A ton of people across the country tuned in to watch Iowa State defeat No. 1 Oklahoma last night on ESPN's Big Monday. If you're a sports fan, you were likely either watching the close battle between the Cyclones and Sooners, or the 132-98 beat down the Golden State Warriors handed the Cleveland Cavaliers.
NBA fans, now's the time to exit the room.
Last night featured one of the most exciting basketball games of this season so far. It wasn't on the level of the epic triple overtime game between OU and Kansas a couple weeks ago, but this game was a showcase of two of the country's best teams going toe to toe in one of college basketball's best venues - Hilton Coliseum.
Home of Hilton Magic.
Diehard college basketball fans know of the Magic. They know how the home crowd can seemingly will their beloved Cyclones to victory against the country's toughest opponents. How no deficit is ever completely out of reach until the final buzzer. How the floor shakes and the air fills with cheers and screams to get that late game-tying free throw from the opponent's best free throw shooter to bounce off the rim, no good.
Much of the country has recently discovered Hilton Magic during Iowa State basketball's return to national relevance over the past few years. They'll tune in for Big Monday games like the one from yesterday and get a glimpse of what goes on inside the concrete walls of the 14,000+ seat arena in Ames, Iowa. It's when they see a second game, and a third and fourth, when they begin to see that Hilton's not just any typical home court advantage. It's a phenomenon.
Over the past five seasons, the Cyclones have lost just six games total at home. During that same stretch, they've defeated a total of 16 ranked teams in Hilton Coliseum.
That's special. And you know what makes it special?
CBS Sports college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb tweeted last night that, "Hilton is awesome, pretty basic arena, no frills..people make the place." You might take a look at that tweet and second guess yourself for a moment, but it's actually a huge compliment to Iowa State fans.
People make the place.
Yes, all of that cheering, and booing, that ISU fans exude throughout the length of a game inside Hilton is what fuels Hilton Magic. It's part of what boosts greats like Hoiberg, Fizer, Ejim and Niang to make plays and lead the Cyclones to victory.
It's funny, whenever I go on Twitter after a nationally televised Iowa State basketball game, I see people pointing out how much ISU fans boo. Some, notably Iowa and Kansas fans, seem to think that's some grand insult. They think it should offend us and cause us to be ashamed. But I'm not going to stop, and nor should you if you're a Cyclone fan.
In my opinion, 25% of the booing is because we legitimately believe that the refs got a call wrong. See a hand check called on a Cyclone player that didn't get called on the other end? Damn right I'm going to voice my displeasure about it. Bias and all, I'm going to let my opinion be known if I believe something's out of place.
Another 25% of it is due to history. ISU has had calls like the Georges Niang block/charge at the end of regulation against Kansas in 2013 go against them and directly influence the outcome of big games. Speaking of big games, many fans are still bitter about the way Iowa State's Elite Eight game against Michigan State in 2000 was called in the Palace of Auburn Hills. There's tons of other more specific examples I could throw out there, but I'd prefer to keep this article from becoming a full-length novel.
The final 50% belongs to one characteristic that most Cyclone basketball fans hold.
You hear that word, passion, tossed around a lot in cases where it isn't warranted. The definition of passion is "strong and barely controllable emotion." Think about that for a second. If you're a Kansas fan and you're saying you're better than Iowa State fans because you don't boo, you're just saying that you're not as passionate about your team as Cyclone Nation. ISU fans are so incredibly invested in our team that our emotion comes bursting out at all times, whether it's cheering or booing.
Oh, and that "barely controllable" part of the definition? The "controlled" part for us is our ability to stop ourselves from walking down to the court and giving the referees a knuckle sandwich.
Sounds harsh, but it's true.
We Iowa State fans will do anything to help our team win, and that includes psychological warfare. While we can't help Monte Morris drive the lane and find the open shooter, and we can't guide Matt Thomas' hand as he launches a shot from long range, we CAN give the officials something to think about as the game goes on. That thought? Don't screw us over.
It wears on them as the game goes on. That's human nature. And while we're supposed to be "Iowa Nice," we do not take lightly to our team being mistreated by the stripes. If you make a call against us and it's not glaringly obvious, you're going to hear about it in the form of over 14,000 passionate fans.
So next time you're watching an Iowa State game on television, you might be inclined to make a joke about all the booing you hear. Go ahead and do that, but know that I'm going to take it as a compliment. You're calling us passionate, and passion is a huge part of what makes Hilton Magic real.
That's right. Magic is real, because of Cyclone fans.