We love our band

Nina Mandell

Michael Kato loves his team. The sophomore, a member of the band, is one of Northwestern’s most faithful fans at women’s basketball games. And after the team secured its second win of the Big Ten season against Penn State on Jan. 27, he couldn’t help but sing.

Luckily, he had some help from the players.

“We love our band, we love our band, we love our band,” the team chanted after being serenaded by Kato, a trumpet player, and the NU band outside the team’s locker room.

Director of Athletic Bands Daniel Farris said it’s a long standing tradition for the basketball band, a volunteer group of about 65 students, to serenade the women’s basketball team with the NU fight song and then “Hey Baby” after each win. The band stands in the practice gym — convenient because of its close proximity to the locker rooms — and gives the women a private concert.

Afterward, the band chants “We love our team, we love our team, we love our team,” alternating the stressed syllable. To show their appreciation, the players chant back and dance around with the band.

“It started before my time,” senior guard Samantha McComb said. “It was most special when I won my first Big Ten game sophomore year — it made it extra special to be singing with them.”

But the band doesn’t just show the love when the team wins. Kato said the band members, who easily outnumber those in the student section, can have an effect on the game.

“We’re the loudest ones in the gym,” he said. “Everything we shout is heard. The coaches had to pull players out of the game because they couldn’t function when we were chanting ‘air ball.’ When we start screaming it interrupts a free throw — and when that’s all there is, it’s very distracting.”

Senior Brad Rosner said with the lack of a home cheering section at weeknight games, the band members take the opportunity to have fun and become some of the women’s biggest fans. Rosner, who has played at the women’s games for three years, said he is one of the most experienced fans.

Since most cheerleaders at women’s games are junior varsity, Rosner said the band usually leads the spirit section.

After following the team throughout their college careers, band members said they are often the most die-hard fans at games. When the women won their first Big Ten home game last year, the band celebrated.

“We rushed the court, just the band,” said Alison Hertog, a sophomore trumpet player. “We were the only people there.”

The team has the lowest home attendance in the Big Ten, so the band is often alone in its celebrations and cheering. McComb said the noise from the band helps give them a home team advantage.

“Having their presence there makes us feel like we’re in any other big stadium,” she said. “They play songs that we know and that gets us pumped up.”

And Hertog said the lack of other NU fans only makes it easier to cheer louder.

“It’s not as crowded and we don’t get so hot in our jackets,” she said. “They’re really uncomfortable.”

Reach Nina Mandell at [email protected].