/or fans ... heard at recent high school sporting events [like]: "You can't do that," "Fundamentals," "Air ball," "There's a net there," "Sieve," "We can't hear you," the "scoreboard" cheer, and "Season's over."

Reaction and much of the commentary, rightfully so, is that the WIAA's concern is an example of "coddling."

As much of the commentary points out, and while all agree that there is no place for some of the more malicious and/or salaciously-laden chants, the WIAA's want to police and/or stomp-out G-rated chants like those cited in the email, is as mock-worthy as an air ball.

In the words of social media darling, DJ Khaled, "Congratulations, WIAA, you played yourself."

The email, seemingly out of the annals of PCU has invited fun-poking from some pretty funny people and former athletes, like Bilas, questioning what is appropriate sideline behavior.

Is "eat 'em up..." no longer kosher in Wisconsin for fear that a big-boned player or the Academy for Eating Disorders may take offense?

Is "start the bus" out of bounds for fear of its socio-economic implications?

As a one-time member of Club Tril, I didn't and don't take issue with much of what is said from the stands. And though, because of my job, I can't have or at least can't express my opinions in writing on much of what relates to and/or takes place in college basketball, I did take a bit of personal issue with another bench-related story last week.

Monmouth men's basketball's bench "mob" has been having some well-documented fun this season. And sure, though it was most certainly a bit of calculated gamesmanship on his part, Iona coach's Tom Cluess' comments calling out the members of Monmouth's bench's members of Club Tril felt a little out of bounds. But, maybe that's just because it hit a little too close to home.

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The coach's comments asked/stated, "Are they on the team? I didn't know they were on the team or wearing uniforms as cheerleaders. I've never seen them on the court doing anything, so to me, they're not basketball players."

Maybe it's playing sports-related semantics, but while I'm OK with another student (one who wasn't good, disciplined, dedicated, driven, or athletic enough to go out for or to make the team) jokingly asking Club Tril members if their coach knows they're on the team, I don't think it's cool for a coach, one who likely has his own Trillionaires at the end of his bench, to make such mean-spirited comments to the same kids, at all.

410-857-7896

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