When I get involved in something, I often become fiercely loyal to it. Some of the most salient cases of this are loyalty to sports teams, but there are other super-fandom situations that I have experienced recently. This post gives the early history of how I became a superfan of my schools’ sports.
I grew up in Nebraska, where Cornhuskers football is all the rage. The first Nebraska football game that I went to was in 1997, when the Huskers whitewashed the Red Raiders en route to a perfect season and the national championship. That academic year, I also experienced a high school basketball game, as my sisters cheered at halftime of a Southeast basketball game as part of a cheer clinic in January 1998. I was not particularly engaged with the sports at that time, but high school sports were a pretty big deal in Nebraska as well.
During my freshman and sophomore years of high school, I was not particularly involved with spectating sports, for reasons such as dependence on transportation, and The Shell also keeping me away. There were three different games that I attended in my sophomore year that may have sparked the flames in subsequent years for the superfandom to come out in earnest.
It was September, and after League on a Friday in my tenth grade year. Mom picked me up from League, and we went to Seacrest Field for a football game featuring Southeast and Lincoln High. The Knights rolled to an easy victory, and Mom recalled her times in high school and going to the Southeast football games. She also taught me the fight song, but I didn’t learn it in one iteration.
Later that season, Southeast had won all but one of their football games (a 13-14 loss to Creighton Prep). It was Friday, November 22, 2002, and after League, Mom, Levi, and I went to dinner at Blimpie at 27th and O, followed by Memorial Stadium for the state championship game of Southeast vs. Millard North. It was a defensive slugfest, so much that the only scoring was two touchdowns, one by each side. But the Mustangs missed the conversion kick, to put the Knights up 7-6. The Mustangs had one last chance that was controversially called down prior to the yard line to gain, allowing the Knights to win the state championship!
In January 2003, I went to Southeast on a Saturday for a sequence of basketball games against Papillion-LaVista. However, I must say that the basketball was not the primary purpose for me going, but instead the Chili Feed, where I enjoyed the patently-Nebraska combination of chili and cinnamon rolls. A few of my teachers were there, particularly those that were working with the student-athletes. All of the basketball teams enjoyed easy victories over the Monarchs. Actually, one of the people on the girls’ basketball team (K. McKinnon) was in one of my classes at Pound.
In that sense, getting to see some of my classmates playing sports may have been one impetus for me becoming a superfan. It started in my junior year of high school, when I attended all the football games and many of the basketball games as well. People began to notice, and at the end of the year, when the Knights’ soccer team was in the state championship game, I went to it wearing a “Superfan” outfit, with a Southeast T-shirt as well as my black LSE blanket that I used as a cape.
Superfandom went way beyond just football and basketball. During my senior year, I attended about 150 events in all sports and all levels at LSE, everything from varsity football (of which I missed 3 games due to Yom Kippur, college visit, and college visit.) I also attended some JV and younger football games, and tennis meets and softball games and volleyball games (the latter as The Human Buzzer… thanks Jeff Smith!). It was a lot of fun to give support to teams that would not get many non-affiliated (e.g. parents) fans!
I was thrice recognized for my dedication in 2005. During the Southeast/East girls basketball game in mid-January of 2005, I was recognized by the cheerleaders for my dedication to the sports, and received both a personalized cookie cake as well as a yellow T-shirt that said “#1 KNIGHTS FAN” on the obverse, and “NOAH 00” on the reverse. I didn’t need to be recognized, but it was nice. At girls games and games of levels less than varsity, I was consistently the only student in the “student section.” I particularly remember the game at Northeast, where the eventual state champion Northeast throttled the Knights by a 58-29 score. The cheer parents joined me in the Visiting Students section since I was clearly outnumbered by the Northeast fans.
That February, I was invited by one of the cheerleaders to be a part of the “Love Bug” pep rally, a boy-girl pep rally in honor of Valentine’s Day. It was especially fun because the theme was the 1980s, which was by far my favorite genre/era of music at that time. In addition to having fun with the cheer routine, I was honored by the cheerleaders for being Southeast’s superfan. I received a yellow T-shirt that said “SUPERFAN” with the Superman logo, a football, and a basketball on the front, and “NOAH 1” on the back. It perfectly complemented the “cape” getup.
Minor recognition came during the remainder of the year through the fact that I had specific wear at the games. The local news stations would often catch me cheering and show me as part of the highlights of the games. After the Knights lost in the state semifinals for boys basketball during my senior year, Channel 8 interviewed me from the stands. It’s interesting when interviews happen on the losing side, but despite the fact that it would be my last high school basketball game as a high school student, the emotion had not yet hit me. (I was not outwardly emotional at that time anyway.)
At the end of the school year, I was invited to the end-of-year athletics banquet. It honored the student-athletes that had excelled in athletics and/or academics over the year. Additionally, the athletic director, Larry Munksgaard (who happens to be the husband of the first teacher that I had at LSE!) presented me with a plaque for my superfandom, describing me as the “best high school sports fan any time, anywhere.” Again, the accolades were not the reason that I became a superfan, but when I enjoy something, I become fiercely loyal.
The biggest thing that high school sports gave me was a reason to engage in social interactions with my peers. Throughout middle and high school, most of my social interactions were with my teachers, and I did not feel comfortable around most of my peers. This changed when I saw them outside of class, and they somehow welcomed me into the “brotherhood” of the student section. And I was able to do this on my own, without prodding from my parents or any intersessions that I am aware of. It was finding that Diamond in the Rough that was sufficient to crack The Shell.
Part 2 of this sequence will come sometime in the near-future, describing college sports. Then, Part 3 will describe non-sports superfandom that I enjoy.
Today is the two-hundred and forty-second day of M.M.X.I.V. That makes thirty-four weeks and four days.
Today is the forty-seventh day of the Character Building Trial. That makes six weeks and five days.