Wednesday night’s thriller against the hated Duke Blue Devils was one of the most anticipated, exciting, and glorious moments of my 20-year life as a sports fanatic. Between senior night, the rivalry, the spotlight, the Gold Rush (which I, along with a few friends, organized and helped made possibile), and the magnitude of this colossal match-up, the hype around College Park before, during,and after the game was something sporting events are graced with only a few times throughout ones lifetime.
Everyone has heard the stories of the game – the hot start by the Terps and the miracle shots made by Greivis Vasquez himself to seal the Terps’ first victory over Duke in seven tries. Everyone has heard the stories from the streets and sidelines – the foul mouthed students and the riots on Route 1. As a student, I do not want to defend the actions of my fellow Terps, but instead, give everyone a bit of perspective.
Though I am only a sophomore, I have followed Maryland sports since I could first comprehend what sports were. I spent every year since the age of 7 trying to find a way to attend a Maryland-Duke basketball game, and that never happened until I became a student. Games against Duke hold an unbelievable magnitude in the eyes of Maryland students and fans. The Cameron Crazies may say we are “not [their] rival;” but, frankly, we don’t care. They’re our rival, so we get up for the game like we do for no other sporting event of the year.
To address the hot topics stemming from the night:
The language. Whether you were attending the game or watching on TV, the chants of “F**k You Scheyer” and “F**k Duke” were loud and clear. Do I agree this is out of line, immature, and innapropriate? Of course. I don’t condone it and cringed when the chants first began. Do I understand it? Absolutely. Initially I did not participate in the chants, but as the game grew in intensity and every possession mattered, the excitement of the game carried everyone away. We’re heated, excited, passionate, angry - you name it. Attending any sporting event, emotions can get the best of fans, and it certainly swept through both the 4,000 students and the additional 14,000 “regular fans” at the Comcast Center.
Yes, its unacceptable. It portrays the fans and school in a bad light, especially as the top sporting event in the country of the night, and possibly one of the best of the entire season. But it could be worse. Was anybody put in danger or harmed? No. Were young kids listening and watching? Sure. But, if any parent believes their kids either have never heard “the F word” or won’t ever, they need a reality check. It’s a high-profile, intense sporting event, and all of this should be expected. Maryland fans pride themselves on making the Comcast Center one of the toughest places to play. Frankly, many students embrace the image of being “tough.” Most students don’t look at our behavior at the game as shameful, but as what makes Maryland the Maryland we know and love.
The solution? I don’t know if there is one. We are told time and again to show sportsmanship. Nobody outside of the 20742 zipcode looks upon our behavior approvingly. Should Gary step up and reprimand the students? I don’t think so – he wants us to be as loud and boisterous as possible, and do whatever it takes to support the team and make it as hard as possible for opponents to leave Comcast with a victory. It would take a change of heart from students to change our behavior, and I don’t see this happening any time soon. Again, we pride ourselves on our rowdiness. And as much as we hate Duke, we want to be nothing like the “Crazies” – we don’t need Cheer Sheets: we can come up with our own material, and a lot of the time , profanity will be involved. It’s not a personal attack, like the “USA” chants rivals have been yelling to Vasquez, or like the cocaine bags the so-called honorable Cameron Crazies once waved at DJ Strawberry in reference to his father’s drug problems. Again, this is Maryland, and our fans make it what it is. If it portrays a negative image, so be it. We all came here, there will be incoming freshmen next year, and the year after that, and the year after that.
Storming the court. Anybody who says we should not have stormed the court is just out-of-touch. There was NO WAY that the energy, emotion, and excitement in the building that night was not going to result in a storming of the court if the Terps won. The fans knew it and the players knew it. Heck, Vasquez waved students down with just seconds left on the clock. No further discussion on this – it was going to happen, it’s how college sports work.
The riot. This issue is a bit more controversial. First, it is widely viewed that after the game, students run from the Comcast Center to Route 1 to celebrate and riot. This is generally not true. I was at the game, and went to Route 1 after, but did not make it over there until about an hour after gametime, much after the riot reached its peak. Many students go to the bars on Route 1 to watch the game, and after the victory, pour into the street to celebrate. These are the intoxicated, rowdy students in the streets. Many people at the game were not even under the influence – Many of us were waiting in line since noon, leaving no time for drinking. Others, like myself, did not even get out of class until 6:15.
The coining of the term “riot” to this event is also a bit misused. Most of the “riot” consisted of students chanting and celebrating, not doing anything illegal. There are videos and stories of a select few climbing poles, fighting cops, and taking signs – but it is just this: a select few. Since the riot, there has been much talk on campus about police brutality. While I wouldn’t go that far, I would agree that the amount of force used was over the line. Imagine Bourbon Street after the Saints Super Bowl victory – this was merely a tiny fraction of that, and the amount of tear gas in the air, horses in the street, and innocent students injured would have you believe we were in New Orleans on February 7.
Yes, the riots are not necessary. It was a regular season game. It wasn’t even a monumental upset. But it’s exciting – we beat Duke in one of the best college basketball games of the year. Students had been excited about the game for over a week, and when the climax of the event hit, how can anyone expect Maryland students to simply turn off their excitement, head peacefully back to their dorms, and take out the textbooks. I’m still pumped up from the victory, almost 48 hours later. Certainly, the celebrations could take place in a more civilized manner. Route 1 is the heart of campus life, so it’s only natural to head here. The solution to this problem lies on both sides – the students and the authorities. The riot police seemed to only heighten the energy and mayhem on the streets. People came down just to see the horses and shields. A happy medium between celebration and riot can be found, with cooperation from all parties.
Once again, this is not a defense to our actions. We all know it is inappropriate to say “F***” in unison on national TV. However, the perspective of students cannot be understood from the outside, but hopefully this let in a little insight. We’re not bad people, we don’t walk around in our daily lives chanting vulgarities in unison or tearing down signs. We’re passionate fans, and a monumental game such as that of March 3 vs. Duke will bring out the best, or worst, in all of us.
Go Terps! Beat UVA!