‘Twas The Game Before Christmas…

and all through the Pit, not a creature was stirring, not even a bit!

Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll for Rush The Court

Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll for Rush The Court

I covered Oregon vs. Houston Baptist at Matthew Knight Arena this weekend, and it was a very different atmosphere than the average Duck game. School is not in session, so I was expecting there to be fewer students in the “Pit Crew,” Oregon’s famous student section.  Even at other games I’ve covered over the break, there were a few die-hards who showed up, shouted that each of the other team’s starters “SUCKS” during intros, and sang the rest of “Mighty Oregon” when the band had to quit playing it midway through at the end of a time out. Student fans have recognizable yellow shirts they wear to games, and there were none of them to be seen at Saturday’s game. In that photo, the background would usually be solid yellow. Nope.

It really makes a difference. The energy of the entire building takes a big hit when the student section is entirely absent. When Carlos Emory unleashed a nasty slam dunk, I could almost hear more clapping that yelling. Student fans never clap, they raise their arms above their heads, fists clenched in celebration, and rely on sheer volume to makes their jubilation known. There was still a fair bit of vocal cheering for Emory’s dunk, but I could hear the clapping. So strange.

It had never fully dawned on me before this game how much of an influence the student section has on the game. The other shooters I was sitting with were complaining that the game couldn’t be over fast enough. Though I don’t blame them (it was a serious beatdown, 91-50 final score), I’ve never heard those words uttered by photographers before. The place felt almost sleepy, a feeling that was confirmed when I spotted a newborn fast asleep in what would normally be the student section. It was a metaphor for this entire match. I missed the student section, partially because as a photographer, I can’t yell and scream and cheer for my alma mater and appreciate someone doing it on my behalf, but also because a loud student section lifts the energy of the whole building, energy which keeps you alert, which keeps the fatigue of two hours of sitting hunched on the baseline hoisting nine pounds of camera from eating at your concentration. I’m now convinced that when the Pit Crew is there, I shoot better.

Here’s to you guys.

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