Are they really reading newspapers? Return of fans to basketball games leads to revival of student section antics

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Henry Lee

In response to the opposing team’s lineup announcement, many students in the Sunny Hills home section in the gym deliberately flip through The Accolade’s most recent issue, “Going Viral,” at the Feb. 18 boys basketball game against Ontario Christian High School. Since students are now allowed back onto the bleachers at home basketball games this school year, they have found more ways to increase audience participation to build school spirit after not being allowed to do so last season because of the pandemic.

Henry Lee

They’re reading newspapers! They’re reading newspapers!

Well, sort of.

The Associated Student Body [ASB] and other students sitting in the Sunny Hills home bleachers of the varsity boys basketball games this season have taken an interest in gathering The Accolade school newspapers before the matchups start. 

When the game announcer, Spanish teacher Gene Bordy, introduces the opposing team’s starting lineup, many in the student section can be seen taking out these printed issues and holding them up in front of their faces, feigning interest in something else.

“It adds to the solidarity for the Lancer spirit, even for people who aren’t the most spirited because it allows people to participate in different ways,” said ASB athletics commissioner senior Natalie Moss, who originally came up with the idea of reviving this antic that was used in the past before the COVID-19 pandemic forced games to be played without many fans in the bleachers.

Moss said she first thought of this mid-November when she scrolled through TikTok and watched a video of the University of Connecticut’s student section holding up newspapers mid-November.

She then brought it up to her ASB peers during the fifth period ASB class when the 500 spectator limit was released two months after she saw the video.

“They were pretty excited about it,” Moss said. “They would all help me bring in newspapers.”

Sophomore Garv Jain was among those whom Moss spoke to, and since this season would be his first chance to watch the games in person, he was more than supportive of Moss’ idea.

“Everyone in the ASB thought it would be funny and agreed with it,” said Jain, who attended his first boys and girls Lancer basketball game on Jan. 11 against Troy High School. “I think student section trends like this encourage and motivate other students to engage and participate with school events.”

I think student section trends like this encourage and motivate other students to engage and participate with school events.”

— SB member sophomore Garv Jain

ASB co-adviser and SH Class of 1978 alumnus Mike Paris said he was surprised to hear that the ASB wanted to take part in this antic during home basketball games. Nevertheless, he did not think it would violate any sportsmanlike conduct codes.

“This brings back memories of how fun it was to be a spectator at games,” Paris said. “You become part of the game itself, and it’s something that you will miss when you move on.”

Compared with what SH students have done when Paris was a student here, pretending to read a newspaper while the opposing players are introduced is much tamer, he said.

One stunt in particular involved Sunny Hills students bringing toilet paper to the game against Fullerton Union High School, which back then was known as the Indians.

“I remember the toilet paper being thrown [to teepee the Indians],” he said. “The students hid the rolls and then [threw] them after the first basket was made.”

Paris said he thinks this was stopped because it had the potential to get out of control and escalate into further problems.

Moss agreed.

“I think that shows very good school spirit, but logistically speaking, there are just so many rules or regulations that we can’t do this [nowadays],” Moss said. 

She said she hopes she is adding to the Lancer lore of stunts of getting audience participation.

“I think I am adding to this because everyone does not do [these antics] at first,” Moss said. “But once everyone starts, it becomes a whole thing everyone wants to join in on.”

After pulling off the first newspaper reading stunt in the Jan. 26 home game against Buena Park High School, Moss said she wanted to continue doing this for future home games because she saw many students outside of the ASB participating with their friends.

Boys basketball head coach Joe Ok said he first noticed the students holding up newspapers at the Jan. 26 home game against Buena Park High School and believes it’s a good way to liven the crowd. Ok, who also graduated from Sunny Hills in 1997, has also seen his fair share of stunts from the bleachers.

“It’s better than throwing toilet paper because every time you throw something onto the floor, there is a technical foul, and the other team gets two free throws,” said Ok, who witnessed this happening in 2002 when he was the assistant head coach. “One game against Fullerton, we lost by one point, and ever since then, we decided not to do that anymore.”

Though the Fullerton Joint Union High School District has a policy of sportsmanship for what student athletes and student fans can or can’t do, such as yelling hate comments, school officials don’t believe the newspaper antics cross that line. 

“College students do it all the time, and I’ve seen some other high schools do it — it’s really all in good fun,” SH athletic director Paul Jones said. “It’s not meant to be disrespectful or anything in that nature.”

Using only The Accolade issues, the ASB distributes one page of the newspapers for students to share before the starting lineup announcements.

In the last remaining home games of the season before the team started CIF state playoffs, in which the team will play its first round game March 1, members of the ASB have been going to The Accolade room to collect more issues.

“Although I haven’t attended any of the basketball games that used our newspapers, I saw pictures and thought it was cool that so many SH students were reading — or pretending to read — them,” The Accolade editor-in-chief senior Michelle Sheen said. “I hope these acts of school spirit will publicize the paper and encourage more students to pick up future issues.”

Although I haven’t attended any of the basketball games that used our newspapers, I saw pictures and thought it was cool that so many SH students were reading — or pretending to read — them.”

— The Accolade editor-in-chief senior Michelle Sheen

ASB students have also approached newspaper adviser Tommy Li during the passing period before Period 6 earlier this month.

“This young lady walked up to me as I was about to let my Period 6 students enter my classroom,” said Li, who like many others in the journalism business, has seen the decline of newspaper readership over the years because technology has allowed people to access their news faster through smartphone apps and notifications. “She wanted to know if she could take a stack of newspapers, and since I didn’t have time to ask her what she needed them for, I just showed her where our rack of The Accolade newspapers were located and let her take as much as she needed.

“I just was so grateful that we had some students on campus who really like reading our newspaper, but later when I found out they were using it for basketball games, I was just hoping that they would actually read the newspaper during their unified demonstration of disinterest or read it afterward and hopefully not just throw them away.”

Moss said she collects the leftover newspapers that are in good condition to reuse them in the next home game, and the newspapers that are left on the floor are thrown away.

So will this stunt go away once the boys basketball season ends?

“Right now, spring [sports] season is about to start, so we’ll hopefully go to some baseball and softball games,” she said.