“Hey, how was your break?” It’s the conversation you’re going to have countless times over the next two weeks, and I can’t stand it. For the past four years, this has routinely been the worst time to run into people you vaguely know. “Hey, good to see you. Yeah, my break was good. How was yours?” The conversation rarely goes beyond that. Some do choose to go over exactly what they did, which is always something like this: First, they were with their family during the holidays, then they went to some sick party on New Year’s. A few people went somewhere after that—either to the beach or to ski slopes—and the end of their break became a bit boring, and now they are excited to be back at school. If you did something exciting enough that you would’ve told me about it—regardless of whether it was during the break—then fine, I would like to hear it. For the record, my break was good, but I was eager enough to get back that I returned in time for the men’s basketball team’s Ivy League openers.
Unfortunately, Columbia lost two close games after looking the better side in each of them. But there was something else going on at that game that was out of the ordinary. The Saturday night game was declared trivia night, and it ended up being a lot of fun. Similar to trivia night at any bar, fans signed up in groups and the quickest to answer, via text message, won a prize. There was also a grand prize for the group with the most correct answers—shout-out to the women’s basketball team! I was a bit skeptical about how it would work, but after seeing it, I was very impressed. There was an announcer with a microphone in hand—accompanied by Roar-ee, of course—locating each winning group and asking the next trivia question.
That got me thinking: What other stadium gimmicks is Columbia Athletics capable of pulling off during these basketball games? The first one that came to my mind is the kiss-cam. It’s fairly simple to pull off—all you need is a camera on each of the stands, which is hooked up to the high-tech scoreboard that’s already there. Most people will admit that the student population is a bit socially inept. So what better solution than a public setting where two people are obligated to smooch? It would definitely drive up student attendance and double as a place for dating because hopeful, shy guys would take advantage of the opportunity and sit next to a girl they like.
Another version of the stadium-cam that I love is the dance-cam. Simply enough, during a break, fans caught dancing earn some time on the big screen. This will be even easier to accomplish because such dancing already occurs. Trust me, next time you’re at a Columbia basketball game and Montell Jordan comes on singing “This Is How We Do It,” you’ll see the entire crowd start grooving. It’s fantastic to watch.
For last Friday’s game against Penn, the visitors brought their band along, which played pretty much whenever they felt like it. I thought it was a bit presumptuous, but it did spark some healthy back-and-forth between fans in the crowd. I think a competition between the mascots of the visiting and home teams would be better. Columnists at Spectator have written before that a lion is the best mascot in the Ivy League, and this would give Roar-ee a chance to prove it. Whether it’s a sack race or mascot wrestling, playful competition between giant stuffed characters would bring unbounded delight.
Another thing that can be improved is the way T-shirts are given to the crowd. As of now, it goes like this: Our team drains a three, a cheerleader starts waving a T-shirts at a section of the crowd. Whoever is paying attention waves their hands at that cheerleader, who then attempts to throw the shirt in their direction. The system effectively distributes T-shirts, but it could be revised to bring far more fan excitement. This problem can be answered in the same way that most of America’s problems are answered: with a gun. But only a T-shirt gun, or cannon, this time. A T-shirt gun used during timeouts engages the whole crowd as sections cheer in unison to get the shooter to point their way.
Along with the dance team, band, and cheerleaders doing their traditional duties to pump up crowds, gimmicks and promotional events make the Columbia basketball experience more enjoyable for fans. With increased enjoyment comes more sell-out crowds, which in turn help spur the basketball teams to better results. This Saturday the AD is doing it again with the old-fashioned men’s and women’s double-header. But that’s not all—this doubleheader is presented by Bed, Bath, & Beyond. I’m not exactly sure what that entails, but everybody loves that store. Personally, I’m hoping for a new pillow-top to come flying my way.
Ronnie Shaban is a senior in the School of Engineering and Applied Science majoring in mechanical engineering. He is a member of the men’s varsity soccer team.