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Section 11 sits at the far end of the rink, away from the main doors, secluded from the hustle and bustle of the ticketing lines and program vendors. A massive press box looms overhead, casting a slight shadow on the eight neat little rows of red benches that dip smoothly down toward the ice surface. It's nestled between Section 12 and the cove of Eddie the Zamboni Driver, a bit too far from the hot dog stand and a bit too close to the home-team band. Its view of the action is comprehensive; its position within the arena is commanding. It is also the home to some of the meanest, nastiest things you'd ever hear uttered in public.
This weekend, the Harvard men's hockey team will host Yale in a best-of-three series. It's the first round of the conference playoffs, and it's been three years since the team has earned home-ice privileges. The women are also in the playoffs and will host Providence College this Saturday. For Harvard hockey fans, this is exciting. For the Harvard hockey fans of Section 11, it's heaven on ice.
Put simply, Section 11 thrives on obnoxiousness. Gritty, vulgar, in-your-face obnoxiousness. The kind that would inspire fans, in unison, to inform the visiting team's goalie that he was probably some kind of illegitimate child. Or, that his goaltending skills are on par with that of common kitchen straining devices. Or, that his face would make babies cry. Or, that his skates are too large and his "stick" is too small.
Without qualm or reservations, without regard for the impressionable children milling about, Section 11 will curse and deride, condemn and deplore. The goalie sucks, his teammates suck, their coach sucks, the referee sucks. The same goes for their moms. Section 11 is not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for the politically correct. Frankly, it's downright mean.
But for what it's worth, Section 11 is also the lifeblood of Bright Hockey Center.
This might not seem like a big deal. After all, jeering is a part of many sports, professional and collegiate. The notoriously rowdy bleachers at Fenway Park come to mind as an obvious example. College hockey fans at Boston College and Boston University are 10 times as rabid.
But here at Harvard, where student turnout at athletic events is woefully inconsistent (and the fans that do show up make as much noise as moviegoers in a theater), Section 11 is something significant--and perhaps even something to be cherished. On some nights, the energy of the entire arena can be pinpointed to that single eight-row section.
There are a lot of reasons the Yale bulldogs have only managed to win one game, ever, here at Bright. At the very least, it makes us feel good to think, however misguidedly, that Section 11 is one of them.
But on a more abstract level, participating in Section 11 makes us feel good --when we can get over the guilt trip of seeing mothers cover their children's ears. It's a non-Ad-Boardable display of behavior unbecoming of a Harvard student.
Section 11 is, in a twisted way, a taste of what could have been, a glimpse into what life might have been like had we chosen a big state school instead of Fair Harvard. It's the lowest common denominator of the collegiate experience.
And so, this weekend, the craziness will almost surely continue. Overly drunk, body-painted fans will continue to show support for their team by engaging in activities that verge on homoeroticism. Someone will throw a mutilated stuffed animal onto the ice during the third period (always a bad idea, since it could mean a penalty for the home team). And, of course, there will be the usual barrage of insults and epithets.
Bring earmuffs for the kids.
Richard S. Lee '01 is a social studies concentrator in Pforzheimer House. His column appears on alternate Thursdays.
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