True fans will never forget the sight of Bryce Drew embracing his father at mid-court after a Valparaiso upset of Mississippi in the 1998 NCAA tournament, nor the tears of elation on the face of University of Detroit Mercy’s Rashad Phillips after he contributed 16 points in 40 minutes to defeat a fifth-seeded UCLA team in 1999.
Such is the immortality for which this year’s Bulldog squad is poised, and yet, no one understands. A lack of awareness is evident throughout the campus.
In a private conversation, team captain Ime Archibong ’03 noted, “I get congratulated mostly by other athletes and the administration. Other than that, there are still a lot of people who come up to me and ask how the team’s doing.”
Worse yet, there is an evident opposition to those who do realize the greatness that may lie in store for this program.
A member of the team who wished to remain anonymous stated that “having a crowd that cheers you on and heckles the other team into frustration is a valuable weapon, and in a league as competitive as ours, any edge is desirable.”
The profane and abusive heckling that has thus far been disparaged is an effective, and common, means to this “edge.” Archibong held that throughout his collegiate career the Yale team has suffered this sort of treatment on road games, but that this was the first time other teams felt similar pressure when playing in the John J. Lee Amphitheater.
His aforementioned teammate added, “When we are at Penn this weekend, see if any of their fans tell us our team is ‘whack,’ as one of the Yale Daily News articles suggested our crowd do.” The point being, verbal assaults on opposing players and, occasionally, referees, help sway minor details of the game in favor of the home team. Furthermore, a raucous crowd energizes the players and demonstrates the support that a team such as ours deserves.
As far as accusations of racism, certain clarifications are needed. No malicious and deliberate attacks were made on the basis of race. No anti-Arabic remarks were made by anyone in the section that has been the subject of recent criticism for its rudeness and vulgarity.
The Daily Princetonian was wrong in stating that fans made “Wanted” posters with Princeton guard Ahmed El-Nokali’s face on them. Rather, the fliers said “Ahmed, one ugly mother–” and even the Princeton players found this amusing when they saw them during warm-ups.
Yale should stop debating the propriety of rowdiness at basketball games and come together in support of a promising team. Should Yale win the Ivy title, it would be the first time in 40 years that the Elis finished on top. In addition, reaching the NCAA tournament is a dream of every college basketball player, and the realization of this dream could only benefit Yale, within and beyond its athletics program.
The Bulldogs are no longer a doormat, even receiving an Associated Press vote to be in the nation’s top 25, and it is time the team had the same home-court advantage that teams of lesser talent and coaching have been enjoying for years.
Next week’s game against Harvard could clinch the Ivy championship, or it could be the icing on the cake of a wonderful season. There would be no more fitting reception for the team’s last home weekend than the loudest, craziest crowd the John J. Lee Amphitheater has ever seen.
Luis Poza and Bobby Womack are sophomores in Ezra Stiles College.