There was a significant response to last week's column, almost universally positive. From what I can tell, everyone involved knows the system is broken; but, most either feign fear of not being able to succeed if they break from the pack, or they choose to placate to those who appear to possess the power in the process by coalescing with the coaches and the recruiting process' status quo.
One note was part invitation — inviting me out to watch a high school lacrosse game. I genuinely appreciated the offer. But, my schedule doesn't allow me to make many games. Though, that particular note made me want to take its sender up on their offer because of the way they closed out their email.
They suggested that I would enjoy watching the game. But, closed with a remark suggesting that I would enjoy the antics of the parents even more. The note's closing was a clear invitation to study a particular ecosystem of social anthropology in sports. The inference was also clear:
The behavior of the parents at these games is a study in the sad comedy of schadenfreude. Somewhat specifically, it's the sort of abhorrent parent behavior that would leave me "SMH," as the kids would say.
I got to play in Cameron Indoor Stadium — home of the Cameron Crazies — against Duke. I also played in Cole Field House — home, at the time, to a strange kind of fan.
Before I lose all the Maryland fans on this one: Because of work, I got to sit courtside for Maryland's game against Wisconsin this year, and it was one of the most electric, fun college basketball-watching environments I think I've ever been a part of. Seriously. No "but."
The fans choreographed and carried out a flash-mob-styled dance that started in the student section, and had almost the entire arena Turn(ing) Down For What. Like a stubborn little kid that wanted to act mad just because of where I was, I found myself having fun in spite of myself — or, in spite of the fact that I was in College Park.
Maryland has come a long way since I was in school; its fans even further so. For a time — you know, before they bolted the ACC for the Big Ten — all Maryland wanted to do was to be Duke. The team wanted to beat Duke.
But, the fans wanted to be like Duke's.
Unfortunately, like in most instances, the imitation game is full of phonies and of copycats that are a far cry from the original article. And, not unlike in most instances where people try to copy another's style, they fail to be able to reconstitute the source's substance.
The Cameron Crazies are great. Seriously. No "but."
It's mostly because they're harmless.
They're a well-choreographed collection of nerdy super-fans. They may have invented the flash mob. I wouldn't be surprised.
What people don't realize when they watch Cameron's rows full of blue body-painted future CEOs and hedge fund managers bob in rhythm, or wiggle their collective ju-ju, mojo or angry jazz-handed spirit fingers at opposing players, is that all their cheers are pro-Duke — all their singularly uncoordinated but collectively well-choreographed distraction techniques are rated PG at worst.
They may or may not have had students lined up for a mile outside of Cameron holding the mug shot of one of my teammates. But, once inside the arena, all their gangly, awkward gyrating and pep-rally-styled chanting was all pro-Duke. Seriously.
Cameron, for, or in spite of what outsiders and imitators imagine or try to replicate, is family friendly.
Cole and Comcast Center were far from it for the better part of a decade-and-a-half. "F You, JJ!!" "Hi, [Opposing Player's Name]. You Suck!" Ladies and gentlemen, your Maryland Terrapin basketball fans circa 1998-2010-ish.
Cole and Comcast were where the Jersey Shore wintered.
Back to that Maryland game against Wisconsin a couple of months ago. The vitriolic screaming spittle-filled (and flying) obscenities at Bo Ryan and his Badgers was the unwelcome outlier in the crowd; his hatred noticeable and buffoonish.
He quite literally stood alone and stood out, and for all the wrong reasons.
It takes a lot of energy to hate. I'm no doctor. But, I think I've heard somewhere that being angry raises your blood pressure in an unhealthy way, while smiling, laughing, and being happy are actually healthy for you.
You're at your kids' games. In this instance it's lacrosse. Act like an adult. Sorry. Act like a happy adult.
If you don't know what that means or looks like, act like a happy kid. Cheer. Be positive. Enjoy what your kids' teams do right. Enjoy a good game — win, lose or draw. Enjoy the two hours away from work, your commute, cooking dinner, paying bills, cleaning, stressing over finances, etc. Enjoy the fact that you didn't have to buy a PSL or pay $35 for parking to watch the game.
Enjoy watching kids enjoy being kids.
For a long time, Maryland fans mistook the Crazies' commotion for the wrong kind of emotion. When copying the Crazies, they turned PG into NC-17 like Miley Cyrus on the heels of Hannah Montana.
I've heard stories from friends about opposing teams' parents shouting obscenities at my friends' kids and their teams. The kids were between eight and 11 years old. That's ridiculous! Seriously!?! What did you miss out on in your own athletic career that you are either so overly-invested in your kid's athletic pursuits, so bitter about what you didn't achieve that you feel an unhealthy compulsion to live vicariously through your kid, or both?
Being like that doesn't make you a better fan. It only makes you look bad in front of your kid.
Why would you want to do that?