The Kohl Center’s policy on signs is terrible. It stinks.
There I said it, and I still don’t feel better.
For years now, the Grateful Red, Wisconsin’s die-hard section of student fans for men’s basketball games, have been deprived of the ability to bring in its own signs, flags and banners This has made the section more mind-numbingly boring than every halftime show at the Super Bowl B.B. — Before Beyonce, that is — as opposed to AJJJT, which means After Janet Jackson and JT’s wardrobe malfunction.
Currently, fans can make their own signs in the Kohl Center that are about as large as a regular sheet of paper from your printer. I’ve seen some solid, clever signs, but they’re all so tiny nobody can see them until they zoom in on the big screen to read the sign.
Why not show off the creativity of fans and allow them to actually bring in signs that take more work to make than the 10 minutes it takes to wait for a marker and make the sign inside the Kohl Center?
One of my favorite memories as a fan of the Grateful Red was the time ESPN’s College GameDay came to the Kohl Center in 2009 for the Wisconsin vs. Ohio State game. Neither team was ranked, as I recall, but it was a pivotal game for the Badgers if they wanted to reach the tournament — which they did, and beat Florida State on Trevon Hughes’ and-one in the waning seconds.
We were allowed to bring in our own pre-made signs and it made for a unique setting in the section behind the GameDay crew. ESPN college basketball color commentator and cast member Jay Bilas took a picture on his phone of our group’s sign, which said the basketball reporters were better than ESPN’s football group, and there were several signs depicting Bob Knight’s legendary anger.
But, by far the best one of all (at least that I saw) was a sign that said, “I woke up with Krabs.” For those of you who aren’t sports fans, the word “Krabs” is a reference to Joe Krabbenhoft, the then-Wisconsin senior forward and now video coordinator of the team. The sign was adorned with several pictures of the player, but because of the thinly veiled sexual innuendo “Krabs” implied, the work of art was confiscated by event security.
Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.
There are plenty of places in the Big Ten where student sections are allowed to use props. When I was in Bloomington, Ind., at the legendary Assembly Hall to watch the Badgers shock the No. 2 Hoosiers on the road, I was struck by the entertainment of not only the game, but the various items the students held up throughout the game. The 7,800-strong students held up signs, giant heads and other items to make it a different outing than a game at the Kohl Center.
I can understand the Athletic Department and the University of Wisconsin’s hesitancy to allow fans to bring in signs, flags and other objects. It puts a certain amount of responsibility on the general student population to be responsible for their content and to represent the school positively, which is something that has been strongly emphasized lately, especially in regards to a certain football chant.
But, it’s time to give the Kohl Center students a chance to show some Wisconsin character and creativity. Because, really, what traditions do the Grateful Red have? There’s no “Jump Around,” there’s no “Student Section Race” and there’s no crowd favorite songs. The students get to scream and wear costumes, but then you have instances like a certain young man who wore a cooking apron and the tiniest jean shorts I’ve ever seen.
Let’s show some trust in students as fans and make the Wisconsin basketball game day experience even better. And plus, if it becomes a problem, you can always just take the privilege away. It’s not like trying to stop a cheer, after all.
Nick Korger ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in history and English.