Beware of the Screamers: Andover’s Homefield Advantage

Every team needs its home-field advantage. The Celtics and Bruins relied upon the mystique of the Boston Garden, the Red Sox have the best atmosphere in baseball at the venerable Fenway Park, and the Patriots are 15-3 in Gillette Stadium, winning their last 11 at “The Big Razor.” Add another name to the list: Andover’s own DiClemente Court. This year’s Boys Varsity Basketball games have been treated to a renaissance of loud fan support, in part thanks to “The Screamer.” The Screamer is a white board on which two students write the number of an opposing player who is on the court and display it to the Andover crowd. When that designated player touches the ball, the crowd instantly yells as loud as possible – until he no longer controls the ball, as an attempt to intimidate him with the large, and sudden, amounts of noise. Thus far, the tactic has worked out very well for the Big Blue. The Screamer has brought a new level of excitement to Phillips Academy basketball games and is beginning to give the team the home-court advantage they need. Since the Screamer was first introduced a little more than a week ago, players have showered it with praise. “I love The Screamer,” said guard Knef King ’04. “The fans having confidence in us lends some confidence to our team. Our league [is one of the toughest in the country], but we believe that we can compete with anyone. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that our confidence has increased as the crowd’s enthusiasm has done the same.” Reserve forward/center Paul Tassinari ’04 agreed. “From an athlete’s standpoint, I know that I get more energized and desirous to perform when there is a large home crowd sharing the same excitement.” Postgraduate Matt Smith ’04 pitched the idea to Alex Thorn ’04 at the first home game of the season. “We used to do it at my old school,” said Smith. “It worked pretty well here for the Choate game and it has just stuck. The key is picking out the right kid to do it for.” Thorn and Justin Cahill ’04 man the white board at every home game. “We are the Screamer Team,” said Thorn. “We usually try to pick a player with the following characteristics: he seems impressionable, is fairly goofy, and is on the court a lot. That way, we can follow him through the entire game and really get inside his head.” The tactic seems to have worked. King said that one player he was guarding was particularly affected by the Screamer. “One guy I was guarding in the Choate game [was talking trash about our fans to me]. I suggested he might try holding onto the ball or hitting a shot to shut them up if he cared that much. When I was on him he got maybe one rebound, three turnovers and no points. I consider myself a good defender, but the kid was obviously rattled; he looked like a deer in headlights every time he got the ball. So sadly, I can’t attribute [his poor performance] all to my skills.” Thorn argues that the Screamer is not just to derail the opposing team. “It gives us an excuse to be loud for Andover, so that when Adam Crabtree ’04 pops back a three or Captain Tyler Simms ’04 drives the lane, we can get the whole crowd screaming for them too. “Nearly ever member of the Boys Basketball team, including Simms and Lower star Joey Lokitis ’06, have complimented us on the Screamer. Every referee we have come into contact with has complimented us as well.” Thorn continued, “The board has rejuvenated fan spirit at Andover basketball games and it provides positive support for Andover’s players. It is clear that this enthusiasm is both wanted and necessary, and has thus far been warmly received.” The Screamer does not violate Andover’s code of conduct for fans and has made the games more exciting for some fans to attend. “I don’t think I can imagine one of our games without the Screamer anymore,” said basketball enthusiast Seth Stulgis ’04. Tassinari’s favorite “Screamer Moment” came last Friday night during Andover’s 65-33 win over Milton, when Thorn and Cahill designated one of the game’s referees as the new target of the Screamer. Tassinari said, “The ref asked me why they (the crowd) do that, and I said, ‘Oh come on, you love it,’ and he laughed and entertained the crowd by playing with the ball and holding it for a longer time than usual. He did all of this as the fans screamed at the tops of their lungs.” The idea has proven to be a masterful one, as the Screamer helps serve as new motivation to show up both physically and vocally for Andover’s home basketball games, in addition to assisting the team on the floor. As DiClemente Court becomes a hostile environment for visiting teams, opponents will need to bring their A-game to Andover if they wish to leave Academy Hill with a win… that and some aspirin for the bus-ride home to deal with that head-ache.