M-A fan clubs win laurels, some brickbats
When one thinks of college sports, what often comes to mind is the passion of the fans. Such passion has led to clubs of diehard fans such as the Cameron Crazies of Duke University and the 6th Man of Stanford University.
That passion can also be found in the 6th Man and 12th Man clubs at Menlo-Atherton High School. (The 6th is for basketball, and the 12th for football.)
Club members usually sit together at games, wear club T-shirts to set them off from others in attendance, and stand and chant together.
With up to 500 members in support of the Bears, the M-A fan clubs have been named the Top Cheering Section in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Chronicle.
M-A senior Andy Creighton, who calls himself the chairman and CEO of the M-A fan clubs, says the Sixth Man club was started four years ago by then-student Ryan Terribilini "to get people away from drugs and gangs during the weekend and just kind of have a positive place for people to go."
Last year, the 12th Man club was created to provide M-A students with that same "positive place" during the football season, Creighton said.
The clubs, however, have run into confrontations with high school administrators, who want to tone down over-eager behavior that can go over the line.
For example, Morgan Marchbanks, principal of Sequoia High School, recently created a rule that forbade spectators from standing during basketball games at Sequoia.
"She thinks [fan clubs are] negative, when really we are just trying to help out ... and have a place for people to go instead of just getting drunk and high on the weekends," said Creighton.
He said he has discussed the issue with Sequoia Union High School officials in an attempt to dissuade schools from adopting such restrictive rules.
The clubs "really are more positive than they are negative," Creighton said of student cheering sections.
Creighton said that the clubs have also run into issues with the M-A administration related to inappropriate chants, though he says such chants were not started by the leaders of the cheering section, but individuals within the clubs.
"The punishment for that now, this year, that I have put in place is you just get your shirt taken away, you get your money back ... and you'll be asked not to stand with the 6th Man club," he said. "It creates a bad name for the 6th Man club."
Such problems have led the M-A administration to distance itself from the cheering sections. On the Web site of the M-A 6th Man club, Creighton points out, "legally, I cannot say we are affiliated with MA high school whatsoever ... thanks to the big man up at the front office (Matthew Zito, Menlo-Atherton principal)."
As for funding, the M-A clubs operate on their own funds received through donations. Creighton said the clubs are seeking a sponsorship from a local business to provide $1,800 for the groups' shirts. In exchange for the contribution, Creighton said, the shirts would feature the sponsoring company's logo.
"We're willing to pretty much give anyone a good opportunity to get their names on the shirts," said Creighton. "We can negotiate for logos on the front and they can have a say on the design of the shirt."
The M-A 6th Man club Web site can be reached at www.bbestories.com.