Smile Politely

Orange Krush simply an embarrassment

Not being an Illini fan, it’s easy for me to hate on something like the Orange Krush, the student cheering section of our university’s basketball team. As a Purdue fan, I get jazzed about the Paint Crew, whose numbers make the Krush look like an amateur co-ed softball team on a rainy day. But I don’t live in West Lafayette, and I don’t consider them as part of my culture. So, the Orange Krush is on the hook here.

Student cheering sections have the power to literally change games. Along with the band, they comprise a “sixth man” of sorts that can do some serious damage to opposing teams psychologically. We saw it happen last weekend with the Illini’s dramatic and very well-played victory over a Top 5 Michigan State team reeling from the loss of their injured star, Kalin Lucas. This confluence of events and energy led the Illini to not only a win, but to a season revival: barring a complete collapse, the Illini are dancing this March.

And they should be. They are a fine basketball team.

But the Orange Krush is just awful.

They are, in no particular order: idiots, uncreative, completely unoriginal, and most importantly — perhaps based on context — still treating race like it’s something to be mocked.

Now, are all of them this way on a personal level? Certainly not. But as a collective, they look like a serious block of douchebags with orange skin. And while some of them might fake n’ bake at times too, most do it one further by applying the team’s dominant color for that extra touch.

It’s so sad, it’s laughable.

But hey — don’t take it from me. I am a Purdue fan. Why not listen to one of your own?

Here is Matt Campbell, writer for Smile Politely, and a much bigger Illini fan than any of you. Believe me. None of you have original VHS tapes of Lowell Hamilton flushing it down on Todd Mitchell. You don’t even know who the fuck those players are.

So here you go:

I go with my father to nearly every home game, and we sit in the same two seats he’s held since the early-1980s — behind the Orange Krush, and close enough to clearly see and hear everything the group does and says.

  1. Lack of originality or wit. From cadence (“blah, blah, blah, blah; clap, clap, clap-clap-clap” is the only bullet in the chamber) to message (“You can’t do that”; “That was stupid”), the Orange Krush is a one-trick pony when it chants during games. The kids use the same three or four tired old needlers every time out, and they’re all stupid and boring. Although, at one point during the Michigan State game, a new one found its way into the action: “If you can’t go to school, go to State; clap, clap.” First different cadence I’ve heard in years, but I have no idea what the chant means. Is it saying MSU is a bad school? It’s clearly not a bad school. Is it saying MSU players don’t go to class? I doubt the Spartans are better students than the members of any other major college basketball team, but I also doubt Tom Izzo would let any of them play if they didn’t go to class. Overall, that chant is senseless, and it’s not any better than the Krush’s now-well-established norm.
  2. Occasional lack of taste. I realize these are college students at a basketball game, and they’re going to be rowdy, and some of them are probably drunk, and it’s their job to cheer for Illinois and against Illinois’ opponent. But, they shouldn’t chant things that are completely tasteless. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s noticeable — and embarrassing — when it does occur. Showering Indiana guard and Champaign native Verdell Jones with a sing-songy refrain of “Reject!” because Illinois chose not to offer him a scholarship was mean-spirited, and it was also stupid; there’s a decent chance Jones would’ve played major minutes for this Illinois team this year. And chanting “U.S.A!” at a foreign-born player is pathetic.
  3. Complete lack of rhythm, all of the time. I’m probably more affected by this because I fancy myself a musician. But, seriously — these people are asked to clap and sing along to Illinois’ fight songs at every game, and none of them can do it right. Ever.
  4. The select Krush member who screams “We love you, Chief!” after the playing of the Three-In-One at halftime. Give it up.

Exclusive to last Saturday:

  1. The “Michigan State is a bad basketball team” sign at the GameDay taping event. Michigan State is not a bad basketball team. In fact, it’s a very good one. It came into the Illinois game ranked 5th in the country. They’ve been to five Final Fours in the past decade. More than — you guessed it — every other college in the nation. Therefore, the sign was patently incorrect.
  2. Rushing the floor after beating Michigan State. Clown-college shit. Either these kids forgot about Illinois’ rich basketball tradition, or they were never told how to act like fans of the 6th-best collegiate program in history. Regardless, rushing the floor after a regular-season in-conference home victory over a team missing its best player is small-time nonsense.

— Matt Campbell


I won’t pretend to know much of anything when it comes to getting into the heads of 18–22 year old male basketball players at crucial moments in big games. I don’t. But then again, I don’t put on orange facepaint and mock a Native American culture 18 times a year either.

The fact of the matter remains: at times, the Orange Krush are a pathetic student section, wrought with inadequacy and deficiency only rivaled by the likes of people like Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. They are so caught up in what they are trying to accomplish that they forget to think about what it is they are actually doing. In 2008, when Eric Gordon came into play wearing Crimson and Cream (after reneging on his verbal commitment to Illinois), the student section actually threw things, including metal projectiles, at his parents. Literally. And very seriously.

And while this isn’t specific to Champaign (read: West Virginia and beyond), that doesn’t excuse the behavior. It’s just plain idiocy for the most part, and when it’s not, it’s poor form.

When ESPN Gameday was in town and they showed a clip of an injured Kalin Lucas lying on the ground in extreme pain after spraining his ankle in Madison, the audience erupted in applause and cheers.

Really? Seriously?

I don’t like Kalin Lucas as a rival competitor either. As a Purdue fan, I was glad he wasn’t at 100% last Tuesday when the Boilers thrashed them at Breslin.

But who the fuck cheers at another person’s injury?

Douchebags. That’s who. Plain and simple.

Who is in charge of the Orange Krush anyhow? Do they have meetings ever? And if so, why not make something absolutely clear: cheer hard and loud, but never ever take delight in someone else’s injury. EVER.

It’s a shame too, because this laundry list of ignorant behaviors tends to outweigh all the tremendous things they do for the community. According to Wikipedia, in 2005, they raised $50,000 for the Jimmy V Foundation to help fund cancer research. And that’s wildly commendable.

But man. Come off it.

I would love to see them turn the tables sometime soon and make it right. Perhaps starting Sunday with the game versus Ohio State? With Evan Turner in town, the team is going to need it.

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