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Student group criticizes fan behavior at basketball games

Jon Garfunkel '98 could take the obscenities. He could take the catcalls. He could even take the incessant exhortations to "Sit down, you suck!"

But when the student section behind the basket at the Princeton-Harvard basketball game was slapped with a technical foul for their raucous behavior on Friday, Garfunkel decided that something had to be done.

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The result was an ad hoc group, unofficially titled "Smart Fans," that encouraged students to clean up their act for the team's final home game Saturday night against Dartmouth.

By putting up posters around campus, creating a Web page and simply urging people to show a little restraint, the group said it hoped to keep the team from getting penalized again for the fans' exuberance.

"People need to think for themselves, and not get sucked into mob mentality," Garfunkel said. He added that there are other ways for fans to express their satisfaction with the team's performance besides resorting to crude incantations, personal attacks and rhythmic jumping.

Student jumping caused the basket to visibly shake while a Harvard player was taking foul shots in the second half, leading to the technical foul.

'Inappropriate'

"We're not sure if that's the best picture we want to present of Princeton fans," said Garfunkel, whose group lists four members on its Web page.

"I think it got excessive," said Love Slipock '98, another member of Smart Fans. "I won't deny it was a lot of fun to do it, but I think it was inappropriate."

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The argument that Princeton undergraduates were only emulating the behavior of students at bigger basketball schools such as Duke and North Carolina does not work because Jadwin Gym's relatively small size means that nearly everything yelled by fans is audible throughout the building, Garfunkel said.

"If you listen to a 'PRB broadcast, you'll hear everything the fans say, and quite clearly, too," Garfunkel said.

Smart Fans' members were not the only ones who were upset with the behavior.

"I think the cheering is wonderful and the turnout is wonderful and the orange shirts are great, but I'm so bored with the 'air ball' business. That's high-school stuff," said James Harford, a Princeton resident who said he has been attending the games for more than 40 years. "I just wish they would be a little more sportsmanlike to the other team."

'Refreshing'

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Not everyone, however, had qualms with the crowd's newfound activism. "I remember coming to the games freshman year and seeing textbooks. I was expecting to see flasks," said Joe Bailey '98, last year's band president.

"I thought the technical foul was sort of unnecessary. But, to be perfectly honest, the rest of it is really refreshing to see the fans behaving like typical college basketball fans," said Bailey. "Saturday night is probably the best night we've had as far as school spirit goes. It made me proud to be wearing the orange and black."

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