By Caroline Shapley | Contributor
Before the crazy outfits, storming the court when the 10th point is scored and ending the night by celebrating Holidays with the Haines, the Silent Night basketball tradition was very different. When Silent Night was still a new idea being instilled as a tradition, students would wear pajamas to the pre-finals basketball game and go to the Hodson Dining Commons afterward for hot chocolate and to listen to President Emeritus Jay Kesler read aloud "The Night Before Christmas."
For Tab Bamford ('02), his freshman year basketball experiences were much different than now.
"When I was a freshman, the average student crowd for non-Silent Night home basketball games was about 10," Bamford said. "I was actually asked to not come back my freshman year because I was too loud with the one other guy that was cheering at the game."
The men's basketball team was improving during Bamford's sophomore year, with some players living on the same floor as him in Samuel Morris Hall. As a result, Bamford and some friends decided to get a little more creative with their cheering and support.
By Bamford's junior year, the men of Samuel Morris supported their floormates at games by carrying couches across campus to set up on the baselines. The basketball team had become nationally ranked that year, and games had turned into a campus event. Students would attend some games wearing pajamas and cheer loudly. However, in 1999, the tradition of cheering was about to drastically change.
"The guys in Centre Morris (Sammy ll and The Brotherhood) decided to elevate the idea of pajamas," Bamford said.
Bamford dressed in a cardboard box hanging around his waist by suspenders. The box read "censored." Despite weather being about 20 degrees with snow on the ground that night, he didn't wear a shirt and wore only crocs on his feet. Other guys were dressed in unusual outfits: a cow suit with The Moo, ridiculous tutus and other outfits assembled from things found in the storage of Samuel Morris Hall. The men even made signs to go along with their loud cheering and talked to opposing team players during warm-ups and free throw shots.
During halftime, President Emeritus David J. Gyertson approached Bamford. Bamford and his friends were confident Bamford was going to be asked to leave for the rest of this basketball season, too. Instead, the president said how his wife found the costume funny and actually wanted a picture - beginning the crazy costume tradition of Silent Night that expanded drastically to the basketball game played the Friday night before finals week each winter.
Bamford doesn't credit himself for this tradition of crazy cheering and costumes, but to every man who got involved that night.
"We had a magical group of guys on Sammy II and the Brotherhood during my time on campus (1998-02), and had some tremendous guys come after us to continue elevating the tradition," Bamford said. "It went from a fun little thing into a nationally known tradition over the course of almost 20 years - all I/we did was add a humor element and a whole lot of noise."
The costume that started as a cardboard box and suspenders has now evolved into historical movie costumes like "Braveheart," Christmas characters from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and even play-on-words costumes like "raining three's."
The student body stands together silently in Odle Arena, and as soon as the 10th point is scored, they scream and shake the bleachers, cheering on their fellow students.
"I think the experiences were more memorable than the costumes," Bamford said. "I just remember the thrilling games, guys on the opposing team not being able to keep a straight face while trying to shoot free throws because of what we were saying to them and just really good people on the team."
Bamford has not made it back to a Silent Night game since he graduated, but hopes to be able to someday.
This year's Silent Night game is tonight at 6 p.m., as the Trojans host Great Lakes Christian.