Friday, October 15, 2010

Musings On Midnight Madness

According to the NCAA bylaws, men's basketball teams can hold their first practices after 5:00pm on the Friday nearest October 15. In 2010, it just so happens that the first Friday nearest October 15 is actually Friday, October 15. Over the course of the past few years, there have been an increasing number of basketball programs running events called Midnight Madness (or some other play on the name) where fans come together to welcome the new team, watch them practice, and take part in various festivities. Oakland University has jumped on this very fun bandwagon in recent years and will do the same tonight with its Grizz Madness beginning at 8:00pm at the O'Rena.

The practical purpose of October 15 is simple: essentially, coaches and players look forward to it because they can actually take the floor together to get ready for opponents. For fans, though, it's a bit more symbolic. It represents the birth of a new season and is as much a celebration of fan pride and spirit as it is the fact that practices can be held. While the level of activity varies from program to program, most involve some kind of pre-Madness get-together. At Oakland, where such traditions are still forming, this has changed from year to year, though there always seems to be some kind of free food! Last year's rendition had considerable build-up as a long line of fans formed outside of the O'Rena waiting for the doors to open for the madness to begin. While a majority of the people there were students, a number of adults and younger children could be seen as well, presumably a mix of the families of alumni, faculty and staff, and community members.

Though some have argued that the concept of Midnight Madness loses its appeal when not held at midnight, the earlier start time gives programs the ability to attract a wider population. Such a mix of families and students is exactly what Oakland must continue to accommodate as it grows its fanbase. As much as some may wish to see tailgating or other shenanigans take place at Oakland, the simple fact remains that Rochester is not built like Ann Arbor or East Lansing (where hoards of students rent or own much of the surrounding properties). It's a great city, but its primary residents - and those of the outlying area - are young adults raising families. For that reason, it makes sense to have fun-time activities for young kids who come along with their parents. At the same time, as the on-campus residential population continues to grow, it'll be increasingly important for the school to ensure that these students are encouraged to attend an event such as Grizz Madness and have fun. After all, these students are those most likely to not only attend subsequent home games, but also be a part of the student cheering section.

Tonight one can only hope there will be a number of students and community members who show up to Grizz Madness and have a great time. The program has some intense momentum right now, and there is no doubt that returning fans will create an atmosphere of excitement in the O'Rena. Now we just need to hope that the new faces will be swept up by the spirit and find themselves eager to buy tickets or, in the case of students, simply show up to future games since they are free. As fans, we know this can happen; anyone who was at the season opener against Eastern Michigan can tell you the O'Rena and student section were buzzing early on. However, right now is an important time in the program's climb. We can not settle for what we have achieved lately. Just as Coach Kampe and his staff will push the team to build on last season's success, we as fans must recognize the need to continue to support our program in the effort to increase the reputation of this program and this school. And it all begins tonight, at the stroke of 8:00pm.

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