Commentary

Squad 6: A night with Bogut's crazies

Originally Published: March 29, 2010
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com

BucksGary Dineen/NBAE/Getty ImagesAfter five straight losing seasons, the Bucks are finally giving their fans something to cheer about.

MILWAUKEE -- The mood had soured considerably in Squad 6 by the third quarter of Friday night's blowout loss to the Heat, so much so that when Dan Gadzuric stepped to the foul line and bricked a pair of free throws, one disgruntled die-hard halfheartedly suggested a new chant: "Buy Our Tickets."

The idea was met with knowing winks and nods, with one member joking (maybe) that he'd prefer to have Eddy Curry than Gadzuric on the roster, though everyone in those lower bowl seats knew that actually chanting such a thing would be grounds for dismissal from a pep squad that has received rave reviews from Bucks players and visitors alike, the lone exception being the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Thus far, the Cavs have been the only team to voice an official complaint with the league office, questioning whether the crazies decked out in Bucks regalia, from Alcindor jerseys to red sombreros, had violated operations guidelines by blowing air horns when the Cavs were shooting free throws.

Squad 6 was found not guilty after it was determined that the offending noisemaking devices were actually devices that look like elongated bugles and are called "stadium horns."

Matt Sokol, a goateed, cheerful young man in his 20s who represents a good 80 percent of the Squad 6 demographic, recalled another fond memory of the Bucks' first home game against the Cavs.

"I yelled at Anderson Varejao: 'Cut your hair!' He yelled back at me: 'Lose some weight!'" Sokol said. "The next time Cleveland came in, I yelled at him: 'I'm down three pounds!'

"But he didn't acknowledge me. He wasn't feeling like talking smack after that second game," Sokol said, referencing the Bucks' 92-85 March 6 victory that came during a stretch in which the Bucks won 15 of 17 games.

The Sokol-Varejao exchange was actually one of the few contentious moments Squad 6 has had, their repertoire rarely straying beyond G-rated material.

On Friday, their best material was a "Ti-to Jack-son" chant directed at Michael Beasley, a reference to Beasley's taking exception to Charles Barkley's statement that Dwyane Wade was the Michael Jackson of the Miami Heat, and the rest of the roster was a team of Titos.

It was understandable that Squad 6, created by Bucks center Andrew Bogut (who pays for the tickets himself), was having an off night Friday as the Bucks, already without Bogut (back spasms) and Ersan Ilyasova (flu), lost Carlos Delfino when he fell to the floor and was inadvertently stepped on by Udonis Haslem as the Heat forward came down with a rebound late in the second quarter. Delfino was strapped to a stretcher and wheeled off, and Milwaukee went on to lose 87-74.

But Squad 6 has brought a new, energetic dynamic to the arena, and Bogut hopes he has planted a seed that will continue to grow for years.

"We haven't had great years, and the fans have been down on the Milwaukee Bucks the last couple years, and rightfully so," Bogut said. "On a Tuesday night in winter and it's 10 degrees outside and the kids have school the next day, we're not fortunate like L.A. or New York who have tourists who will come. We don't have that, so I thought let's get some people in that building that'll keep it rocking whether there's 10,000 people there or 18,000 people. They're going to be there every game and provide a great atmosphere."

The Bucks were gracious enough to issue me a ticket in Squad 6's Section 212, and what follows is a diary of the night I spent with the Bogut-created crew:

4:30 p.m.: I meet with Zak Grim, the Bucks employee who leads chants by beating the lone snare drum the NBA allows the team to use, and he informs me that he has gone through three drum heads already this season, spending a few extra bucks ($24 to be exact) on a high-quality drum head the last time it happened.

5 p.m.: Squad 6 members start trickling in at Scooters, the hole-in-the-wall watering joint chosen for this evening's pregame festivities. Squad 6 members coordinate such activities on Facebook, led by alpha male Jake Anderson, sharing thoughts (just as the Cameron Crazies do at Duke) on what should be the preferred chants of the night, depending on each particular opponent.

5:10 p.m.: I step outside to do a radio interview with WSSP, where the topics of discussion include Scott Skiles versus Scott Brooks for coach of the year and Milwaukee or Oklahoma City for this season's best Cinderella story.

5:15-7:10 p.m.: I meet several individual members of Squad 6, who recall some of this season's highlights: singing Aerosmith's "Dude Looks Like a Lady" at Chicago's Joakim Noah and the J. Geils Band's "Love Stinks" at Minnesota's Kevin Love, irking Chris Bosh with an "Avatar" chant, tricking Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol into taking poor shots by chanting a fake shot-clock countdown when there was actually more time on the 24-second clock, and chanting "Shave Your Shoulders" at Cleveland's Mo Williams after Bucks guard Charlie Bell passed along word to Squad 6 that his former teammate, Williams, used to get razzed in the locker room for having a hairy back. One member notes that the highlight of the season was when the entire arena picked up on the squad's "Which Way? That Way!" chant when referees were using video review to determine which team would have possession of the ball. A chant of "Hennessy" was directed at the Lakers' Ron Artest, but an "Are You Drunk?" chant was nixed, the squad deciding that would cross the good taste line. (Artest had acknowledged days earlier that he sometimes drank Hennessy cognac at halftime early in his career when he played for Chicago). Other chants that were squashed were "Khloe" at Lamar Odom and "Star Jones" at Wade.

7:11 p.m.: Time to walk six blocks west to the Bradley Center. I decline an offer of "Wanna chug a beer?" from one of the squad members, content with having already enjoyed a Schlitz (once known as "The beer that made Milwaukee famous") for the first time in my life. Since I am sitting in Squad 6, I have brought a plain red sweatshirt to wear over my shirt and (olive-colored) tie. Technically, I might be in violation of the media's "No Cheering in the Press Box" rule, but since I will not be sitting in the press seats or visiting either locker room on this night, I give myself a pass.

7:42 p.m.: The Bucks score their first basket of the night, and Squad 6 tosses up thousands of pieces of ripped up newspaper, the confetti drifting forward onto the laps and into the beverages of the folks sitting in nearby seats. Squad 6's seats go unused all night, as members are required to stand throughout the game.

7:48: The first chant of the night is directed at an opposing player as Wade steps to the foul line. "Die-ner's Bet-ter" is the chant, which has no effect on Wade -- nor does the chant of "Spe-cial Treat-ment" as he goes 11-for-12 from the line. On the Heat's previous visit to Milwaukee, Squad 6 got a smile out of Wade, the former Marquette star, when they switched from "[Travis] Diener's Better" to "[Steve] Novak's Better" midway through the game.

7:50 p.m.: I feel like an old man at spring break as I explain to one member the correct way to do the "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie" chant, using a single "Aussie" and a single "Oi" in Verses 3 and 4 before returning to a full "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie; Oi, Oi, Oi" chant for Verse 5. One of the Squad 6 members notes that an Australian tourist made the same point to him at a concession stand earlier this season. (Side note: I once witnessed a group of 50 Americans spontaneously break into this chant at the baggage carousel inside Kennedy Airport in 2000 upon the completion of a 23-hour flight home from Sydney.)

8:01 p.m.: The game is going badly for the Bucks, and Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles earns a chant of "Scot-ty Ski-les" after drawing a technical foul for complaining about a questionable call that sends Wade back to the foul line. As Wade shoots his free throws, Squad 6 turns their backs on the action.

8:26 p.m. "Who's got it better than Dan Gadzuric?" I am asked. "Bobby Simmons" is my reply.

8:32 p.m.: Delfino goes down, and it is a massive buzzkill for the entire arena. We later learn that Delfino regained feeling in all his extremities, and he is released from St. Luke's Hospital later that evening. This comes as extremely comforting news to Squad 6 member Sarah Staeger, who declares she would leave her husband, Chad, for Delfino if possible. Chad, also a Squad 6 member, has no problem with this.

9:05 p.m.: The second half is not exactly enthralling, and when Miami goes ahead by 21 somebody in the squad yells to no one in particular: "[Commissioner David] Stern wants Miami to be the fifth seed!"

9:20 p.m.: Squad member Dick Strebig proudly tells me that he once razzed former general manager Larry Harris in a restaurant for signing Gadzuric to a six-year, $34 million contract.

10:30 p.m.: After the game ends, Squad 6 retires to its pre-arranged postgame pub, Fitzgibbons, where more revelry and storytelling ensues. One member complains that the league is keeping too close of a watch on the group, even banning them from holding up foam hands on which four fingers are held up and a fifth, the ring finger, is bent down. The Eddy Curry versus Dan Gadzuric debate continues between myself and squad members Patrick O'Brien and Jacob Anderson, the Bucks' Blue Edwards era is dissected, and one member recalls the pre-Squad 6 days when he heckled Jalen Rose just after Rose had a pair of $100,000 earrings stolen from his locker. "Hey Jalen, for Fan Appreciation Night they're having a raffle, and first prize is your earrings." That one, I am told, got a big smile out of Jalen.

1 a.m.: Squad 6 has been relaxing at a pub for 2½ hours, I have held the pool table for six straight games, and my night ends with me politely declining a loud chant of "Po-ta-wa-tomi" that would have routed myself and the last few Squad 6 stragglers to the local casino to lay a few bucks on Bogut's jersey number, 6, at the roulette table.