January 17, 2007

Faces in the crowd

The Lakers have Jack Nicholson. The Clippers have Billy Crystal. The Aztecs have them both beat.

We're in Southern California for a game between New Mexico and San Diego State and Ali G's in da house. So is Jimmy Kimmel. Not bad for a Mountain West Conference matchup. Richard Simmons' trademark perm, Mr. T's mohawk and Dr. Phil's shiny dome can all be spotted from the nosebleeds. John Stamos is here, so too is the guy who plays Dwight from The Office. And...is that Abraham Lincoln?

Honest Abe it is, indeed. For the last five years, the SDSU student section, known simply as The Show, has been hoisting cardboard cutouts of celebrity heads to distract opponents when they go to the free throw line. As the shooter takes aim, roughly two dozen giant heads pop up in his sight line and bob like bouys.






It's a trend that has caught on recently at other schools--Kansas and Marquette to name two--but San Diego is where the idea was hatched. Conor Mongan, the former SDSU student who came up with the idea, credits a TV show and a movie for his inspiration. "It's a combination of (the cutout heads on) PTI and BASEketball, where you were allowed to distract the other team however you wanted," says Mongan. "In the movie, they squirted milk out of their nipples; we can't get away with that here."

"It's awesome," says Aztecs star guard Brandon Heath of the head games the Aztec students play with their opponents. "I know it's real distracting for the other team." But, it doesn't work on everyone. Memphis Grizzlies GM Jerry West--the real thing, not a cutout--, at the game to scout Lobos forward J.R. Giddens, claimed that during his playing days, he wouldn't have been affected by such a stunt. "I was so focused, I never noticed the crowd," said West, a career 81% free throw shooter. "I hardly even noticed the opposition except when the game was over and I'd shake their hand.'"


VIDEO: CHECK OUT THIS AZTEC FAN'S TIME OUT DANCE


In tonight's game, a 73-68 San Diego State victory, it appeared that the bobbing heads did indeed do their job. In the second half--the half when New Mexico was facing The Show--the visitors rarely ventured inside the paint, and when they did, they repeatedly kicked the ball back out before contact was made. In the entire second half, the Lobos made three free throws in a measly four attempts.

"They were afraid," says Mongan after the game while stuffing Ludacris back in a portfolio case. "We got in their heads."

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VIDEO: HE WASN"T AT THE GAME BUT WE CAUGHT UP WITH AZTECS BASEBALL COACH AND FORMER SDSU POINT GUARD TONY GWYNN TO TALK SOME HOOPS




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