30 years ago, fans loved sports every bit as much as fans do now. They lived and died with every play, followed along as best they could and idolized their favorite players just as much as anyone does today. Only things were very different. Every game wasn’t on television. Newspapers could only print so much about one team and the internet wasn’t even a thought in anyone’s mind yet. No blogs, no NBA league pass, nothing. Just trips to the arena and contests on television. You knew there were plenty of other fans out there, but it wasn’t easy to connect with them.
That is what’s so fun about the year 2010. Anyone can hop online and find a whole bunch of other fans of their favorite team and engage in conversation about who’s coming in a trade or why so and so shouldn’t be playing 20 minutes a night. Vividly following a team has truly turned into being a part of a community.
And community is the exact word that fits the members of Andrew Bogut’s Squad Six.
Started last season and continued through the current one, Squad Six is a rowdy group of fans hand picked by Bogut and two other judges with the idea of bringing life into the Bradley Center on a nightly basis. Those that were selected, get a season ticket from Bogut with the expectation that they stand throughout the game, cheering, taunting the opposition and screaming until they’re hoarse.
When the Bucks made their trip to play the Pacers in Indiana last Friday, Squad Six decided to tag along.
The trip organizers, two year Squad members Chuck Schilling, Dan Hoelzl and Nick Honeck targeted the Indiana game for months. It was important that the game was within a reasonable distance, obviously, but there was extra incentive for making a trip to Indiana. Pacers center Roy Hibbert saw enough promise out of Bogut’s idea last season that he decided to do it himself. Indiana’s “Area 55” is a Hibbert funded fan section, designed to inject Conseco Fieldhouse with energy, the same way Squad Six has in Milwaukee.
The group rented a bus and watched Bucks games (along with a few classic comedy movies) on the way down to Conseco. Throughout the trip, the bus was filled with chants like a Milwaukee based take on Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels Mockingbird song from Dumb and Dumber (the chant is still a work in progress). They passed around copies of the Pacers rosters, to prepare themselves for the night’s mockery. Squad Six never comes to a game unprepared. They spend time during the day of Bucks games e-mailing each other with suggestions and ideas through a Squad Six Google Group.
Some of their best work comes on the fly though. One of the chant leaders, Chad Steger, says they pass along messages to each other throughout the game. If someone has a good idea for a chant, it gets down to him and he quickly notifies the whole group. Their popular “Dude looks like a lady” chant at Joakim Noah last season formed this way.
Many people complain that the NBA isn’t as passionate as college, but the presence of competing fan sections in Indiana made the game seem like two rival high schools playing their annual game. Area 55 would chant at Squad Six, only to see the outsiders holding their hands to their ears in a defiant “we can’t hear you” manner. Not long into the game though, it was clear Squad Six was the veteran group, while Area 55 had yet to find their footing as a section.
The chemistry among those that made the trip was evident. Many members of Squad Six knew each other previously through events organized by Hoelzl on the Real GM Bucks message board. Often, members of the group will gather for non-Bucks related activities, like poker games, Brewers games or just to watch basketball on League Pass. When the trip organizers were sorting things out, they received an outpouring of support from their Bucks fan community through outlets like Twitter, Facebook and message boards.
This kind of interaction is the internet at its finest. So often the internet is weighed down with negative comments and snark, but this group has made the most of their ability to connect with others through technology. Bogut’s contributions are obviously incredibly important, but this group has taken his initial idea to another level in terms of establishing real life relationships with each other.
The players have taken quite a liking to the group as well and Bogut even spent one night this past summer socializing with them at a local sports bar. The Bucks especially appreciated their support in the road game. None of the players were alerted before the game that their biggest fan would be coming on the road, but certainly noticed them once the game was underway. After the game both Jon Brockman and Brandon Jennings took their feelings of appreciation to Twitter. The trip was in part meant as a sign of appreciation towards Bogut, but unfortunately, he was not in the arena, thanks to a migraine that left him back at the hotel.
For those that were there, it was hard to miss Squad Six in Indiana. Some Pacers fans even stopped to take a picture with one especially outrageously dressed member. But their goal in Milwaukee isn’t to be seen.
“We’re not trying to stand out,” said trip organizer Schilling. “We’re just hardcore fans. We want to get the crowd pumped up, the team pumped up. It’s not about us, it’s about the team.”
Despite their efforts though, Squad Six has stood out in Milwaukee, and now, Indiana. For all the right reasons.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan of Bucksketball on Facebook (to the right).