Spirit Shortage?

“Broke-back Moun-tain!” Clap. Clap. Clap-clap-clap.

“Broke-back Moun-tain!” Clap. Clap. Clap-clap-clap.

The all-male Loyola crowd stood in shock, astounded, silenced by the opposing fans.

Harvard-Westlake administrators quickly leapt to their feet and scolded the student section, ending the inappropriate comments.

While at times irreverent, this fiery behavior, this surge of passion, this show of spirit is absent at athletic events this year. While many, including Head of Athletics Audrius Barzdukas, claim that fan support is better than ever, attendance of events proves otherwise.

“There’s really no one at away games,” Jimmy Mack ’08 said. Mack has attended games on a regular basis since he started at the Upper School and even attended varsity games while at the Middle School. “They’re definitely not as loud because Nick [Angelich ’06] and Evan [Schlossberg ’06] aren’t there. The students used to always be the loudest, and now they aren’t.”

At the start of 2005, a band of seniors: Angelich, Schlossberg, Kevin Cole, Jon Jaques and Andrew Segal, decided to start a new fan organization. Dubbed the “Fanatics”, this group grew rapidly and led to what many consider an unprecedented consider an unprecedented level of fandom at the school.

“The Fanatics were a way to take away the stress of senior year and just have a good time early on a Friday night,” Angelich said.

Groups, such as the Super Fans, existed at the school before the Fanatics, none inspired the student body to the extent that the Fanatics did. The Fanatics drew everyone from senior boys to sophomore girls—there were more sophomore girls at the game against Serra High School than sophomore boys.

“I think the Super Fans were good, but they weren’t as organized,” Angelich said. “I think last year the support we had was unrivaled by any previous group.”

Last year, every football game was attended by hoards of students and administrators, filling the stands to the brim. Neither rain nor daunting piles of homework prevented the Wolverine faithful from being boisterous and forceful.

“Last year I went as far south as Laguna Niguel and as far north as Bakersfield,” Angelich said.  “It’s something that needs to be done. Your friends spend countless hours on the practice field to get the chance to play what, 12 games? Go out there and show support.  It’s the Wolverine way.”

Most students agree that the Fanatics peaked during basketball season. Taper Gymnasium was always  packed with students, wearing red and supporting the team. According to Barzdukas, the “basketball  blogosphere” rated Taper Gym the toughest opposing court in Southern California.

While stars such as the Collins twins heightened fandom, they mainly increased the already large attendance of key games. One of the Fanatics’ great successes was attracting students to lesser publicized games, such as those against lowly league foes.
The 2006 athletic season ended and the five founders moved on to college. Angelich, the “Godfather” of the Fanatics—as dubbed by President Thomas C. Hudnut—and his partner Schlossberg stayed in Los Angeles, but their spirit seems long gone.

Angelich and Scholossberg failed to name a true successor. Leadership has fallen to “The Triumvirate”—Sean Dennis, Ryan Calvert and John Howe. While Howe is a member of student government and Dennis has attended nearly every game, it is hard to escape the fact that all three play varsity sports with both Howe and Calvert playing major roles on the football team.

“Our core group wouldn’t let rain suppress our passion,” Schlossberg said. “From what I’m hearing, the student involvement in the Fanatics seems to have diminished this year, so it’s impossible to expect a large group of casual fans to fight through the rain to go to a game.”

At the Wolverines Oct. 27 game against Serra, a gamer that essentially determined the league crown, 12 students were in the stands at the start of the game. By halftime that number had increased, but the student section was made up mostly of empty benches.

“Last year they had a strong base that went to every game,” defensive back Stephen Adamson ’08 said. “Leaders this year haven’t come to as many games.” Perhaps more noticeable than sheer numbers, the enthusiasm and noise created by Wolverine student sections is down.

“The fact that [Nick and Evan] weren’t afraid to get up and lead the crowd caused kids to come to the games,” Jimmy Mack ‘08 said, “The guys this year don’t do that.”

If any moment signified all that has changed since Angelich and Schlossberg left, it occurred on Homecoming Saturday. The Harvard-Westlake Fanatics came out in record numbers, but in the fourth quarter, as the Wolverines held on to a 23-20 lead with under a minute to play, most of the student section exited the stands either for the parking lot or Zanuck Swim Stadium and the Water polo game.

Last year, Angelich and  Schlossberg concluded every winning game with choruses of “Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye”, the popular song by Steam, or chants of “Start the buses!” This year, fans were on the track or in the parking lot.

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