Archive for Saturday, February 26, 2005

Mayer: Fieldhouse fans not to blame

February 26, 2005


There's justifiable rhetoric about people getting ugly toward performing athletes, especially Jayhawk spectators rapping Kansas University basketball players. That reeks! Still, let's try to be a bit less demeaning about Allen Fieldhouse audiences -- get off their backs a little, so to speak.

This in no way sanctions the disgusting, thoughtless booing of Kansas players, or even visiting athletes. There are positive and negative ways to react, and the lousy behavior of local nitwits in the loss to Iowa State was barf material.

Just as bad as the X-rated chants from KU crowds are most of those nasty T-shirts and banners they use to get attention. We're talking military barracks muckerism. Lordy, these kids do the best they can for what amounts to a minimum wage. Just because that may not be good enough on a specific occasion is not a license to boo and embarrass. Sportsmanship? Ever heard of it. May its tribe increase, soon!

Yet KU audiences are a long way from being all bad, and far more often than not deserve commendation rather than beration.

How many times during the Iowa State-Kansas game did we hear various broadcast throats saying things like, "Boy, the KU crowd sure isn't into it yet." Or, "You'd think the KU fans would be supporting the team more aggressively."

Crowd reaction is often a subject, particularly when it's not as decibel-intensive as some would prefer. Things get deafening and many think that's as it should be. Me, I think crowd-backing can be overrated when a team is ready and plays its best. Fans don't get stops and score hoops.

Some cat named Hamlet deduced that the play's the thing to catch the conscience of the king. Same goes for reeling in the fans at Allen. When KU's tough, it's loud enough. When Kansas falters, crowds don halters. Be honest, when the Jayhawks are flobbering around like cold sausages, there's not likely to be any sizzle from the crowd.

Fans don't just start out at fever pitch and maintain it when KU is suffering pathetic stretches like those trances against Texas Tech, Iowa State and Oklahoma. Give 'em something to bubble about, guys. Some passion, please.

It's a chicken-or-egg deal. When the Jayhawks stink up the joint, as they have too much of late, eager fans keep waiting for something exciting, promising and inspiring so they also can get on a roll. When KU keeps blowing trey after trey, bypassing easy shots, dying from turnovers and letting opponents get second and third shots with such devastating effect, what's to yell about? Right now, the KU show-tent's on fire, and the wheels are about to fall off the bandwagon.

Further, consider how many timeouts there are to wreck the continuity of a game, particularly when Kansas is on a sizz. There are the obligatory commercial-friendly breaks at or about 16:00, 12:00, 8:00 and 4:00 each half, along with more traditional TO's.

Then who in hell's idea is it to keep constantly parading so-called honorees, visiting firemen, officials and even now and then a deserving individual or group onto the court with such fanfare?

I'm thinking these are beginning to irk me more than the commercial breaks. Promotion is one thing, but trying to lionize people just because they met John Kerry or George W. Bush, Howard Dean, or others, is getting out of hand.

What about staging the game for entertainment and shucking a lot of this ditzy, interruptive promotional baloney? That might give fans a little more cause for involvement than all the glitzy fol-de-rol in this dollar-conscious climate.

It's ridiculous to demand that the fieldhouse audience which has paid good money for its seats, in some cases A LOT of money, is obligated to be a collective cheerleader.

There was that childish Roy Williams "wine and cheese" designation, meaning too many fat cats are a hard sell and should be yelling more. Nuts! What if the team isn't giving people, including the designated yell teams and band, legitimate reasons for gurgling?

How can you relish KU waltzing and meandering down the court, giving the defense a chance to get set in concrete, then staging a non-productive ballet around the trey arc? How can you get excited when you remember how fiery Kirk Hinrich ran up the backs of casual opponents in mad dashes to the hoop with his infectious creativeness and passion?

Some will contend that the seating shakeup by the new athletic regime has taken a lot of loyalists out of the crowd mix and that a lot of the "strangers" don't recognize their roles as hucksters. A KU crowd that is less than deafening when the team is not playing well and is courting disaster is not new. Been going on for years.

When the Jayhawks finally got out of their trance and began to truly challenge Iowa State, the crowd reacted accordingly. It began to give the players anything they'd get at Duke's Cameron pit, the Dean Dome at Carolina, Rupp Arena at Kentucky or that 33,000-plus hothouse at Syracuse. There have been "whine and cheese" audiences at all of those palaces when the home teams have not been performing well.

There will be a lot more benign crowd behavior here when the Jayhawks waltz around, don't seem to care about what they're doing and aren't really challenging the opposition. There'll be plenty of chances for the KU crowd to raise the roof for the Oklahoma State visit Sunday -- providing the Jayhawks at least make a contest of it.

Sure, it's great to reflect on the traditional support Kansas crowds give their darlings, because there have been hundreds of instances of that. But it also is well to realize that when people have paid their dues to be excited and entertained and their team is not measuring up to expectations there will be justifiable times when "the crowd really isn't in it."

The only humans who can alter that are the Jayhawks. This slump is endable if they want that badly enough.

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