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The King of the Jungle: the Fan

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Whenever an LHS sports event, such as a basketball game, has a large fan turnout, there is often positive feedback for the players. “The fans energize us, and it’s great to have a ton of people come to our games,” mentioned boys basketball senior captain and starting forward Chase Eyre.

Whenever an LHS sports event, such as a basketball game, has a large fan turnout, there is often positive feedback for the players. “The fans energize us, and it’s great to have a ton of people come to our games,” mentioned boys basketball senior captain and starting forward Chase Eyre.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Conway

Photo courtesy of Patrick Conway

Whenever an LHS sports event, such as a basketball game, has a large fan turnout, there is often positive feedback for the players. “The fans energize us, and it’s great to have a ton of people come to our games,” mentioned boys basketball senior captain and starting forward Chase Eyre.

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One voice is heard in the crowd. They start a soft rhythm, which erupts into a roar.

“I. I believe. I believe that. I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN. I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN.”

The crowd is now jumping up and down, pushing their vocal chords to the limit, and reminding athletes of their unwavering support. This scenario occurs at some Libertyville High School sporting events, where the fans’ voices have inherent power.

Barstool Jungle

Prior to the first boys basketball game this season at LHS, senior Patrick Conway created a Twitter account called “Barstool Jungle.” Conway originally set out to make a more traditional student section account but was inspired by Barstool Sports, a satirical sports blog with a large presence on Twitter and Instagram. Senior Thom Siegel created a logo modeled after Barstool Sports’ logo, and the account was born.

Conway views Barstool Jungle as different from more traditional student sections because it is more interactive with players and fan accounts from other schools.  

“We’ll kind of throw some shade at other schools and like do different things. A student section will just tweet out themes and say, ‘come out and support,’ but we do something different,” he said.

A large difference to which Conway is referring is how the account often Photoshops LHS players’ faces onto different images to accompany a joke, an announcement of the theme or a message of encouragement.

Many players have expressed enthusiasm for the account and its purpose of getting more fans to come to games. One such player is senior Chase Eyre. Eyre, a starting forward and boys basketball team captain, has noticed the difference that the fans, some of whom come in part because of Barstool Jungle, can make in a game. Eyre recalled an instance in which the fans carried the team to success during a game against Lake Forest.

“We had a game at the beginning of the season against Lake Forest that went into overtime. Because it was close, we pulled the energy from the fans and scraped out a close, but big victory,” he said.

Another time where the fans had a noticeable effect on the court was on Jan. 26 at home versus Waukegan. The game was dubbed “The Silent Seven,” as the crowd stayed silent until the team’s seventh point. The idea for this theme originated as a tradition in college basketball, at Taylor University in Indiana. At LHS, after the seventh point was scored, the fans “all went crazy and kept [the high energy level] for the whole first quarter, [which] was really cool,” shared Conway.

Eyre also explained that this game was noteworthy to him because “[he] never really noticed how much of an impact [fans can have until] the silent night game…when the energy skyrocketed.”

AP Psychology teacher Mr. Jonathan Kim recognized this as a phenomenon found in psychology.

“There is social facilitation at play. If players are really well prepared and have practiced a lot, which most of the time they are, then a certain amount of excitement [from fans creates] adrenaline and helps them perform better,” he said.

The Barstool Jungle helps to bring out a crowd, which influences whether social facilitation is possible. Conway reported that he plans to give the account to a current junior next year in order to keep the account alive.

 

Girls Sports and Their (Lack of) Popularity

In comparison with the boys basketball games at LHS, there is a noticeable difference in the fewer number of fans who show up to the girls games. This is not a trend only found in high school sports but rather at all levels of female sports.

Either.io, a website centered around voting on either-or-type questions, conducted a poll asking, “Would you rather have your local WNBA team win the championship or find five dollars?” Out of more than 1.3 million voters in this non-scientific poll, 74 percent said they would rather find five dollars. This begs the question, why are people more enthusiastic about men’s sports?

Mr. Kim, who is a girls volleyball coach at LHS, believes that “people tend to default to [think] men’s sports are more exciting.” However, he believes the answer is much more complex. According to Mr. Kim, one reason that basketball, along with other female sports, is less popular is due to the fact that for a long time, sports were only for men.

“With a lot of sports, they started as male sports,” he said. “If we ever made a female football league, they would be way behind on the curve of just having the opportunity to create a fanbase and watching it grow over a century.”

Junior forward Madeline Spaulding, who is also on the varsity volleyball team, shared that she thinks “everyone kind of does what their friends do. Everyone wants to go to the boys basketball games, so that’s what they do instead [of coming to the girls games].”

Meanwhile, senior Riley Hoff, a member of the varsity boys soccer team, who often attends girls soccer and volleyball games, expressed that, in his opinion, women’s sports aren’t publicized enough.

“It’s not like the level of play is different, but it’s just a lack of publicity or fan accounts,” he said. “If stuff like that were to pick up, attendance would certainly rise.”

Regardless of the reasoning behind low attendance, Spaulding hopes it will rise because “it would totally change the dynamic of the game. We really feed off the energy from the crowd.”

 

The Value of Fans in a High-Stakes Situation

This past fall, the varsity boys soccer team placed second in state. As the team went through the playoffs, more and more fans started coming to support the team and watch their games, according to Hoff, a team captain.

Hoff, rather than feeling anxious because of increased crowd size, used the energy to become motivated, and he and his teammates appreciated the support.

“I felt [when more fans came], it elevated our play. Higher stakes and higher pressure really elevated our play,” he said. “As we started seeing hundreds of people show up, we [wanted] to do well in front of our peers, and we started thriving off of the pressure and the high stakes.”

One such instance when the team’s audience affected game play was during the state semifinal game against Bradley-Bourbonnais.

Senior Johnny Hugdahl went to “every game he could” and was present at this game. He described the atmosphere as “intense for the entire game… The energy was awesome.”

The contest against Bradley-Bourbonnais was a close game that ended in a 2-1 win for LHS.

“I think the fans positively impacted the outcome because it was a really evenly matched game and the crowd really gave us energy. Hearing everyone go crazy is one of the best feelings in the world,” shared Hoff.

Hoff explained that the reason he appreciates the fans so much is because “you know your teammates have your back, but it’s always nice knowing the school and the community has your back.”

 

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The King of the Jungle: the Fan