Will: We are gonna sound so weird –
It’s game time.
In Sperry Hall on West Campus, Dan Treitler ’07 and Will Versfelt ’07 have showered and eaten their pre-game meal. They put on their uniforms – Dan wears black Adidas pants, Will wears black or white basketball shorts and high socks.
They take out red Sharpie markers and draw the final touches on their chests and backs. Dan is the “C,” Will is the “U.” Will always wears a 12 on his back – for his girlfriend, junior outside hitter Elizabeth Bishop of the volleyball team. Dan, known as the “team boyfriend,” is working his way through the roster, seniors first.
Will puts on his white wristband with the red swoosh, always on the left forearm. He’s superstitious – he forgot it once and the volleyball team dropped a game to Yale. They put on shirts, and it’s time to go. Up the Slope, through Central Campus, and to Bartels Hall, where they’ve watched their friends on the men’s and women’s basketball teams, the gymnastics team, and the volleyball team compete since freshman year. One hundred yards away from the building – rain or shine, or even snow – they strip to the waist and begin their mad dash into Newman Arena, yelling the whole way. Once inside, they stomp, clap, scream, and cheer for the Red from tip-off to final buzzer, first serve to match point.
They are Cornell’s super fans.
Will: Did you propose?
Dan: It was clearly me, and I’ll fight you.
Dan’s the idea man – he lived with the basketball players in Court Hall freshman year, and still has his white handkerchief from the Georgia Tech game in 2003. He met Will when they lived on the same floor sophomore year. The legacy of the painted chests began after winter break that year, when Dan was the one to “propose” that they take their friendly support to the next level.
And so it began. Each sport has its own rituals. For basketball, Dan ties the Georgia Tech towel around his head – “Karate Kid-style” – and adds a chain with a huge gold dollar sign. He also tries to grab the rim after every game – even though, at 5-7, Will points out “he’s really short.” At gymnastics meets, there’s the “post-game romp” on the floor mat. Volleyball matches are followed by a rigorous game of catch that stretches the full length of the floor, using the mini-volleyballs that the girls on the team throw to the crowd during introductions. Every time out, in the stands or goofing around afterwards, they give it all they’ve got – to the point where their sweat makes the marker run down their chests and stain their boxers.
The cheers range from the Will’s generic “slow-clap” and “Defense!” to Dan’s more creative “You can’t spell Yale Bulldogs without BAD!” and “Brown is the color of poop!” Basketball brings out the “Airball!” taunt, and mock countdowns as time runs out to force bad shots. When it comes to gymnastics and women’s basketball, they’re are a little nicer – “I love girls,” Dan says, and he doesn’t want to hurt their feelings.
Will: It’s more obvious because we have no shirts on. But you don’t have to have a painted chest to be a super-fan.
Every man, woman, and child in the greater Ithaca area knows that Cornell hockey is big time. The hockey line is epic, the rink is standing-room only for every game. However, go to any other sporting event on the East Hill, and the empty seats outnumber the fans. Men’s basketball has a larger following than most, but attendance for women’s basketball, gymnastics, and volleyball is so low that after you’ve been to a few games you start to remember faces and where everyone sits. And no face is more memorable than those of Will and Dan – game in and game out, win or lose, they’re still there, chests blazing red and cheering themselves hoarse.
It’s not Lynah, where glass, pads and helmets separate the fans from the players and junior goaltender David McKee or senior forward Matt Moulson couldn’t pick you out of the crowd. In Newman Arena, you can sit next to Will and Dan in the second row and get inside the other team’s head – to the point where a “rather large black fellow from Yale” turned to Dan during a basketball game last year and drew a finger across his own throat, a clear sign of just how provocative a few super fans can be.
To these two sports fans, Cornell’s special – superstar athletes are accessible and say “thank you” for the support after a game. When they step into the gym, they’re part of the action. They love that volleyball head coach Deitre Collins and the girls on the team can feel the energy shift when they come into the gym – but they also love the games where Newman’s packed, like when 2,000 fans cheered as Cody Toppert ’05 made two fouls shots with 3.5 seconds left to give the Red a 76-75 win over Brown last February.
They do it because they love sports. They do it’s because their friends are out there, and they’d be watching anyways, half-naked or not. Mostly, they do it because painting yourself and screaming your head off for two hours is a lot of fun.
And they’re hoping for a day when they can upgrade from “C.U.” to a full-fledged “Cornell” across seven naked chests. But to do that, they need help. So what they want to know is – do you have what it takes to be a Cornell super fan?
Olivia Dwyer is a Sun Assistant Sports Editor. Forever Wild will appear every other Thursday this semester.
Archived article by Olivia Dwyer