Oakland Zoo should add new exclusive tradition to arsenal


By Logan Hitchcock / Staff Writer

Let me start by saying I do not condone throwing thousands of rolls of toilet paper onto the court of the Petersen Events Center.

But one university’s student section does just that, and it tells me that Pitt’s Oakland Zoo could use a new and exclusive tradition of its own.

John Brown University, located in Siloam Springs, Ariz., brings mischief night to its basketball season opener with a toilet paper tradition. Following the team’s first basket of the season during the home opener, fans litter the court with thousands of rolls of the stuff. Each year, the event results in a technical foul and two free throws for the opposing team, a not so steep price for a tradition that has lasted for more than thirty years.

There is also Silent Night — not the Christmas song, but the tradition of Taylor University, a small university in Indiana. Each year, on the Friday before finals, students dress up in costumes, pack the school’s tiny gymnasium and sit in silence as the game begins. It is not until the team scores its tenth point that the crowd breaks the silence, and the result isn’t just a few claps and stray cheers. When Taylor scores that tenth point, madness ensues — so much so that the game was halted during the celebration’s 2012 iteration.

The list of traditions goes on. The University of Kansas has the “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk” chant that the crowd performs before games. Arizona State uses the “Curtain of Distraction,” where the fans unveil some different spectacle during the opposing team’s foul shots. The University of Alabama has “The Face,” the puffed out eyeballs and frown made famous by student Jake Blankenship. But what do we have?

The Oakland Zoo needs a new “thing.” The Zoo may have been among the first or most notable for some of its traditions (like its pregame newspaper festivities), but many of these have since become popularized and duplicated — we’re looking at you, Michigan State. 

Now, the Zoo needs something exclusive.

There is no denying that the Oakland Zoo is loud and proud. The Zoo is often heralded as one of the best student sections in all of college basketball by ESPN, and men’s head basketball coach Jamie Dixon recently praised it for the overwhelming support during Saturday’s “blackout” victory over Syracuse.  

Typically made up of more than one thousand students clad in matching t-shirts and a propensity for getting under the skin of opposing players, the Zoo has its fair share of small traditional tactics.

One of these is the aforementioned newspaper jig. On every seat of the Oakland Zoo prior to each game sits a small newspaper. Inside are some small facts, the rosters for the teams at play and a list of rules for partaking in the madness of the Zoo (for example, it details how the fans must rip the newspaper into pieces after the introductions and throw them into the air when Pitt first scores). On the outside, in large font, reads none other than “Let’s Go Pitt.”

The Zoo leaders urge members to pretend like they are reading the paper and not paying attention as the opposing team’s starting five is announced, only peering over the paper after a player’s name is announced to let him know that he “sucks.” After the players, the opposing coach is also announced, and, yes, “he sucks, too.”

While I can take some solace in the fact that the newspaper act is fun to do in the Zoo, I cannot help but think we are missing out on a big-ticket item.

I’m not advocating for debauchery or a threat of inevitable mayhem. I want the Zoo to remain within a respectable framework, and knåow the limits and where the line is drawn by the invisible code and unwritten rules of fanaticism.

I’m not asking for something as drastic as the throwing of toilet paper onto the court after our first basket each year. Although it would undoubtedly be a good time, I’m not sure it would sit well with the administration, or the ball boys and managers who would be stuck picking up every piece of two-ply from the hardwood.

But I do want more. I want something bigger. I want an everlasting tradition, something unique to the University and the students who attend it.

So I’m asking you, the students, to pick your brain and help create something new. Be Pitt’s next medical hero like Jonas Salk and cure our traditionless blues. Make like New England Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis, intercept the awesome idea of a competitor and, at the very least, knock it down. Put away your umbrella and sing in the rain, a la Gene Kelly.

Let’s start the next Pitt legacy in the basketball student section.

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