‘Super Fans’ power Morton Grove basketball
Updated: April 1, 2013 6:14AM
MORTON GROVE — The gymnasium at Park View School erupted into excited chaos on a recent Friday afternoon when a Hail Mary shot from half court swished through the net.
A player from East Prairie School in Skokie sunk the buzzer beater.
Park View had already narrowly won, but a Warrior cheering section known as the “Super Fans” celebrated the shot simply because it was great.
In fact, the 60 elementary students created a buzz throughout the entire eighth-grade boys basketball game. During halftime they danced “Gangnam Style” with the cheerleaders, and treated onlookers to a surprise freestyle number inspired by the recent “Harlem Shake” video craze.
Organized by physical education teacher Chris O’Neill, second- through fifth-grade Super Fans have been a staple on the sidelines for the past half-dozen years.
O’Neill sits with the sea of students during home games and leads their cheering. He had the idea to rally students together after witnessing a college basketball tournament in which fans wore the same shirts and rooted in unison.
“I thought, we need to get that,” he said.
The group has also been a way to introduce younger students to the school’s sports teams, which begin in sixth grade, O’Neil said.
Morton Grove School District 70 board member Dan Metz said the sheer number of Super Fans impresses him.
He attended the Feb. 22 home game versus East Prairie to watch his youngest son, Matt, play.
“It’s terrific to have this much support,” he said.
Metz’s son Jeremy, a senior at Niles West High School, said the cheer squad gives young students a taste of what sporting events are like in high school.
Yet at the elementary level, sportsmanship is the name of the game. When the opposing team lines up for free throw shots, O’Neill holds up his hands to signify silence.
“I like that they’re very positive,” said referee Jeff Voltz of Morton Grove.
His colleague, Don Tyre of Park Ridge, added: “They’re creating a lot of spirit.”
A few years ago, the crowd-pleasing Super Fans began rooting for lunchroom supervisor Bob Nelson. He became an honorary Super Fan after O’Neill noticed he, too, had been attending every basketball game.
“Bob, Bob, he’s our man, if he can’t do it no one can!” students clapped and pointed to Nelson in the next bleacher section over.
“B-O-B, Bob! B-O-B, Bob!”
“Mr. Bob,” as he’s known around the school, bowed to the kids.
“My wife won’t come to the games any more because I embarrass her,” Nelson said afterwards, laughing.
“I’ve never been to a junior high game that’s so pumped up,” said Karyn Locher, whose three sons have participated in Super Fans.
Parents from opposing teams also enjoy the kids’ enthusiasm, she said.
Being a Super Fan is not a duty taken lightly by students.
“It takes courage and a lot of power,” explained third-grader Victoria Serb.
Fifth-grader Lili Youkhana said mastering the dance routines requires hard work.
“You really have to pay attention or you won’t learn all the cheers,” chimed in second-grader Alan Stegich.
For best friends Naomi Ortiz and Josie Thanner, the Super Fans may mark the beginning to a career.
“I love to watch basketball and I love to watch the NBA,” Ortiz, 9, said. “We want to be cheerleaders when we grow up.”