High noon. Seven hours before the Utah State Aggies tip-off against the Boise State Broncos, and fans are already gathering outside the doors that lead into their basketball shrine: The Spectrum.
Fans clad in dark blue (Aggie Blue), along with their laptops, textbooks, homework, card games, and snack foods, are strewn out across the floor.
Seconds seem like days. Minutes pass slower than finals week. The excitement in the air is so thick it's like sharing an elevator with a woman wearing far too much perfume.
Lucky for Aggie fans, they will have a respite from their waiting—if only for a few hours. There is a women's game at 3:00, which means the doors will open at 2:00—the customary one hour prior to tip-off.
By 1:30 the students have put away their laptops, games, and textbooks and have lined up by the doors. Each student—all well-seasoned veterans of the Aggie student section—has his or her student I.D. card ready to show to the usher at the door.
2:00 rolls around, and the students flood into the upper concourse of The Spectrum. Once to their seats, the students sit back and enjoy the women's basketball game (in which the Aggies eventually come out on top). The students, while supportive of their women's team, are careful to save their voices for the much anticipated men's game.
Following the women's game, ushers clear the house. The students trudge up the steep and narrow steps, up to the concourse, and out into the small space in between two sets of doors. One set leads into their beloved Spectrum; the other separates them from the cold winds of a Logan winter.
It's still only 4:00 pm. Three hours until game time and two hours prior to the opening of the doors.
All of this waiting prior to each game has created a tight-knit family of Aggie students. For the rookies in the room, the two-hour wait from 4:00 to 6:00 will be torture. But the well-seasoned veterans mingle together in conversations that seem to discuss every topic under the sun.
A couple of students are sent to retrieve pizza from the local five-dollar pizza shop. They are graciously received upon their return as the Aggie faithful consume their pre-game meal.
5:30 rolls around, and once again the students are on their feet in a formation as close to a line as one can hope for in such a tight space. While many of the tight-knit community have an unwritten seating chart with each person occupying the same seat each game, the situation becomes stressful and full of suspense.
The ushers are cheered as they arrive to set up the scanning machines used to swipe each student I.D. card. To the hardcore Aggies, these ushers are just as well known as the star players on the court.
The suspense continues to build as the clock ticks closer to 6:00. With each passing second the crowd packs closer and closer while pushing more and more towards the front.
The first student I.D. card is already in the scanner, waiting to be swiped, as all eyes stare intently at the digital clock that reads 5:59.
The clock strikes 6:00 pm. The mayhem that ensues is surpassed by the chaos of black Friday Christmas shopping only in the number of trampling deaths and gang shootings.
Students fly down the steep stairs two, sometimes three at a time. All this despite community consensus of who will occupy which seat.
Once at their seats, the students don't waste time to catch their breath, but instead immediately begin heckling Boise St. point guard Anthony Thomas, who is warming up on the opposite end of the court.
Despite having already made himself a target of ridicule at the previous year's WAC tournament, the fact that Thomas is wearing a white T-shirt instead of the team warmups is not helping to spare him from Aggie heckling.
As the music blares from the sound system, the students watch their beloved Aggies warm up while sharing high fives and encouraging words.
An unfortunate incident occurs about 30 minutes before game time. A student in the Aggie student section thinks he can get away with wearing a bright orange Boise State sweatshirt.
This poor misguided soul immediately has all 4,000 students screaming at him in rage and displeasure as if he is Satan himself (and let's face it, who else would be dumb enough to try that?).
Within moments, one of the faithful Aggie women comes storming up the steps with a blue shirt in hand. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but a scorned Aggie woman? Well, she makes a regular scorned woman look like an angel.
The student—proving he has some shred of intelligence—consents to put on the Aggie Blue shirt, much to the roaring pleasure of the rest of the students.
About 20 minutes before tip-off, two of the most dedicated students begin distributing The Refraction—the unofficial game-day newsletter of The Spectrum—to the 4,000 raucous students.
Eventually the music is stopped and, after a drawn out and overly dramatic rendition of the national anthem, the students turn from facing the flag and shout "1,2,3...Welcome to Hell!" in direction of the Boise State bench.
Music begins playing for the introduction of the opposing lineup, and the Aggie students stand and turn their backs to the court and boo each player as they are introduced.
Once finished, the students turn back around and start a slow clap: "Clap...Clap...Clap...Clap...CLAP. CLAP. CLAP CLAP" that culminates with the Aggie mascot named "Big Blue" descending from the ceiling and the introduction of the Utah State starting lineup.
After the starters are introduced, the PA announcer introduces the Aggies' head coach Stew Morrill, which is met with a loud and drawn out "Stewwwwwwwwww" from the crowd.
The students, in anticipation of the tip, begin jumping up and down with the classic "ohhhhhhhhh" heard at college basketball games around the country.
Play begins as the students begin chanting any of the number of cheers in their arsenal.
A whistle is blown. A foul on Boise State. This is immediately met with coordinated pointing and yelling: "You, you, you, you, youuuuuu SUCK!" directed at the guilty player.
As play continues, boos rain down from the stands each time Anthony Thomas touches the ball. Eventually, a Boise State player is sent to the free throw line. The students chant, slowly at first and then speeding up: "You...will...miss...it."
The foul shot clanks off the iron, and the crowd erupts in cheers. As the player toes the line for his second attempt, he is met with chants of "We were right" lest he forget the students calling his miss on the previous shot.
As the Aggies head into the locker room with a halftime lead, the band begins playing the school fight song:
"Hail the Utah Aggies, we'll play the game with all our might! See the colors flying, the Aggie blue and fighting white. How they stir us onward, to win the victory alright! Hail the Utah Aggies, they're out to win so fight, fight, fight! Utah State hey Aggies all the way! Go Aggies, go Aggies, hey, hey, hey!"
Immediately following the fight song, the band begins playing what has become, to some Aggie fans, more beloved than the fight song: The Scotsman. With its coordination of song and arm movements, the students (and even some of the cute old grandmas) get involved.
Students spend halftime filling water bottles that will be used to aid their already fading voices.
After some halftime entertainment involving some very flexible dancing grannies, the students rise to their feet to welcome their team back out for warmups. With the opposing team warming up on the basket near the students, each miss by a Broncos player is met with piercing screams of "Ice Cold!"
As the teams huddle up prior to the start of the second half, "Crazy Train" begins to play over the sound system. This sends the students into a frenzy, banging on the pads behind the hoop and clapping furiously.
The second half plays out much like the first, with the Aggies controlling the tempo on the court and the students giving Boise State all the hell they can muster from the stands.
As the Aggie players jog into the locker room following a 79-65 victory, the delighted students engage in another round of the fight song and The Scotsman before heading out to face the cold winter night.
As if these hardcore students haven't spent enough time together already, many decide to go out and celebrate the victory at one of the local restaurants that is more than willing to give these die-hards a discount for attending the game.
With this kind of dedication and passion, is it any wonder the Utah State Aggies are 19-1 (7-0 WAC) this season, with the nation's second longest home court winning streak, and a home record of 153-12 under head coach Stew Morrill?
The combination of a loyal fanbase and on-court success has created a phenomenon that has come to be known simply as Spectrum Magic.