The date was February 26, 2011. The scene; Viejas Arena.
The San Diego State Aztecs, ranked fourth in the country, were taking on their bitter rivals in the seventh-ranked BYU Cougars.
To call the place packed was an understatement. Leading the crowd that day was the feared SDSU student section, better known as The Show. Made up of a boisterous group of die-hard fans, The Show was filled to the brim with students rooting on their team in any way they could. They would start chants, taunt opposing teams, and were the first student section to ever use cardboard cutouts to distract opposing players taking free throws. The Aztecs would lose the game, but The Show rode with them to the bitter end.
Fast forward to December 1, 2012. The Aztecs were taking on the UCLA Bruins at the Honda Center in Anaheim in the finals for the John R. Wooden Classic. Traveling with them was the rowdy Aztec fan section, settling down near the UCLA bench and the opposing side of the hoop. Distracted the entire game, the Bruins couldn’t keep up with the Aztecs, and watched as SDSU celebrated a victory with its rambunctious fans.
The Show was once one of the most feared student sections in not just the Mountain West, but the NCAA. Living by the mantra “You don’t like us? We don’t care”, the students poked fun at anyone and everyone, and caused quite the controversy with their comments towards former BYU star Jimmer Fredette by making a Facebook account just to “poke” his then-girlfriend (you can make the connections as to why some would see that as offensive), while dressing up in full Mormon attire while holding signs that asked “Which wife gave you mono?” when Fredette came down with the illness. People can thank The Show for the now famous “I Believe That We Will Win” chant that finds its way at sporting events around the nation. Bleacher Report even named them the top student section of the year in 2014 over schools such as Duke, Kansas, and Gonzaga.
Now it is present day. SDSU legends Steve Fisher and Kawhi Leonard are gone. The Aztecs haven’t reached the NCAA tournament since 2015 and The Show has been severely lackluster. The downfall can be traced back to last season, as fan attendance started to dwindle amongst the students. Their 80-game sellout streak was snapped in January as students stopped picking up the free tickets provided to them. An option to reduce the number of seats allocated to the student section was thought of, but opted against. But that will still weigh in on the minds of SDSU leaders if attendance doesn’t bounce back.
The once feared student section is now hit or miss, and the home court advantage the Aztecs once had over their opponents has now evaporated. Viejas Arena, once one of the loudest places in San Diego County, and a nightmare for opposing teams, has become quiet on certain days. In the game against Bradley, The Show wasn’t even filled up past the first ten rows. Granted, the game was against a virtually unknown team from the Missouri Valley Conference (a relationship which some Mountain West coaches and athletic directors are wanting to break off, by the way), but it was still disappointing to see what had become of it. The pregame ceremonies are not even that hyped up anymore when they are compared to the teams of the past.
This San Diego State basketball team needs its student section, plain and simple. The wild energy they bring has the potential to bring the house down and throws a monkey wrench into an opposing team’s communication. A young team with freshmen like Matt Mitchell, Jordan Schakel, and Jalen McDonald needs to have The Show backing them on a weekly basis in order to boost their confidence and show them that the students they go to school with have their backs.
However, there is still potential.
The recent game against Cal showed that the students will show up to games and can still bring the same fire they showed in the glory days of the 2010-2011 season. The students got pumped in the second half and demonstrated the cockiness that made them so hated by their enemies, booing opposing players and waving them goodbye after they fouled out, all while jumping up and down like a group of frenzied madmen while chanting fight songs with the band. This is the type of spirit that has to be present at Viejas Arena at every game. Not just the big games against teams like Cal, or rivalry games against Boise State and New Mexico, but at the small games like the ones against Bradley and McNeese State.
The Show was once one of the most feared student sections of all time, and still can be if they show up en masse to the games. I want members of the student section to prove me wrong, to show that they still have the love they showed for Rashaad Penny and the football team. The student section shouldn’t be dotted with empty eats, but should be filled to the brim with students rooting their team on and waging a mental war with the opposing team. So please, SDSU students, prove me wrong. Show this city that you are still a force to be reckoned with, and show up to root on this talented squad of young men, all while earning the accolades and reputation they’ve garnered over the years.