Will the real Mason Nation please stand up? [OPINION]

The student section of Mason Nation stands at this year's homecoming game. Is their standing enough? (Amy Fitzpatrick)
The student section of Mason Nation stands at this year's homecoming game. Is their standing enough? (Amy Fitzpatrick)

With 10 seconds left on the clock, the Rams were shooting free throws to add to their lead. The student section always stands during games, but at this point, they were urging the rest of Mason Nation (ironically, the fans who had to pay to be there) to join them.

“Stand up!” *Boom Boom* “Stand up!” *Boom Boom*

For non-student fans, sitting and cheering is a regular part of the experience at Mason basketball games. But it is also paints a picture of exactly what our school currently lacks: contagious basketball spirit, and traditions on which a lasting basketball culture can be built at this school.

Student fans bear the Mason's letters on their chests at the men's basketball home game against VCU. (Jake McLernon)

Only after they sat and watched VCU guard Briante Weber hit both of his free throws to extend their lead to four points did fans other than students start to get it. Mason starting guard Ventrail Vaughns hit an ice-in-his-veins three with 3.8 seconds to go, and the fans at the Patriot Center finally realized our team needed their help.

After a quick foul, Weber again stepped to the line with 3.4 seconds on the clock and a 1 point VCU lead. This time, all of Mason Nation stood up to build pressure for the shot. The decibel meter in the Patriot Center went over 100, and Weber missed his free throw. When he sunk his second, the Rams only led by two.

Three seconds later, the entire stadium held their breath as Sherrod Wright’s buzzer beating 3 swooshed beautifully through the net, sending a spark through the Patriot Center that even the new scoreboard could not provide.

What a moment. Eleven points in 29.5 seconds. A 30 foot prayer as time expires to beat your rival and knock them out of first place. Mason’s never say die attitude is what completed this comeback, but that was not the only factor in this game.

What does shouting “Stand up” and stomping on metal bleachers have to do with Sherrod’s shot that will likely go down as the most exciting one ever made at the Patriot Center?


The Rams had hit their previous four free throws during that final 29.5 second stretch. If VCU hits both free throws with 3.4 left on the clock, Sherrod’s 3 only ties the game and sends it to overtime. Mason could have – and very well, might have – still lost. VCU outplayed us for 59 minutes and 59 seconds. But with Mason Nation rallying behind them, our Patriots played all sixty minutes, and that made all the difference.

Because you just can't watch this clip enough. (Jake McLernon)

Mason Nation, you are the sixth man. When your basketball team found that the glass slipper fit back in ’06 and crashed the Final Four in Indianapolis, you were right there with this team. However, much has changed since then. There are new students, a new team, a new coach and yes, glossy TV screens surrounding the Patriot Center. But something else is changing, too. Mason is reaching the point when its basketball team will no longer be just another Cinderella story.

We are growing from being a glass slipper wearing giant slayer, to a formidable Mid-Major power. Within the next year or two, we will not just be known as the top team in the CAA (again), but we will be one of the top 25 teams in the Nation. Think that’s a bold claim? It’s one that I can and will back up, but Mason Nation will have to wait until the end of this season to read how.

The first thing a team must do to be considered a true powerhouse is to consistently win at home. Discounting the loss to Duquesne over this past winter break, Mason has gone undefeated at the Patriot Center 3 out of its past four seasons. Next year, Mason hosts newly established ACC power UVA in its home opener. Guess who’s going to be there to welcome them? Mason Nation. And we will be standing up.

The Patriot Platoon does a good job of energizing the student section, but as a whole the students have a ways to go in order to become as unified as the Duke’s, Kansas', and Utah State’s of the basketball fan world. A glimmer of hope, however, can be found in our final homestretch.

At homecoming, the team struggled immensely, shooting only 27.7 percent from the field and turning the ball over 21 times. In spite of all this, the sell-out crowd of 9,840 at the Patriot Center cheered them on to victory. Had students not forgone their other potential Valentine’s Day plans and come to the VCU game last week, who knows if the Patriots would have shown the resiliency that they did?

This past Saturday on Senior Night at the Patriot Center, instead of turning on the team when they squandered a 17 point lead, the crowd at the Patriot Center responded by getting louder than it had the entire game.

Why? To support the team in its time of need. In the closing minutes of the game, the student section began to chant, “This is our house.” This was done not to mock the other team as we sent them home in defeat, but to remind our team that this is home. Mason Nation does everything within its power to help our team to win at home.

Mason Nation, take pride in these home game victories. The team could not have done it without you, and they know it. They make the plays, they hit the shots, but you inspire them to finish strong and leave it all on the court. They walked through the student section after these games, high-fiving fans and voicing their appreciation for the support. They know we appreciate them, because students show it by giving up their nights to come cheer them on.

Let’s take it to the next level. Instead of just the student section carrying the crowd until the end of the game, let’s turn the whole Patriot Center into part of Mason Nation. Let’s let anyone and everyone who enters our house know who we are and where they are. They are in our house, where we win. Why? Because the real Mason Nation stands up.

Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily represent those of Connect2Mason. More columns and opinions will be coming this spring. To submit a piece of writing, send an email with your name, year, major and an attached draft to exec.editor[at]connect2mason.com. 


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