KERRI BROOKS: 12th Man Challenge

Are you up for this challenge? It's your turn to crank it up, to step it up. It's your turn to prove you are a part of the Kentucky Football team.

Let's see if we can put a new twist on an old story. I was in Indianapolis last weekend televising the Jaguars-Colts game. The Jaguars were the better team on the field that day, but let me tell you, they were not able to overcome the crowd. On the flip side, QB Peyton Manning was also not able to overcome the crowd when he was trying to quiet them on a very important offensive play. It could have cost them the game as he had to use a very valuable time out because it was so loud he was unable communicate to his offense.

You could see Manning's frustration as he was flapping his arms up and down, motioning to hush the crowd as he walked over to the team area. Football players love loud crowds, but in this case, it could have cost the Colts the game. Fortunately, they were able to score, and the lost time out did not come down to an issue with last second clock management… but it could have.

Prior to a football game, I check out the crowd for great signs, dressed up fans and people who seem very animated. I often go and talk to the people prior to the game to let them know that I am working for CBS, and let them know what will get them on television, and sometimes what will not! I have put the camera on people before and then they stood there watching the Jumbotron screen waiting for their image to pop up, only to be disappointed thinking that they weren't on. Well, during those seconds that you were looking for yourself on the in-house screen, doing nothing, millions of viewers were watching you do absolutely nothing on national television. Why am I telling you this?

There are places networks love to go to. Stadiums that have so much "flavor" that the fans don't need coaching; they just know what to do. They don't just perform for the camera, they perform the whole game. I know fans around the United States by name, sometimes their game persona name, seeing them year after year, same seats; great energy. I can tell you where the best shots are going to come from after touchdowns, turnovers, and penalties. I can also tell you how much a crowd can affect the game by the energy level in the facility. Where is this going?

AHA! We need more energy in Commonwealth! As I watched the Mississippi game on television, I was very disappointed with the crowd shots they aired. Something big would happen on the field, and when they cut to the crowd, they cut to people standing there doing nothing. I mean absolutely nothing. Shot after shot after shot of nothing.

Not having been at the game in person this left me wondering one of two things: either the crowd is just not into the game, or the camera people on that game had absolutely no ability to find "good" crowd shots. Yet, if they were left to "find" good crowd shots, there wasn't enough energy in the stadium for the home crowd to be the elusive 12th man.

I have heard arguments about how loud some fans say they are, yet they complain about the fuddy duddies sitting next to them who are sitting on their hands. Or the entire section of fuddy duddies who never seem to get involved in the game. The end zones at Commonwealth seem to produce a large amount of the noise and energy during the game, so it is time to ask: What is going on in the middle? If you are in the middle sections and are loud, it isn't you, but it might be the person next to you. Maybe its time to politely ask the fan sitting on their hands to get involved in the game, to get up out of their seats and open their mouth! If half of the crowd is standing, who are the half that are sitting? They aren't the people taking time to read this article I am certain!

I have never gone home from being a fan at a football game with my voice intact. I am sure a doctor would tell me that I am not doing my voice box any favors by straining my throat so much, but I can't help it. I have a very loud voice, and I am always certain that those players on the field can hear the encouragement I am screaming at them. (OK, I admit I have also yelled some not so nice things at officials, but I cannot advocate that kind of behavior. Devilish grin. ) I personally like to believe that when I am cheering, they hear me. Now logic might say this is not true, but I refuse to believe it. Logic would also lead me to believe that if I could get the people surrounding me to yell the same thing, the chance of being heard increases by the number of people cheering with me. So I ask you: Do you know the people who sit around you? Perhaps it would be good form to introduce yourself to the people around you, and entice them to be involved in the game with you.

When I sit at a game, I always introduce myself to the people in front of me to let them know I will be very loud. I actually carry ear plugs with me, to give them, because I don't want to lessen their experience at the game by damaging their ear drums. (Well… unless they are not supporting my team.) I have never had someone take me up on the offer, but I have had people tell me that they had high entertainment from listening to me during the game. It is important to remember that being loud doesn't mean yelling obscenities; it can be very positive and not abrasive or offensive to others. To me, it has always felt like it was my personal contribution to the game; and I really enjoy my participation as a fan.

Where do we start? We start by getting to the game early, pumping the team up as they enter the stadium down the Catwalk. The team usually arrives about 2 hours and 15 minutes prior to the game, (about 3:45 this weekend) and the Catwalk is from the Nutter Training center to Gate 1. Be there early, and be loud!

There will be some very special people at the Catwalk this weekend, and you should be there, too. The parents and families of many of the players are planning a big tail gate this weekend. They will be there at the Catwalk, and it sure would be nice if the crowd expanded beyond player's friends and families. However, I am asking ALL friends and families to make it a priority to be there at the Catwalk this weekend. The players need your support, as Central Michigan is not going to merely be a "catwalk".

If you happen to see a tailgate going on in the Purple Parking Lot this weekend, surrounded by signs that say "We Believe!", maybe you could stop by and let them know that you believe, too. These folks will be wearing name tags, as these are family members and close friends of the Wildcat Football team. Don't show up wanting to eat their food (they would be really mad at me!), but some of these families are from out of town. Let's show them some Wildcat Hospitality, appreciation and support. Some of them will be making their first trip to Commonwealth stadium, and this is an important day for them. Let's validate the family decisions to be Wildcats!

The team's new theme song and video by Marcus McClinton will be showing about 15 minutes before kick off, so DON'T be a late arriving crowd. Commonwealth opens its gates 2 hours before kick off, so there is no reason you can't be in your seat to listen to the song that says it all: "We Believe!"

Bring the kid inside of you out of retirement and open yourself up to the possibilities of being a part of Kentucky Football. Your game responsibilities this weekend are:

1. Dress the part!! Dig out your old pom poms, paint your kids faces, ah heck, paint your own! Wear something fun and in the spirit!

2. Show up for the Catwalk!

3. Arrive EARLY so you don't miss the Cats new theme song!

4. Cheer, cheer, cheer.

A.) Be EXTREMELY loud when the team is on Defense. (Disturbing the ability of the opponent to execute their offense is a huge factor of the game.)

B.) Be silent as a mouse when the team is on Offense. (Go crazy after the play, but as soon as the team gets to the line, zip it up. It should be so quiet that it seems almost eerie that a crowd that large could be so quiet.)

5. Have fun.

Don't take your responsibilities lightly. You have the ability to make Commonwealth a facility that other teams hate playing at. You have the ability to swing the outcome by your participation. You have the ability to help get your Wildcats to a bowl game. You have the ability… I believe in you! Do you believe in yourself? Go Cats!

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