by Malini GandhiIt was a tense boys’ basketball game against Brookline, and the Tigers were down 18 points. The players were frustrated, but the 6th Man, a swaying, black-and-orange sea of fans, was as stubborn as ever, according to senior Matt Callahan.
“I remember we never gave up hope and just kept chanting,” said Callahan. “The Tigers actually ended up making a slight come back, and we kept getting louder and louder the entire time.”
Whether cheering the Tigers to unlikely victory or consoling them after a hard defeat, the presence of the 6th Man, a rowdy all-senior cheering section at basketball games that has become a rite of passage for the senior class, is unmistakable, according to Barry housemaster Aaron Sanders.
The 6th Man is traditionally garbed in specialized shirts bearing nicknames printed on the back that are personalized to each individual, according to Sanders. These shirts were distributed today at all lunches, and will be worn by fans to the game against Natick today at 6:30 p.m.
And the crux of this huge, vibrant cheering community are the 6th Man leaders, Callahan and seniors Frank Donato, John Hogan and Zach Levin, who rally the crowd during games by standing in front of the rows of fans and leading cheers, according to Sanders.
“The 6th Man is a valuable bonding experience that allows seniors to come together to cheer on and represent their school in a positive light, and the 6th Man leaders have always been the heart of this group,” Sanders said.
Indeed, almost all of the current 6th Man leaders cited the legacy of past 6th Man leaders and the spirited, positive atmosphere they witnessed in past years as motivation for applying for the position. To apply, the seniors simply notified Sanders that they were interested.
According to Hogan, “Watching Scott Giusti ’10 lead his 6th Man when we were freshman really inspired me. He just brought so much energy and passion to the 6th Man.”
Similarly, according to Levin, “I was inspired to become a 6th Man leader after witnessing the other leaders before me. The 6th Man leaders in past years have helped create the standard for an incredible home court atmosphere whenever the Tigers take the court.”
This winter, Callahan, Donato, Hogan and Levin have set out to continue the legendary, energetic force of the 6th Man, according to Hogan. And so far, according to Hogan, the experience leading the group has been very exciting.
“When there’s a big crowd and everyone gets really into the game, it’s a great feeling to lead them through cheers and build up their excitement,” Hogan said.
Hogan said his favorite cheer to lead is the classic “I Believe We Will Win” chant, a loud, pounding cheer in which fans yell, “I believe…I believe…I believe that we will win.”
“I really enjoy the chant because it slowly builds up and then explodes with everyone jumping up and down and going nuts,” Hogan said. “From a player’s standpoint, I also know how excited that cheer gets you.”Callahan said his favorite cheer is the “This is Our House” cheer, which “really gets the crowd going,” while Donato cited a fun skit at halftime in which senior Brian Goldfinger dresses up and performs as the karate kid to build excitement in a light-hearted, humorous way.
Callahan said that the “knowledge that you are a key factor in the basketball team’s victory” is another rewarding part of leading the 6th Man.
Donato agreed, noting that “in close games when the 6th Man is present and loud, you can definitely get the sense that we give the team a little extra momentum. Sometimes that can make all the difference.”
According to Levin, in addition to the role of the 6th Man’s cheers in the unlikely win against Brookline, another game this season that was visibly benefited by the 6th Man’s support was the first game against Braintree.
“It was the first home game of the season, and as an athlete I know how nerve-racking it can be to start the season off at home with all of the pressure to win,” Levin said. “I think the presence of the 6th Man helped reassure the team in the home opener.”
Sanders noted that the leadership of Callahan, Donato, Hogan and Levin has been vital.
“The 6th Man leaders have been doing great so far,” Sanders said. “They are respectful of both the team and the opponents, and their cheers have been funny. After one game, a parent even came up to me and commented on what a great job the leaders were doing.”
One obstacle the 6th Man leaders have faced is the postponed arrival of the specialized 6th Man shirts, which arrived today after a long delay, according to Hogan.
According to Hogan, “It’s definitely been tough without the shirts. The shirts build a lot of excitement and are a real reason that people like to go the games.”
According to senior class president Mike Safran, the shirts were supposed to arrive on Friday, Nov. 30, but the company the shirts were ordered from continually delayed for over five weeks. It soon “became clear that these shirts were not being given the attention they deserved,” Safran said.
The class officers then canceled the order through the original company and ordered the shirts through a new company, which “has been nothing but fantastic. They completed all of the shirts in a week and a half,” Safran said.
Despite the lack of shirts during the first half of the season, Levin said that the 6th Man leaders have still been able to rally the team and maintain enthusiasm. The 6th Man leaders have told people to adorn themselves in school colors “so that we still look like a sea of black and orange,” Levin said.Now that the shirts have arrived, Hogan said he hopes that there may be an unexpected benefit from the lack of shirts during the first half of the season.
“We hope for a mid-season surge of excitement from fans that would have usually died out by this point in the season,” Hogan said. “With that additional excitement and our already strong group of dedicated fans, we feel we can bring a lot of energy into the post-season and really make an impact in helping the team succeed.”
Similarly, Safran said that “while people were very upset with the delay, they were patient and understanding, and now that everyone will have their shirts, I have no doubt that there will be a huge spike in energy at the basketball games.”
Even without the shirts, Callahan said the same spirit of the 6th Man was preserved.
“In the end, we all realized that it’s not about the shirts but about being positive and cheering our team on,” he said.