There’s somewhat of a ruckus here in Big 12 country because Iowa State’s “super fan” – Wild Bill Yungclas – announced he is “retiring” after this season because of the economy.
Some background: Wild Bill has been going to Cyclone women’s basketball games for 25 years, long before the program attained any level of success. He was going when there were only a handful of fans at Hilton Coliseum, and so can truly appreciate a scene such as Sunday’s game, when more than 12,000 were on hand for the Cyclones’ game against Texas.
There have been many media stories done on Wild Bill over the years, but the one on Des Moines television station KCCI on Monday has caught a lot of attention because he said he will finish out this season and then not attend any more games.
He gave the reason as economics, and then in a post on the “Cyclone Fanatic” web site (here) he reiterated that.
But … there was an incident earlier this season in Hawaii, when an ISU athletics department official came over to Wild Bill during a game and more or less asked him to pipe down so the team would not get a technical because the referees were upset. There weren’t a lot of people at this tournament, so I guess the refs could hear everything he said and got bugged.
Some folks on various message boards have speculated this bruised his feelings and is the “real” reason for Wild Bill’s departure at the end of the season … or that it at least contributed to it.
That seems like a factor to me, too, even though he says it’s not the reason on his post. It would be human nature, frankly, for anyone to think, “Why have I put all this time and effort into supporting the team, only to be told to hush up?”
However, this blog entry is NOT specifically to debate the whys of Wild Bill’s situation – that will continue to be done aplenty on the Cyclone Fanatic web site – but to more generally consider the question of fan behavior in regard to women’s basketball.
First, though, an aside: The behavior of students, in particular, at men’s basketball games has devolved over a couple of decades. It’s now too often repugnant – and although the trend toward that was certainly in place even when I was in college in the 1980s, it’s become consistently worse.
The profane, vulgar and derogatory language used has nothing to do with “school spirit” or support of a program. And I’m not too fond of this practice of “rushing the court” by students after victories. People treating regular-season wins as if they’ve just won the national championship seems silly.
In some situations – like when Kansas State’s men beat Kansas at Bramlage Coliseum last year for the first time in eons – it’s genuine, frenzied excitement, and I can understand the wave of celebratory enthusiasm that swept through the crowd as people filled the court after the game.
And when the cadets at Army celebrated by carrying coach Maggie Dixon on their shoulders after her team had won a women’s NCAA tournament berth … obviously, anyone who saw that could tell it was pure joy and a display of REAL institutional pride.
But it seems like we see court rushes a couple of times a week now. It doesn’t “feel” like fans being incredibly proud of their team. It “feels” like fans showing off. I know people might say, “Who are you to decide when it’s OK and when it’s not?” Well, it’s not my decision, of course. People will do what they want. I just think it’s looking more and more like foolish, self-aggrandizing, narcissistic behavior that is actually disrespectful to the teams.
If you go to practice every day and lift weights and put your work and sweat into winning the basketball game, then you can run out on the court and celebrate. Otherwise, applaud your players from the stands and respect that this is their victory that you get to enjoy. Yes, you “helped” by being there and cheering for them. Certainly, take great pride in that. But don’t make yourself a “part” of it in ways that, in truth, you are not.
These court rushes also seem potentially dangerous to both the students and the student-athletes, and I’m surprised there hasn’t been a stronger and more visible effort by the NCAA member institutions to discourage them.
Now … students do not care about nor attend women’s basketball games in any kind of comparable numbers to men’s games. So it’s usually very nice to see their energy and enthusiasm when they do come to women’s games, unless their language is objectionable and sexist. The atmosphere that all fans bring to games is the whole idea of why these are called “spectator” sports.
Meaning the issue with women’s basketball has almost always been about how do you get more fans to come, and not about how they might act when they get there.
So a situation like what’s going on with Wild Bill is pretty unusual … but it makes me wonder (as I titled this post) what other fans think of these “super fans?” Do the find them annoying? Funny? Inspirational? A mix of all of those?
I have to acknowledge some conflicting feelings about Wild Bill. As a reporter, when I covered games at Iowa State, I did not like to sit directly in front of him. I get weary of any fans who constantly ride officials. I don’t mind some “Come on, Ref!” exclamations of exasperation, but it gets annoying hearing a fan complain about every foul called against his/her team, while conversely yelling for fouls against the other team on every possession.
But, again, I’m coming at this from a reporter’s perspective. I don’t care who wins the game. I just want it to be well-played. I do get ticked off at officials for calling too many fouls and slowing down the pace, but I don’t have the emotional investment of it mattering to me whom the fouls are against. My “investment” is wanting the calls to be correct.
So, at times, it can get on my nerves when fans hound the officials to try to get them to do things for the benefit of their team, rather than call the game as accurately as possible. But then I remind myself to chill out: “Wait a minute, they’re fans, you dolt! Of course, they want everything to go their team’s way! They are not coming at this with the same desire as you are. You are hoping for a fun game. They are hoping their team wins.”
And nobody hopes his team wins more than Wild Bill. He loves Iowa State. I might not have wanted to sit in front of the guy … but I did enjoy seeing him at games. I always looked over at him from time to time to see what hi-jinx he might be up to. It will seem very weird to watch Iowa State and not have Wild Bill there.
I have to admire anyone who’d been there back when Hilton was more or less like a mausoleum for women’s basketball and still brought so much enthusiasm. So I hope that something gets “worked out.” If Wild Bill’s feelings were wounded (whether he admits it or not), I hope ISU folks try to patch that up. Or if he’s really, truly tired of coming to every game or no longer wants to spend the money to do so … OK. But I hope he still comes to some games.
But back to the issue: What do fans think of other “super” fans? Does it depend on whether they are for or against your team? Does it matter where and when they sit/stand? Does it make a difference to you if it seems like they spend much of their time ripping officials as opposed to just cheering for their players? Should officials have to put up with anything so long as it’s not profane?