Saturday, February 19, 2011
The Jimmer Show makes a stop in Texas
By David Ubben
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Jimmer Fredette didn’t gaze into the stands very often during BYU's 79-56 win over TCU. If he did, he would have found plenty to make him smile.
No. 32 jerseys dotted the crowd.
During pregame warm-ups, fans crowded the front row stands to snap photos of the star.
After the game, a few hundred more crowded the same space and took cell phone video and flashed photos while he did a TV interview. Security was needed to help BYU get past a crowd to the team bus.
Grown men with duffel bags of deflated basketballs ask him to sign as many of them as possible. One tells a BYU official shooing them away that they have no plans to sell them, but there’s no promise that the hand reaching for another ball inside the bag didn’t have its fingers crossed.
“Jimmer: Kiss my baby!” read a sign held up by a couple who were, yes, holding a baby behind one of the baskets at TCU’s Daniel-Meyer Coliseum on Saturday.
Fans waved disembodied Jimmer heads.
Jimmer Fredette had 23 points, two rebounds and two assists in BYU's win over TCU.
A couple of Texans -- the nerve! -- even played off one of the state’s slogans, warning TCU: “Don’t mess with Jimmer.”
He sees the signs -- literal and figurative -- signifying his new celebrity, he admits. Rarely does he acknowledge them, instead electing to go about his business on the floor.
Aren’t conference road games supposed to be hostile atmospheres? Most often, it’s not the case for Fredette. BYU, a Mormon institution and one of college athletics’ only truly national universities, has fans everywhere, but they out-numbered and out-cheered TCU’s fans on Saturday as the Cougars improved to a program-best 25-2.
“It’s been like this pretty much everywhere we’ve been going,” Fredette said.
Most often, Fredette is the catalyst.
This is The Jimmer Effect, produced by The Jimmer Show, and it’s in the thick of a winter tour the Cougars hope will crescendo into an April run at the national title.
Seconds into the game -- in TCU’s arena, remember -- a boisterous “B-Y-U” chant dominated the arena noise.
The same occurred in the game’s closing minutes.
“It’s a really great experience for our players,” said BYU coach Dave Rose. “I think it’s a tribute to this team, and the fact that it’s the last time through this league.”
It was the sixth time this season a BYU road game sold out, and even Cougars officials admitted the Jimmer Effect was on high in Saturday’s game.
The TCU student section was full, but the rest of the capacity crowd -- 7,258, the first sellout for the school since Nov. 23, 2004 and the third-biggest crowd in school history -- wasn’t drawn in by TCU’s 10-18 record and one conference win in 13 tries.
“Ya’ll about to get Jimmered,” read another sign in the arena.
TCU got Cougared more than it got Jimmered. Fredette, who averages more than 27 points a game, scored 23 on 6-of-16 shooting. But road games featuring Fredette are unlike almost anything one can experience in sports today.
What The Heatles -- that three-headed monster in Miami -- are to the NBA, four-year senior Fredette is to college hoops.
The biggest cheers of the night came when Fredette was introduced and when he buried one of his trademark 3-pointers. He finished 3-for-9 from beyond the arc on Saturday.
The Horned Frogs supporters in the building were delighted by a second-half Fredette air ball, and serenaded him with reminders each time he touched the ball for the handful of possessions that followed.
With a little more than two minutes left in the game, he left to a standing ovation from most of the BYU fans in the stands.
“Obviously, I look forward to the day that [the fans] are here to see TCU and it’s all purple, but again, this is a special season for Jimmer and for their team,” said TCU coach Jim Christian.
He draws in fans from everywhere. Except when they arrive, they do it ready to cheer, rather than jeer.
Jerry and Bernadette Izu made the 150-mile trip from Fort Hood to Fort Worth and grabbed some seats near the top of the arena.
“We had six kids just so we could spell out 'Jimmer,'" Jerry Izu said. "J-I-M-M-E-R" read their sign, with the assist of their sign-holding six kids.
Anytime the Cougars are in Texas, the Izus are there, too. But the biggest draw this year? Well, he goes by one name.