COLLEGE PARK - When the fierce sea of Terrapins red erupted into hisses, Noam Fishman raised his white flags.
The first said: "I disagree with that call." The next: "I dislike the other team." A third: "Expletive."
After last month's Maryland-Duke game, when Terps fans cursed at Duke and Blue Devils guard J.J. Redick, earning the ire of alumni, sports commentators and school administrators, the sophomore from Chevy Chase decided to do something.
"I saw all this stuff in the paper about how Maryland was behaving. I didn't like how we were being perceived, so I thought I would hold up some signs that made the same point," Fishman said yesterday, as he watched North Carolina State defeat the Terps, 81-69.
Fishman wasn't the only one at Comcast Center yesterday who bristled at the negative attention aimed at Maryland after the Blue Devils game.
About 10 minutes before the game, Maryland coach Gary Williams took to the court, microphone in hand, and told the fans the cursing had to stop.
"We cannot have obscene chants. We cannot wear obscene T-shirts to games. We're too good for that," Williams said. "We have a great university, we have a great place to play in, we have a great basketball team and we have the best fans in the country. ... Help us win the games. Thank you."
As he watched the game at home, state Assistant Attorney General John Anderson applauded Williams' speech.
"I thought it was perfect, and I would hope it would be very effective," Anderson said.
The University of Maryland has asked the attorney general's office to look into ways it can curb the profanity at basketball games, which is at its worst when the Terps play Duke, their archrival. Anderson, who is chief of the educational affairs division, said he hopes to have an answer for the school this week.
But whether it was Williams' speech or that N.C. State kept hitting three-pointers or just because this team from Carolina wasn't wearing blue, the fans behaved yesterday.
Fans still pretended to read newspapers during introductions of N.C. State's players and they taunted those fans who began leaving with a minute to go. But otherwise, the crowd was fairly subdued.
Even Russell Rosenblatt and his friends kept their shirts on. The group of seven, all freshmen, usually spell out "Go Terps" in red paint on their chests. But they left their paint can at a motel last month, when they came to campus over winter break for the Duke game.
Rosenblatt said fans will heed Williams' plea because everyone respects the coach. But he still seems angered by the school's response to the Duke affair.
"If we're going to curse, it's not like it's against the law," said Rosenblatt, who wore his red wig and a profanity-free Terps shirt. "This school keeps cracking down on the most unnecessary stuff, and there are so many more important issues. Like tuition increases. Like security."
Some fans, like Jason Sohmer, 33, warned the young children they brought with them about the foul language.
"I told him, 'You're going to hear some curse words. Just try to block them out,'" said Sohmer, who brought his 12-year-old brother-in-law, Justin Simonton. The sixth-grader isn't allowed to swear at home - if he does, he's grounded.
Though Sohmer called Maryland's behavior in the Duke game "a disgrace," some older fans agreed with many students that the real problem is the administration's crackdown.
"It's ridiculous," Terps fan and political commentator Robert Novak said of the school's decision to call the attorney general.
"Absolutely ridiculous," agreed Mel Keller, 67, an Olney plumber who has been attending games since Lefty Driesell began coaching. Profanity, Keller said, is part of school spirit.
"It's been going on forever," he said. "The University of Virginia has been doing worse than that since Thomas Jefferson started the place."