Getting Weird

Hayden Claesson

The lights were bright at Bennett Field during the opening quarter of senior night against Carl Sandburg on Aug 24. Starting quarterback J.J. Dutton ‘19 hiked the ball and then began pedaling downfield as the crowd turned chaotic.

Normally a student cheering section would simply have been screaming and cheering for its team respectfully. This was no typical student section, however; these are the LT Weirdos. The crowd ascended into chaos, Sheck Wes’ “Mo Bamba” was blaring through a bluetooth speaker, giant cardboard heads of players dotted the bleachers. Everybody was focused on two tasks: having fun and being weird.

“We all have an inner weirdness inside of us,” Charlie Pigatto ‘19, a senior leader for the Weirdos, said. “The job of the Weirdos is to harness that weirdness and focus it into cheering for our team.”

That is the spirit that the cheering section embodies: get together an army of students then simply just get weird enough to the point where they are in the opponent’s head. In order to achieve this goal they plan on using a variety of tactics, ranging from toga nights for football games to Hawaiian themed basketball games complete with inflatable palm trees for good measure.

“We are the Weirdos so we want you to get weird,” leader Charlie Brizz ‘19 said. “We want to get people together to get crazy and just do stupid stuff that you would never do in public otherwise.”

The Weirdos have one main goal when it comes to cheering: make it hard for the other team. Tactics like cheering and being as weird as possible are implemented in order to try to “break” the other players to the point where they underperform.

“We will be so deep in their heads that they won’t even realize that we are in there,” leader Harry McLawhorn ‘19 said. “If they don’t go into the locker room emotionally broken and ruined on the inside, then we feel like we have failed.”

The most famous incident of the Weirdos shenanigans was at a basketball game in 2014 against Stevenson, a team led by the 2018 Wooden Award winner and current NBA point guard for the Dallas Mavericks Jalen Brunson. Brunson always had the image of a calm and collected player both on and off the court, claiming his mentality has always been his biggest strength. However, that night in November was just too much for him, as the crowd became more rowdy, they got into Brunson’s head to the point where he snapped and yelled at students after the game.

“We like to call it psychological warfare waged onto the other team,” leader Ben Kidder ‘19 said. “All of the other senior leaders of Weirdos are athletes and we know that if you are playing against another team with a big cheering section, it messes with you in the head. Our goal is to make sure that we can mess with the other team’s heads.”

The Weirdos began as a student led cheering section that is part of the Lions Den, an LT sponsored cheering section for football games. Despite the Lions Den being an integral part at Bennett, the Weirdos focus was always on basketball games, which helped contribute to the large attendance of the blackout games. This year the cheering section is trying to expand to all sports programs at LT.

“A lot of sports, like gymnastics and swimming, don’t get large cheering sections and most of the people cheering are probably parents,” Brizz said. “One of our goals is to try to get a big group of people to at least two competitions per sport. We know it won’t happen for every sport but we will try to do our best.”

This year the Weirdos are trying to grow and expand using a powerful tool: social media. Over one thousand people follow @lthsweirdos on instagram, an account that hasn’t posted anything since February of 2017 prior to this fall. The goal in mind is to use social media as a tool for getting as many people go to games as possible.

“It’s hard for us because we aren’t sanctioned by the school so we really can’t make announcements or put up posters at south campus,” Kidder said. “If we use Instagram and Twitter to promote the games, then our student section can be a lot bigger and have a lot more freshman and sophomores.”

Because the Weirdos aren’t a school sponsored club, they don’t get funding from LT. In order to raise money to buy things like props, costumes, jerseys and big heads. The team of Kidder, McLawhorn, Brizz, Pigatto, and Justin Malpede ‘19 have decided to make and sell T-shirts for $10 that both promote the Weirdos and raise money.

Another hefty goal is to break the LT record for attendance at a basketball game at the 2019 Blackout Game.

“The original record was a sold out 4,300,” Brizz said. “Our goal is to find some way to break that, and if we can, double it.”