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NUTHIN' UP MY SLEEVE!: A cow moose rests Tuesday in 3 feet of snow beside the Logan River just west of Tony Grove. / Photo by Mike Sweeney

Today's word on journalism

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Help Wanted: U.S. Defense Department Seeks Better PR Officers

"Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but . . . our country has not adapted. For the most part, the U.S. government still functions as a 'five and dime' store in an eBay world."

--U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, on why al Qaeda is winning hearts and minds, in speech to U.S. Council on Foreign Relation (Thanks to alert WORDster Mark Larson) WORD Note: The WORD will take the next week off for Spring Break, sleeping in and seeking wisdom. Return: 3/20/06

Aggie student section a big part of Spectrum's reputation

By G. Christopher Terry

February 8, 2006 | The fanatics were crammed into a tiny foyer at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum more than two hours before a basically meaningless game against the 5-13 South Dakota State Jackrabbits.

When the ushers finally opened the doors, they rushed down the steps to their customary spots, hooting and yelling like a band of painted savages. And since there's Aggie Blue and Fighting White warpaint aplenty in the Aggie Student Section, the only way to really tell these guys from flesheating cave-dwellers out of an exploitation movie is the necktie.

Nate Putnam, a senior majoring in philosophy, said "We show up a little after 3 o'clock for 7 o'clock tipoff. We bring our homework and read and we bring DVD's and laptops and we just have a party. We're here longer waiting for the game to start than the game takes."

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Skyler Frederickson, right, in white headband, helps create the killer atmopshere of the Smith Spectrum. Below, Nate Putnam, in green hat, typically arrives four hours before tipoff. / Photos by Brianna Mortensen.

Putnam is a member of the Spectrum On Wheels club who can usually be found on the first row of section F, right behind the basket. Although the Aggie Student Section, or ASS, encompasses the entire "open seating" area, its brain and heart are directly behind the basket, leaning over the white barrier and pounding on it.

SOW club member and accounting junior Skyler Frederickson said while a seat situated above halfcourt might provide a better view, "that's totally irrelevant. The best thing I go for is one of those opponents, they look at me in the eye and smile or like nod their head. That's all I'm after, man. That's what wins the game for me."

If you've been to a game at the Spectrum you've probably heard the crowd chant "Airball!" at some poor wretch -- Austin Ainge of BYU being the most memorable victim in recent history. South Dakota State heard "Learn to Dribble!" after a spate of traveling calls and Hawaii Coach Riley Wallace was hit with "Stupid, Stupid" after drawing a technical foul in Monday's ESPN tilt.

But have you ever wondered how everyone knew to start chanting "Ugly Duckling" at Boise State's Coby Karl?

"The chants are a revelation to one person, and it spreads," Frederickson said, "We're one body."

Maybe so, but the SOW guys bring a Dry-Erase board with them just in case. Against South Dakota State the maniacs in the front row got the whole ASS to sarcastically chant, "We Want Headband!" and applaud for Andy Kleinjan, a Jackrabbit guard wearing a yellow headband and retro hairstyle.

Making jokes is fun, but the ASS's real function is to be damn loud in support of the Aggies, which they are from the player introductions until the end of the presumptive Aggie win.

"I'm from Kentucky, so I've been to Rupp Arena and Freedom Hall and we rock it. Rupp seats a few more maybe but it doesn't get nearly as loud," said Frederickson. "Honestly, you can't beat the Spectrum."

Frederickson said the Spectrum is louder than larger arenas on rival campuses because of the ASS.

"The Spectrum seats a little more than 10,000; when you have half of it filled up with students, you're not going to get a better atmosphere than that."

For the University of Nevada's recent ESPN Big Monday game against the Aggies, Frederickson (who, along with Putnam and seven others brought the Spectrum to Reno in the SOW club's maiden voyage of the year) said their arena was "half full, it seats about 11 and a half and they had about 6 [thousand] there I think."

Contrast that indifference to the atmosphere one week later in the "Spec," where sections P through F were one vertical cliff of Aggie colors and the wall of noise rendered referee whistles inaudible at times. USU's ASS is definitely bigger than the University of Utah's; the Huntsman Center's student section amounts to just one quarter of its circular stands.

"Every place I see on TV, they've got the student section behind the basket and that's it," Frederickson said, "This place has so many students, you're not going to beat that."

The ASS has more than sheer volume going for it. Unlike the fans at NBA games, Aggie fans don't have to be reminded of the score, or tear their eyes away from courtside celebrities to watch a basketball game. They have a high basketball IQ and generally only dispute the most agregious officiating foul-ups, rather than mooing at the refs every time they pass in front, like a BYU fan.

A $5,000 commitment to the Big Blue cCub gives you the right to purchase up to eight seats in rows 2-5 of sections X, A or B. It's a fine way to experience an Aggie game in the Spectrum, with the action inches from your face and the raging ASS across the way. But for some diehards like Putnam and Frederickson, seats are paid for in hours of wait time and shredded vocal chords.

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