fan appreciation

Tonight I went to watch Washington play California. The game was great for Husky fans, Roy again demonstrating that he is the Pac-10 player of the year and one of the most complete players in the country. But it was not the game that I found the most awe-inspiring.

Tonight was Washington’s last home game of the season, which of course means it was senior night. Now, i have been impressed the entire season with how Coach Romar involves the student section in the games. Student season ticket holders receive a t-shirt, guaranteed admission, seats right at center court, invitation to pre-season practice sessions and the like, all pretty standard. But Romar take special care to include the student section, walking down the line of people waiting to get into the Gonzaga game and shaking hands all around, sending a personal email to the DawgPack listserv, very professionally and seriously composed explaining the role he sees the student section playing in their success. It is no wonder then that the crowd chants his name when he walks on the court, refer to the arena as Romarville, and are ranked the 8th best student section in the country by Sports Illustrated.

So what happenned after the game should not have surprised me.

“At the end, Roy hugged every one of his coaches and teammates at the bench. After the final buzzer, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar invited the senior students out of the stands and onto the floor. Roy was the first of five Huskies seniors to greet them with hugs and high-fives.”

Roy is a really calm player, almost Tim Duncan or Tracy McGrady like. He shows little emotion and has the quitest 23+ average I have ever seen. But tonight you could see he was anxious; he rushed his first jumpshot and got a charge trying to force a pass within the first 3 minutes. He calmed down and had a fantastic game, basically carrying his team through a rough openning to the second half. Then, after the game, the generally smooth, stoic-faced Roy was all smiles, chanting back to his fellow students “thank you seniors” as they had done for him and his classmates earlier. He was more exuberant in thanking his fans than he had been at any other time I saw him during the season.

Tonight, and all season, really, real, sincere care was exchanged between fans and players. The Dawg Pack are not simply supporters; they know the players, have special chants for each one, they camp out to watch UW play unranked California, and really want them to succeed. And the players and coaches really care for their fans, sharing an understanding with their fans of mutual dependence, common purpose, and shared success. What I found so remarkable is that the fans remain essentially nameless, undifferentiated, and unfamiliar to the players and, likewise, for all the fans know of the players, their style, stats, and whatnot, they generally have no relationship with them outside the arena. Players and fans are loyal, devoted, supportive, and reliant on people who are essentially strangers, caring about each other with pure and honest sincerity and appreciation. It really is amazing and touching to see what little it takes for people to be truly meaningful to each other.