This Is Why Student Sections Are for Students

This piece by Will Leitch appears in the latest issue of SN Magazine.
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↵I didn’t have as much fun in college ↵as I should have. Everyone has wild ↵stories from college -- manic kids ↵flush with their first taste of freedom ↵experimenting, running amok. I was ↵not like that. I toiled at the student ↵newspaper 12 hours a day, graduated ↵in four years and foolishly acted like ↵college was for work, not play. That ↵was dumb. I have a pathetically small ↵number of fun stories from college. I ↵regret it. ↵

↵Mostly, I wish I had sat with the ↵students for basketball games rather ↵than in the press box. At Illinois, the ↵Orange Krush student section rivals ↵the best pep squads -- just a bunch of ↵screaming loons singing “Oskee Wow ↵Wow,” jeering at Big Ten foes and ↵making idiots of themselves in the ↵name of all things Illini. They look like ↵they’re having so much fun, situated ↵courtside and causing a ruckus. Those ↵seats cost thousands in the NBA; ↵in college, they’re 10 bucks with a ↵student ID. ↵

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↵So when one of those Krush ↵students offered me a ticket for the ↵Illinois-Purdue game (on CBS!), I leapt ↵at the opportunity. At last, 12 years ↵after graduating, I could live the crazy ↵college experience. All night drinking! ↵Face painting! Mean remarks about ↵Chris Kramer’s mother! Bring it. ↵I envisioned a “You Are Here” ↵participatory journalism project, but ↵mostly I just wanted to tell Chester ↵Frazier how awesome he is from a ↵dangerously close distance. ↵

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↵I knew I was in trouble the night ↵before, when my contact, an ambitious ↵freshman named Spencer Turkin, ↵sent me a text message: “Great news! ↵A bunch of us have decided to sleep ↵outside Assembly Hall before the ↵game. We’ll be there waiting for ↵you when your plane lands!” Wait. ↵Sleeping outside? In the cold? I ↵suddenly felt old. I texted Spencer : “Thanks and all, but I’ll sleep in a bed, ↵if that’s OK.” ↵

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↵At 8 a.m., four hours before tipoff, ↵I showed up clad in orange and was ↵told immediately by the groggy crew ↵of all-nighters that this would not do. ↵Within minutes, I was wearing an ↵orange construction helmet, orange ↵sunglasses, an orange hunting vest ↵and an Orange Krush T-shirt. “Better,” ↵said Myles Hastings, a senior who’s ↵head of the Krush. The doors opened ↵at 11 and we sprinted to our seats. I ↵was at courtside, 10 feet from Verne ↵Lundquist, who, I’m not ashamed to ↵say, is an incredibly handsome man. ↵

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↵It’s a lot of work sitting in the ↵student section. You stand the whole ↵time, and there are organized cheers I ↵had to cram for. You learn what to do ↵when the opposing team is shooting ↵free throws, which player to ruthlessly ↵scream vulgarities at (Purdue’s ↵Kramer, obviously), how to deal with ↵the refs (be polite but firm) and which ↵players need a boost when they’re ↵down (Alex Legion tops this list). ↵These guys had stayed up all night and ↵were at the peak of their abilities the ↵whole game. Me? I was exhausted by ↵halftime. By game’s end, this old man ↵just needed a chair. ↵

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↵The Illini won handily, so I didn’t ↵rush the court like I’d dreamed. But I ↵did all right. I didn’t get thrown out, ↵my helmet didn’t fall off and cause ↵Mike Tisdale to tear an ACL (my ↵biggest fear), and I think referee Tom ↵O’Neill might be my new best friend. ↵But, yes: I’m too old for this. Those ↵kids have a lot more energy than I do. ↵Afterward, I bought beer for the kids ↵who let me sit with them, sang one last ↵“Oskee Wow Wow” and then slept for ↵15 hours. Turns out, college is still too ↵wild for me. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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