One aspect of the collegiate sports world that often gets put to the side, especially in the media, is the presence of student sections.
Sure, the cameras occasionally pan the sidelines at football or basketball games, catching the craziest painted fans donning odd assortments of Viking hats, catchy slogans on posters, and waving and screaming madly for their 2 seconds of camera time.
A closer look inside student sections reveal an intricate web of spirit, tradition and fun-frenzied madness that envelops a respectable portion of many universities in America.
Take, for instance, the major basketball teams in the country with historic programs: Kentucky, the powerhouse of the South, with their spirited Wildcats decked from head to toe in blue; Illinois with their infamous Orange Crush section; Duke's Cameron Crazies (named for their indoor stadium); and UNC, right next door, which holds residence for the Carolina blue-clad Tar Heel students.
Then, of course, UCLA has "The Den" for the bears in the West. In the East, there's the "Zoo" for Pittsburgh students. And out in the desert is the ever-growing student section of the University of Arizona, the Zona Zoo.
Each section is unique in the sense that each has its own chants and cheers—the “get inside their head” taunts and insults to be sworn at the opposing team for that particular day.
Each section has the die-hards, the ones who wait in the cold, the dark, and for countless hours in a spot in line to ensure a ticket—and a chance to be in the midst of one of the most overwhelming seats to observe a spectacular display of collegiate athletics.
And each section displays its school colors to an almost ridiculous degree, requiring the average local fan to run outside and take a breath.
Yet each section varies greatly in its participation, its presence, its ability to successfully knock their opponents out of competition, and its individual efforts to help better their sports teams.
These student sections across the nation give a sense of community to the universities that each represent, and for many provide long lasting memories of the ultimate college experience. Whether it be memories from tumultuous comebacks, upsetting the favored team, routing the rival, cheering in unison with thousands of students you’ve never seen on campus, or just waiting in line in anticipation, student sections are key in every complete sports program.
This is where history happens. Where “I can’t believe that just happened” seems to happen constantly. Where teams unite to crush their opponents. Where nonstop energy seems to gravitate towards the center of the arena or stadium and burst over the crowd at that one spectacular winning play.
This is where a rush of excitement and unexplainable contentment occurs. Where dreams happen. Where sports happen. Where life happens.
Consider this your acceptance letter. Welcome to college.
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