FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
After being mired in relative obscurity for years, The Show and its antics were thrust onto the national scene during the 2010-2011 season, thanks to the success of the men's basketball team. Many may think that The Show is a one-hit wonder, a "Right Said Fred" of fandom that only rose into prominence riding the coattails of a Top 10 and Sweet Sixteen season — however The Show has been going strong for a decade now, providing inspiration, laughs and an insanely fun atmosphere to the team and its fans, game in and game out.
Although unofficialy formed during the 2001-02 season, the story of The Show isn't about consistency — it's about growth. It's a constantly evolving group that introduces new innovations, new chants, and new traditions year after year. It is not happy with complacency or the status quo. In essence, the one consistent aspect of The Show is creativity and doing whatever it can to make Viejas Arena the greatest place in college basketball to play if you're an Aztec, and the worst place in college basketball if you aren't.
An important aspect to note, when it comes to The Show, is that it is not a "big game phenomenon". Many schools turn up the dial when it's a nationally televised game, hamming it up for the cameras — a luxury SDSU hasn't had the opportunity to enjoy much over the years. The Show is at full throttle every game, whether it be a sold out afternoon game against Occidental on New Year's Eve, or a pivotal home game against a hated foe.
Add to that the fact that The Show is not officially backed or funded by the university, but it is entirely a grassroots, fan supported collective. Why is that important? The Show is not something that is fake or manufactured, or something that is mandated by someone in a marketing department. It is inspired and fueled by the passion we have for our Aztecs, which has grown exponentially year after year.
It's not often that a student section can inspire an entire city, but during the 2010-11 season, The Show did just that. Adopting a chant that originated at Navy and made popular at Utah State (being on ESPN helps), The Show brought the phrase "I Believe" to Aztec fans and it instantly became a rallying call for San Diegans as the team made its run in the NCAAs. Wanting to add its own spin on it, they invited notable Aztec greats — Aztecs for Life — to lead the chant, including the Mayor of San Diego, and in 2011 it became the theme for the university's official commercial.
While other schools may allow students to camp out for tickets to big games, that sort of thing doesn't fly at SDSU due to campus regulations. Instead of the standard tent city normally seen at places such as Duke, a tent-less shanty town broke out last year, with students sleeping in the elements for days at a time just to get their hands on a ticket.
Braving the elements is only a small display The Show's enthusiasm — braving opposing fans at away games is another story. Standing by it's mantra of "No one likes us, we don't care", the Road Show has dominated gyms across the west, among them USD, Long Beach State, Cal, UCSB, Arizona, St. Mary's, and — our home away from home — UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center. In fact, last year The Show had a presence at almost every conference game, home and away.
Here's what some opposing fans had to say recently:
When it comes to creativity, the most vital aspect of a great student section, The Show is unrivaled.
Its trademark contribution to the sports landscape has been the "heads", or "faces" as they are sometimes called. The initial head entered circulation in 2002, and was first nationally documented in the December 19, 2005 issue of ESPN the Magazine, and its roots were explained in a CSTV blog in 2007. However, it wasn't until last year that the whole story came out, thanks to a hardhitting expose by the Northwest Indiana Times which states, among other things:
When Marquette joined the Big East, the school's athletic marketing department was looking for a way to make a splash in its first league game on Jan. 4. 2006 against Connecticut. Sitting in the lobby of Craig Pintens' office was a copy of the Dec. 19, 2005 edition of ESPN The Magazine, inside which was a photo from a San Diego State basketball game with monstrous heads being waved behind the backboard as an opposing shooter attempted a free throw.
"We said, 'Hey let's do this," said Pintens, who left Marquette for LSU two years ago.
The creativity doesn't stop with cardboard cutouts, however — it translates to other mediums as well.
Not content with being yet another student section wearing the same thing and jumping up and down in a homogenous blob, The Show encourages and embraces diversity and costumes of all kinds — with some even considered "controversial". One of the few times you'll see the crowd wearing the same thing is on its annual t-shirt night, a promotion put on solely by The Show — not funded by the school or athletics.
In addition, The Show has developed a logo and a brand that has been leveraged by SDSU Athletics to get more students to football games. Last year, it also introduced an official website — the one you're on now — which is the home to graphical teasers and recaps that fans have come to know and love. Even The Show's twitter feed gets publicity in the local papers.
92-12 — that's the Aztecs home record since the start of the 05-06 season.
The Show inspires the team and annoys opponents by any means necessary — whether it be the defeaning Ric Flair inspired WOOOOOs (who is now apparently considered an SDSU grad), the singing of the chorus of Muse's Uprising, or a rousing rendition of "I Believe" led by Aztecs for Life. However, don't take it from The Show — listen to what others have had to say:
After the Falcons and Aztecs exchanged handshakes in front of the scorers’ table following San Diego State’s win, Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds stopped on his way to the locker room and went into the front row of the student section.
He didn’t want trouble from the SDSU students; he wanted to congratulate them.
“I told them, the reason they’re undefeated is because of those kids,” Reynolds said. “It was a great atmosphere.”
The sellout crowd was charged up from the time they started filing into the arena. Air Force played at a sold out Marriott Center at BYU a couple weeks ago, but that wasn’t nearly as raucous as what it faced at the Viejas Center.
Reynolds said he has never gone into the crowd to personally address fans before. The fans thanked Reynolds, exchanged some handshakes with the coach, patted him on the back and then Reynolds went back to the visiting locker room.
San Diego State’s success has awakened a fan base that has been dormant for years. Reynolds said crowds at New Mexico and BYU are great too, but was impressed with the Aztecs’ fans.
“Their kids are into the game,” Reynolds said. “And they do it the right way.”
"It's hard to tell but I think it was obviously a factor. This is an unbelievable environment. Hats off to the fans and the student section here. I've been in Division I for 15 years and that's the best student section that I've ever seen."
"The night we were out there for the St. Mary's game, in my opinion, was the absolute best atmosphere I have been a part of at ESPN at least for the last couple of years. Talk about a team and their fans that were really excited about getting to New York, was San Diego State."
"I don't think we had a crowd this good at Michigan."
"Without The Show, it is one-tenth the atmosphere it is now," he says. "It's a loud, inhospitable place. It's like sticking your head in a beehive."
And, as Oberhelman does almost every game, he'll be looking for laughs from opposing players. Invariably, he says, players on the visitors' bench can be seen smiling and pointing at the signs that pop up in The Show.
"They are so creative and they've done their homework," Oberhelman says. "They can make you laugh."