‘City of Champions’ could use some fan support

‘City of Champions’ could use some fan support

CenturyLink Field is a great homefield advantage for the Seattle Seahawks.

The stadium, which was constructed in 2002, was designed to be really loud. The fans of the Seahawks cause such a raucous there that one time the celebration of a playoff touchdown by Marshawn Lynch registered on the Richter scale.

CenturyLink Field held the Guinness World Record for being the loudest stadium on the planet until that distinction was taken by Kansas City Chiefs fans at Arrowhead Stadium, another outstanding homefield advantage.

Except maybe in places of cold weather, homefield is not a major advantage because of the playing field. It has little to do with “sleeping in our home bed,” as coaches like to say. Its not usually because of restaurant food.

Homefield or homecourt advantage is almost always about noise. Lots and lots of noise.

Noise, not comfortable home surroundings for the home team, is why the Saints hardly ever lose in the Superdome.

Crowd noise is one of the components that makes it so hard for visiting teams to beat Butte High at Naranche Stadium. Loud Butte High fans take advantage of the stadium acoustics to make it hard for opposing receivers, running backs and linemen to hear their quarterback signals.

Crowd noise, and not the officials who are generally blamed, is usually the reason some high school gyms provide a huge advantage to the home team. Usually.

You don’t even have to be at home to have the homecourt advantage if your crowd is loud enough. Just ask the Butte Central girls’ basketball team from last March. The Maroons played Hardin in the semifinals of the Class A State Tournament in Great Falls, and the Bulldogs had a huge advantage because their crowd was insanely loud.

The BC players and coaches even admitted to being thrown off by the crowd, and that certainly played a part in the Bulldogs’ 48-40 win over the Maroons.

That brings us to Friday, Dec. 21. That is the day that the Flathead Braves from Kalispell held a decided homecourt advantage over Butte High in a boys’ basketball game played at the Butte Civic Center.

While Butte High’s girls’ team got the small home crowd riled up with one of their best home performances in several years by beating Flathead 53-29 in the opener of the varsity doubleheader, the Bulldog boys had very little support in the nightcap.

A lot of that was because the Bulldogs were playing poorly. They could not make a shot or free throw to save their lives, and coach Luke Powers benched all of his starters in favor of junior varsity players late in the second quarter.

Powers said he did that because the team was playing without any energy, and he wanted to send his players a message.

The message also got to the fans. About half the Butte crowd left at halftime. Even the Butte High band packed up and left the game, and that is absolutely mind blowing.

You should not blame the students in the band for leaving. The culture at Butte High basketball games is just not what it used to be, and that is kind of sad.

If the band members would watch a Duke basketball game on television, they might see how fun being involved in a basketball game can actually be.

After the crowd dwindled away, Butte High’s 16-point halftime deficit grew to 19 points at 36-17 midway through the third quarter.

Then, something remarkable happened. The Bulldogs came back.

Butte High went on a 14-1 run to get back in the game early in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs tied the game at 45 with 3 minutes, 6 seconds left in the game when Danny McCloskey scored off a great pass by Kash Kelly.

I have been covering the Butte High basketball team for about two decades, and I have never seen the Bulldogs overcome a 19-point deficit to tie the game against anybody. Not even close.

If you were watching such a comeback by a home team on television, the crowd would be going berserk. The score on the bottom of the screen would be bouncing around because the arena would be rocking.

The road team would be toast.

The reaction to Butte High tying the game at the Civic Center, though, more closely resembled the applause for a nice tee shot on the 13th hole at the Desert Classic.

Had the Bulldogs had any kind of homecourt advantage, it would have surely pushed the Butte boys on to victory. When a team blows a 19-point lead, it almost always loses on the road.

Instead, it was the Braves fans who were loud. In addition to the fans who yelled that the Braves were getting ripped off with every single bounce of the ball, the subvarsity teams from Kalispell were standing and cheering the Braves on.

A few in the Butte High student section tried to get the crowd going, but the Butte kids are so beaten down by administrators doubling as the fun police that they are afraid to say anything. Any cheer that doesn’t begin with “two, four, six, eight” will subject the students to at least the threat of ejection from the arena.

If you think that is an exaggeration, go to a game and see for yourself.

Flathead overcame free throw woes of its own, and the Braves pulled out a 55-51 victory. As the road team sank five straight shots from the charity stripe, you could have heard a pin drop at the storied Butte arena.

One longtime Butte sports observer called the display an “embarrassing example for the ‘City of Champions.’ Butte used to have pride in its support for the local kids’ teams.”

That is true. For years, the Civic Center was worth at least a few baskets for the home team in each game. Sometimes it was worth even more than that.

From 2004 through 2008, Butte High’s boys hardly ever lost at game at the Civic Center, and a large part of that was the crowd, particularly the “Civic Center Psychos,” as the student section called itself.

Hopefully those days are not gone for good. The Bulldogs didn’t have a good December, but you have to believe that the talented and experienced team will compete when they play in January.

The Bulldogs could use a boost from their fans, though.

The Class AA State tournament will be played at the Civic Center this year, and wouldn’t it be fun if our home teams were there?

Surely, the local crowd will come out if they are. That crowd should first come out to help cheer them on to the tournament. That really could help get them there.

If the Bulldogs win, fans will come. Wouldn’t it be nice, however, if the “City of Champions” wasn’t such a frontrunning fanbase these days?

Save the front running for Cowboys and Seahawks fans, and root on the local teams when they need their fans most.

While we certainly cannot expect the local crowd to take the Guinness World Record from Arrowhead Stadium, at least we could do is try to make the Civic Center as loud as Naranche Stadium.

It is either that or we throw that “City of Champions” moniker away for good.

— Bill Foley, who probably holds a Guinness World Record for something, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. Check out his NFL picks on Thursdays.

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