Where Do You Find Your Sixth Man?
Imagine the apprehension. You leave the locker room and are greeted by the gusty winds coming straight out of the Arctic. A roar like a hundred jet fighters greets you as you look over a sea of bright yellow wedges. “Cheese Heads. I hate Cheese Heads.” Like Indiana Jones in an ocean of snakes, you step onto the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. Lambeau isn’t the only place to strike fear in the heart of an athlete. Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts has its own crowd of rowdies, and it has been known to get some weather. Mile High Stadium in Denver can be unpredictable, and the lack of oxygen can be a game-changer. The Washington Redskins, and for a time the Nationals, played at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in D.C., known as “The Little Stadium that Could.” Much like Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, you were right on top of the action, and the shoulder-to-shoulder atmosphere made it less-than-inviting for fans of the opposing teams. The Redskins, Nationals, and Orioles have since moved on to greener gridirons, but the fans are still a huge part of the game. They’re still packing them into the new spots. It isn’t just the big boys, either. Fans of Louisiana State University visit “Death Valley”. When the LSU Tigers beat Auburn in a tightly fought game in 1988, the noise from the fans registered on the LSU Geology Department Seismograph. And you know how sound rolls down the hollows that surround Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium and the 70,000 fans that visit West Virginia University’s Mountaineer Field, the largest on-campus stadium in the Big East. Even an indoor venue can bring the fan element into play. Fans of Duke paint themselves blue and head to their arena to become Cameron Crazies. They can drive opposing players nuts and are rumored to have invented the “Air Ball” chant. By the way, if you’re going to play against Duke, don’t be in the papers before the game. If the image of a sea of Cheese Heads makes you break out in hives, don’t go to Syracuse for a game. You’ll be faced with almost 34,000 rabid fans clad in bright orange at the Carrier Dome. Sometimes it’s just the aura of the place. The Barn of the Minnesota Golden Gophers always freaks people out with its raised floor, and the Pauley Pavilion leaves opposing teams tossing bricks. Maybe it’s all of those UCLA Championship banners hanging from the rafters. We’ve had some pretty stellar moments of fan-dom right here in Richmond. Thousands crowded the links at Hermitage Country Club (now Belmont Golf Course) to watch Slammin’ Sammy Snead win the 1949 PGA Championship. Millions have wandered to City Stadium since it opened in 1929 to watch the University of Richmond, the Richmond Kickers, and the Rebels back in their day. 22,000 Richmonders trying to park in post-game Carytown…a sobering thought. Richmond Coliseum has seen the Grateful Dead, the Circus, Bull Riding, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and monster trucks. It has also hosted its fair share of NCAA, CAA, and MEAC tournaments. Up until a few years ago it was the largest sports arena in Virginia, but its 13,000 or so seats are in need of a spa day. There’s been plenty of press recently about the Diamond. Richmond Baseball went from any vacant lot, to Mayo Island, to Mooers Field, to Parker Field in the 1950’s, then the Diamond in 1985. What was once considered the best Minor–League park in America has seen some of the luster leave its 12,000 or so seats. There have been some interesting proposals, but we’re still fond of our crumbling concrete and the view of 95. The newest addition to our club has been the Siegel Center. Only 8,000 seats, so a blip compared to the Carrier Dome, but WOW. The Rams of VCU have been packing the Verizon Wireless Arena, which is only part of Siegel’s sprawling complex on Broad Street. Coach Shaka Smart was talking about a recent game against George Mason when he said, “There was such an enthusiasm and buzz in the building. It's unbelievable because when we played Richmond here, I didn't think it could be louder or any more enthusiastic. Then we played Old Dominion and we topped Richmond. Then we played Northern Iowa and I thought it was unbelievable, maybe even better than Old Dominion.” Your ears start to hurt at 120 decibels. The George Mason game apparently got up around 116 db. Ouch. Maybe you’ve caught a game at the Diamond. You’ve perhaps seen the men and women shoot at the Siegel Center. Maybe you’re loading up the car to hit some CAA games at the Coliseum. Your boosting may take place closer to home, as you watch Clover Hill, Freeman, Thomas Dale, Tucker, or Monacan. What’s your favorite place to get your scream on?