Fraternizing with the enemy: Sigma Chi, SAE heckle to support men’s soccer team

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Article published in the Oct. 18, 2013, issue of The Daily Eastern News.

Heckling and fraternities: they go together like peas and carrots. But at Eastern, it’s not heckling for the sake of heckling; it’s to encourage “brothers” on the men’s soccer team.

Colin Rook, a red-shirt junior defender and member of Sigma Chi fraternity, asked fellow members to come to his games, and this is the first year they’ve gone as a group.

“The fans can really bring the energy to us from the sidelines,” Rook said. “We love seeing people in our stands. And the more they heckle, the better on us.”

That’s no problem for the men of Sigma Chi.

They perch themselves on the bleachers next to the goal, targeting the opposing team’s goalie with their best means of distraction.

Joey McElligott, a junior member of Sigma Chi, said he and 20 to 30 Sigma Chis find out the goalie’s name and call it out at pivotal moments.

“We try to get in his head, try to get him to mess up,” McElligott said, adding that they usually scream when he reaches out to catch a ball.

The goalie is the most important position, he said, so he just wants to distract him and give Eastern the advantage.

Alexis Nattee, a senior member of Sigma Chi, said they usually try to keep it clean, but some use “dirty tactics” to get inside players’ heads.

“Some guys try to do homework on the opposition and see if there’s anything that we can make fun of them for,” Nattee said.

He said they look up the players’ girlfriends and other things about their personal lives online.

“Hopefully they’ll get pissed off and do something they normally wouldn’t do,” Nattee said.

Players don’t usually react to their jeers, Nattee said. At most, they get the same thing thrown back at them — just what the Sigma Chis like. It means they’ve been successful.

Meanwhile, the men of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity crowd together in the middle of the stands equipped with cheers and joking insults.

They come to cheer on one of their members, Will Butler, a junior midfielder/forward, chanting “We’ve got your back, Will,” every time he runs close to the stands.

The SAEs also do their homework before coming to games, passing around copies of the other team’s roster and looking up the players online.

“Sometimes Facebook pages are involved,” said TJ Bogar, a senior member of SAE. “So you can get to know them a little better. There’s not enough information on the roster, but it’s a starting point.”

That’s where they get most of their ammo, shouting “Hey, cute profile pic, dude!” and “You work at Dunkin Donuts? How’s that going?” at players.

At the game against Loyola on Sept. 13, Bogar and fellow SAE senior Alex Lais lined the front row of the stands with white 5-gallon buckets and drumsticks.

“It’s something we did in high school for our soccer team,” Bogar said. “It’s another flavor for the game, an easy way to make a lot of noise. Cheap and effective.”

Butler said he likes having members of his fraternity at the games to root him on because it provides the team with a good support system.

Coach Adam Howarth agreed.

“I want an atmosphere,” Howarth said. “Any time we can get more people in our stands, it’s a good thing.”

Howarth said his players have been in various fraternities, including Sigma Pi and Sigma Phi Epsilon, over the years, and they came to games for the same reason.

“I think Sigma Chi seems to be the flavor of the day right now,” Howarth said.

He said most of the comments he hears from the stands is “pretty lame stuff,” but as long as it’s done in good taste, he has no problem with it.

He said this sort of thing is common for all professional soccer games: lots of chanting, cheering, and singing from the stands.

The only punishment for heckling would be getting removed from the stands, Howarth said. But it’s never come to that.

Athletic Director Barbara Burke said in the five years she’s been at Eastern, she hasn’t had any reports of inappropriate behavior at games.

“I’ll knock on wood,” Burke said. “But we just haven’t had it. Our students are very respectful of our guests when they come in here. Part of that is our student athletes are really good sports and respectful of their opponents.”

Howarth said it’s all just part of the game.

“There’s no derogatory remarks, there’s no bad feelings,” Howarth said. “That’s the most important thing. I think it’s all done in good nature and it’s done to enhance the atmosphere and certainly get the home team, which is us, a win.”

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