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Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball by Kevin Chen, Hugh Fisher, Camille Hurt, & Charlie Lesko

Posted by on Friday, March 22, 2019 in Blog posts.



The Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball team played number one ranked Tennessee on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019 at Memorial Gymnasium. The game went into overtime and Tennessee barely edged out Vanderbilt in an exciting 88 to 83 overtime win. The audience was mostly composed of Vanderbilt fans with a good number of burnt orange supporters from the Tennessee side. Kevin Chen, Camille Hurt, Hugh Fisher, and Charlie Lesko are upstairs in Rand Dining Hall talking about their impressions of the thrilling basketball game, their individual experiences attending it, and the game’s overall function and its impact on them. 


Kevin Chen is a junior from Dallas majoring in Neuroscience and enjoys playing basketball and rocking climbing when he’s not busy.


Camille Hurt is junior majoring in Law, History, and Society from Louisville, Kentucky. She spends most of her free time clowning around with her friends or binge-watching DIY videos on YouTube. Upon graduation, Camille aspires to teach as a part of the Teach For America program and then go on to law school.


Charlie Lesko is a Junior from Philadelphia majoring in HOD and Economics who enjoys attending college basketball games in his free time.


Hugh Fisher is a Sophomore from Memphis majoring in HOD. He enjoys being outside and playing baseball. 



Kevin: We were all in agreement that Tennessee at Vanderbilt was one of the best games this season. What do you guys think especially stood out and what made this game different from previous Vanderbilt basketball games?


Charlie: What really stood out for me was how Memorial Gym was almost split down the middle with Tennessee and Vanderbilt fans. This was awesome because every time there was a big play either fan base would go crazy and this continued all night as each team went crazy back and forth.


Hugh: I agree, seeing all of the fans and how they celebrated points for either side was really cool.


Camille: I don’t really go to many basketball games, so I don’t know if this was unique but seeing the cardboard cutouts of memes and coaches’ heads was probably the most interesting part of the game for me. It’s cool and entertaining to see how far being a fan can go.


(Mr. C poses with a Mr. C cutout for Vanderbilt fans)


Kevin: I totally agree with what you guys said. Normally, in class and in everyday life, I don’t have the chance to be animated and loud. But, at this game especially, I felt like my role as a basketball enthusiast and also a fellow Commodore made me relinquish the traditional role of a quiet audience member common in other types of live performances.


Camille: That’s true, but I don’t think that this game was necessary like that for me because I don’t feel that invested in our basketball team. Being from Kentucky and being pretty invested in local basketball, I think my allegiance lies with my home teams, so I wasn’t really all that interested.


Charlie: Supporting Vanderbilt has been hard for me because of the results of games. I was really excited for the season to start, but when we lost Darius Garland, our best player, and then lost many games in a row, it was hard to get very excited about each and every game.


[Camille chuckles]


Still, this game was truly incredible although my morale had already been crushed. I was not even thinking about going at first, but I’m definitely glad I went because I was proud to be a Vanderbilt fan that night.


Hugh: Being an athlete, I think I can relate to being in a big game like this. It was fun to watch and pretty interesting to imagine what was going through their heads during big moments.


(Simisola Shittu #11 goes in for a layup during Tennessee at Vanderbilt)


Kevin: Wow, yeah I never thought about that. That’s a very interesting point Hugh about empathizing with the athletes in big moments. I bet they get nervous with all their friends and TV cameras watching them, but they’ve been there before. They know what they’re doing.


Charlie: Okay so Camille, since you said you don’t regularly attend sports events very often, what did you think about the general atmosphere of the game?


Camille:  It was a ton of fun actually. By far my favorite part was getting to go there and sit with my group of friends. I also liked seeing people from my classes and random people I know from around campus and from my different organizations. Sports games like this are definitely important community building experiences. I felt way more a part of Vanderbilt after seeing all the people I knew there. Plus, everyone is super nice and talkative at the game because they actually want to be there unlike some other places I usually see with them at.


Kevin: Yeah, being with my friends and chatting about sports and how different teams and players are playing is also really engaging. By the way, I also low-key love the concessions there. I think it’s so rewarding to be able to enjoy the game while also getting some unique food you can only get at sports events after a long day of classes and schoolwork.


Hugh: Oh man, I wish I could try some of the food at Hawkins Field and bring it into the dugout with me. But I don’t think my coaches would like that…


[Everyone laughs]


Camille: How do you guys think our community has been affected or impacted by this basketball game?


Kevin: Even though the outcome of the game wasn’t anything we wanted, I still felt like I came out of watching this basketball game feeling very refreshed. I think that athletic events and team sports, in general, are very unique types of live performances in that they really do bring people – a diverse group of people – together and have a unifying and social connectedness effect.


Camille: I agree with you. Even though I wasn’t that invested in the outcome of the game, I still found myself cheering when other people were cheering and booing when they would boo.


Kevin: Man, talk about booing – Charlie, did you see how loud and rowdy everyone got at that Tennessee player in overtime when he hit every single free throw in spite of most of Memorial cheering against him?


Charlie: Yeah, that was really impressive. Grant Williams has been a star for Tennessee all season. I thought that our fans booing him were hoping to make an impact. It really did connect and immerse me in the moment of the game. It’s too bad that he didn’t miss because that would have made me feel like I had actually contributed to the game.


Kevin: Going back to something we talked about in class about live performances, Heim says there’s this synergy of co-creation and a back and forth between audience members and performers on stage – or in this case on the court. This synergy and interconnectedness created during performer-audience interactions are probably what people feel satisfied with after being at such a live performance.


Camille: I think this game was really unique for a number of reasons, especially the crowd’s engagement with the action of the game. I also think it’s a part of college rivalry games because like Charlie said Vanderbilt hasn’t had a very good season but somehow was able to hold their own against number one ranked Tennessee.


Charlie: I think we can all agree that this game gave us the chance to forget about school and rally to one cause.


Hugh: I agree, it was really fun to cheer for a Vanderbilt team and feel proud of our athletics.


Kevin: As students or teachers or just casual Vanderbilt fans, when we put on that black and gold and huddle together in the seats of Memorial, all our differences are cast away and for those couple of hours we stand united for the common goal to crush the Volunteers. In this way, live sporting events are very cathartic and allow you to be someone you can’t normally be in the classroom, on the job, or in certain constrained roles in society. The louder you are, the more socially acceptable it is, and your loudness also makes your neighbors louder. Together, an audience can really impact the environment and how the performers act.


13 Comments on “Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball by Kevin Chen, Hugh Fisher, Camille Hurt, & Charlie Lesko”

There are two aspects of this analysis with which I strongly agree. One is Hugh’s comment that as an athlete he is able to empathize with the “performers” on the court. Although I personally am not a college athlete, I think watching a live sporting event, especially a high-pressure one like the Vandy-UT rivalry game that went to overtime, creates opportunity for empathy. Everyone has experienced the feeling of being under immense pressure, and thus everyone can empathize with the basketball players. Especially as a non-athlete, knowing that I would not be able to do what the players are doing on the court makes me appreciate and value more the pressure they are feeling (although some sports spectators argue that they themselves could do a better job than the players and coaches). The intensity of a high-pressure game and a loud stadium creates a space for empathetic response as the spectator, at least unconsciously, relates to how the players must be feeling. The second point of this analysis that I really like is how the audience of a basketball game interacts with and influences the “performance” on the court. Memorial Gym is a unique performance space in that the front row of the student section is standing at chest-level with the court. The way that the front row of the student section pounds on the court and is so close to the action of the game is an important part of the atmosphere of Memorial Gym, and certainly affects the performance of a visiting team that is not used to that. The cheers, taunts, and boos of the crowd can also influence performance, both positively and negatively. Players can feed off of the energy and encouragement of a supportive and cheering crowd, and players can also be hindered by distracting negative comments from the crowd. I think the closing words by Kevin really encapsulate the way the crowd’s momentum at a game can be mutually beneficial for the players and also the crowd as they feed off of one another in a pressured yet cathartic experience.

Abigail Roberts on March 24th, 2019 at 1:31 pm

To begin, I thoroughly enjoyed the context of the collaborative analysis. The introduction encapsulated both some context regarding the basketball season, as well as the analysis as a whole. The brief introduction allowed me, as a reader, to view the entire analysis with a specific lens that included what you were writing about, who was writing is (more than simple names), and where/when it was written. Although there were no pictures in the analysis, it took the form of a dialogue (with personality) which was extremely successful. In fact, I was actually at this particular game and, right off the bat, I agreed with Charlie when he described the “split down the middle with Tennessee and Vanderbilt fans.” The accessibility of this game allowed all fans to join in on the fun. This caused every play to be exciting as the sheer amount of people would be really involved. This connects to the audience as a performer, that Kevin his on later. He described his specific role as he “relinquish[ed]” control as a quiet audience member. Kevin, among most fans, actively participated in the game with shouting and cheering on the home team. This concept of the audience impacting the performance is further analyzed by Hugh’s unique perspective as an athlete. He actually empathizes with the basketball players, something I have never thought about nor have the ability to do as a non-athlete. I really enjoyed reading what Hugh had to say and the part about him loving the food was really funny. I was at this game with a few of my friends and I felt exactly what the authors were describing throughout their dialogue. I felt alive and apart of something bigger. The “so what” was made stronger by the sense of community at the game as I truly felt apart of Vanderbilt and accepted. This fact really brought the “so what” into the play and made me think of it more than simple entertainment, but a way to communicate important arguments. Ultimately, the basketball game was incredible and great job with the dialogue.

Jake Silver on March 24th, 2019 at 1:41 pm

From the beginning I completely agree with Charlie in that it was an incredible experience to see a sellout crowd completely split down the middle between Tennessee and Vanderbilt fans. The game was one of the best games I’d seen in my four years as a student here. Every possession, I could feel the tension, and I saw it in the audience as well. You could feel the energy. So many “ooo’s” and “ahhh’s” as the game went on. Talk about an emotional roller coaster of a game. And I understand where Charlie is coming from when he says it’s hard to cheer for Vanderbilt when teams are struggling. I completely get that. The great thing about this game is that the struggles from the past were forgotten, and the team played incredibly hard, and very well. As spectators, we all were engaged from start to finish, and were behind the team the whole way. It was a heartbreak of a game, but an awesome experience.

Alexander Franklin on March 24th, 2019 at 8:12 pm

One major characteristic of sporting events that everyone discussed, and I really relate to as well, is the idea of interconnectedness of a crowd and the impact that your neighbors have on your reaction and experience. Like Camille said, although she does not attend sporting events often, she still found herself cheering and booing when everyone around her was. In addition, sporting events differ from a theatre performance in that they encourage more of a social atmosphere that one can enjoy despite a lack of interest in either the sport or team like in Camille’s case. The idea of ‘liveness,’ or the fact that the moment is fleeting and happening right in front of you without a pause button, impacts the crowd experience as well because everyone experiences similar emotions and engages in the same activity simultaneously, such everyone booing Grant Williams. As Charlie said, the stadium was split down the middle with Vanderbilt and Tennessee fans. At most of the Vanderbilt basketball games I’ve attended, the crowd consisted majorly of Vanderbilt fans, and the incorporation of rivalry definitely makes a game more exciting by creating more conflict, thus evoking more emotion.

Abigail Bush on March 24th, 2019 at 9:42 pm

I also think that the impact of team loyalty is an interesting factor of one’s experience like Camille briefly talked about with her allegiance lying with her home team Kentucky, because it determines one’s invested interest in the live moment. Unlike in theatre, where there is often a predetermined hero or enemy of the story, the individuals in a sporting event crowd choose for themselves who they root for or against, which creates a unique sense of both conflict between rivals and bond between supporters of the same team.

Abigail Bush on March 24th, 2019 at 9:51 pm

Attending a college sports game can generate a special energy that can’t be replicated, as discussed in this collaborative analysis. They discussed at length the excitement of the game and intense energy of the crowd, experiencing social bonding between total strangers with only one thing in common: their team. Though I attended a different basketball game than the one they discussed in this article, I remember feeling intense jealousy of all my friends who had sprinted over to Memorial Gym at the last minute to catch the final minutes of overtime. This feeling of “you had to be there,” or liveness, is an extremely important aspect of what makes attending sporting events so special. Another concept that is important is the idea of emotional resonance, as discussed by Charlie, who felt that the “game was truly incredible although [his] morale had already been crushed.” Leaving with the feeling of satisfaction even though the game did not turn out the way he wanted it to was a sign that the performance was very meaningful. Although the game I attended was not nearly as exciting as the Tennessee game, it was still a powerful experience to be able to find captivation in a game and feel connected to my fellow students in a way that I do not usually have the ability to. I related to Camille, who discussed how she was initially not very invested in the basketball team. But, in the end, I experienced aesthetic growth from the game, as I had discovered a new interest in the basketball team and the overall experience after the game I attended.

Brigid Brennan on March 25th, 2019 at 8:40 am

The layout of this analysis made it feel very friendly. From the start, knowing little things about each person, definitely helped connect the critic’s personality to their writings. For example, knowing that Camille had not been to any prior games, gave the article a kind of innocence to the game and the atmosphere, something I relate back to being almost like that of a child: pure. The most relatable and powerful aspect of the analysis is when Hugh says, “It was fun to watch and pretty interesting to imagine what was going through their heads during big moments.” As a fellow athlete, I think this made the most personal connection for me. I can get caught up with the movements and energy of the crowd, but forget that the mistakes or triumphs are not that far off from my own, instead just on a court rather than on a field. I thought Kevin’s wording on the matter was brilliant: “This synergy and interconnectedness created during performer-audience interactions are probably what people feel satisfied with after being at such a live performance.” I think this is what Camille was able to experience after being at such an event, and something that crowds at sporting events regularly experience: a sense of unity. Though the crowd at “Memorial Gym was almost split down the middle with Tennessee and Vanderbilt fans”, as Charlie said, you are one with the crowd. Rather than watching this game on a television at home, being in the crowd gives you the sense of astonishment and also desperation for the shot to go in. At home, your energy is dependent on your personal involvement with either basketball or the players on the team. At a live performance, the crowd feeds off of each other, is built together, and let down together. Overall, this analysis was a friendly read that helped communicate very well the feeling and benefits of being at a live performance. Even when Camille spoke about being more involved with a team that wasn’t playing, she was still able to invest in the performance, rather than the performers.

Mikala Rhody on March 25th, 2019 at 9:28 am

Of all of the things discussed by Kevin, Camille, Hugh and Charlie, I really agree with what they discussed regarding the crowd and how the energy of the crowd generates a commradorie among them and everyone around is influenced. Like Camille, I don’t go to basketball games very often but when I attended the UT Vanderbilt game I was in awe of how it felt like I was a huge basketball fan. I found my self getting caught up in the excitement because those that were around me were. I think this draws off this idea of the audience as a performer. The audience’s excitement and coming together as one helps the athletes to perform better on the court because they feed off that energy. Additionally, I thought what Hugh said was interesting, how he felt for the players on the court as an athlete himself. This reminds me of how we talked about empathy of the audience and how when the audience relates to the performers and have empathy, they feel like they are part of it. I find it interesting how this idea in theater can be taken to sports to show how sports are also a performance, that they aren’t much different. All in all, I think the things this group talked about were spot on and really embody how I also felt about this performance.

Maggie Feyrer on March 25th, 2019 at 10:25 am

I have never thought of basketball as anything more than just a game. In actuality, every time the players step onto the court, they are performing on a stage. They are putting on a show characterized by incredible athleticism and rare talent. Even though it is not rehearsed like a classic performance, it is equally powerful and engaging. Not knowing how the performance end, adds a layer of excitement. I found Charlie, Kevin, Hugh, and Camille’s discussion of the role of the audience very interesting. In most theatrical shows, the audience is relatively silent. They politely clap and laugh, but rarely influence the outcome of the show. In basketball, the louder crowd determines who wins. The fans can mess with the heads of the performers and ruin their focus. The crowd can boo, yell, cheer, and clap. They are noisy and powerful. It is also interesting to think about the makeup of the audience. Kevin described how the this performance is unique because it brings together a diverse group of people. It makes people from all backgrounds feel connected because they are supporting a shared cause. It gives students the opportunity to forget about school for a moment. Similar to Camille, I am not a huge basketball fan. Nonetheless, I found myself completely immersed in the game. I was cheering and giving high fives to complete strangers. I felt like I was apart of something bigger than myself.

Sarah Traynor on March 25th, 2019 at 10:46 am

When considering the basketball it is important to note that the atmosphere only allows for you to really become apart of the game as a spectator. From the crowd cheering and booing you are now considered the 6th man and have a spiritual connection to the outcome of the game depending on how hard you ride for your team. There is another level of performance connectivity as the crowd is able to be explosively expressive wherein a traditional play they would have to place limits on their emotional responses. Basketball is a universal sport that brings together people of all ages and identities and places the love of the sport above anything else. There is a heightened level of empathy all crowd members can experience during the game once they are in the arena as there is already an emotional investment placed in a particular team, thus any struggle or success the team faces will be placed on all audience members. This is especially evident from athletes like baseball player Hugh who witnesses the game. I believe there is a deeper level of empathy he has to the outcome of the game because he knows the rollercoaster of emotions that go on during a high impact game like Vanderbilt v. Tennessee. In addition, as Charlie mentioned there is a divide in the Vanderbilt and Tennessee fans which makes the rivalry that much more evident and intense for both spectators and the players themselves.

Reghan Hovell-Wilkins on March 25th, 2019 at 9:54 pm

The Tennessee Vanderbilt game was one of the most memorable moments especially sporting moments that I have had during my time at Vanderbilt. Much like Camille was saying, the environment in the student section was incredibly lively, one that fostered a community united under the goal of seeing Vanderbilt knock off a top ranked team. Being a huge sports fan coming to Vanderbilt I found that many a times our sports spectacle lack the sense of comrade and vigor that other schools have, but the collective feeling as an audience at this particular game was one that was very strong. By getting to the game early was able to experience the game from the front row at half court. Relating back to what Kevin said about the Heim reading, this basketball game as a performance was particularly interesting in that the audience engaged with the game in ways that are not typical with most performances. Being on the front row, it was evident to see all of the things that the school has commissioned to get people into the game, such as the cheers being led by the cheer and dance team, the Mic Men whose sole responsibility is to get the crowd really excited to jubilate small victories in the game, as well as all of the music and announcements that were made over the speakers. I was cool to see that in this form of performance there were avenues put in place to promote audience engagement. This engagement is particularly important for this kind of performance because there is a belief among the crowd that their noise and cheers can serve to effect the outcome of the game. This basketball was also unique because in the past I never really viewed sports as a sort of performing art but viewing this game through that lens allowed me to understand it as so. Player on the court try to execute and “perform” to the best of their ability but all the while they are portraying as certain persona as the do so. Whether it be engaging with the crowd by pumping it up or like Admiral Schofield, UT’s star player, did by walking on the court leaned forward with a threatening expression to intimidate the opposition, I noticed that players were constantly performing themselves in ways that they wanted to be perceived.

Isaac Donkor on March 25th, 2019 at 11:37 pm

One thing that really resonated with me was how Hugh talked about how interesting it is to see players in intensely competitive situations and watch how they are able to react and respond to the pressure of the moment. Being an athlete as well, I have a good understanding of what it feels like to be in a pressure situation and then end up on either side of the final result. Another thing that I found very interesting was how the energy in the crowd was transferred from the court to the fans, to the fans sitting next to them, and then thrown back down onto the court. This idea of a connection between all parties involved in the competition is extremely cool to see as well as be a part of. Personally, I have felt that same transfer of energy during baseball games and it is crazy to see how much it changes the dynamic of the game entirely. From the fans perspective, it also proves to bring people who may not necessarily know each other together and allow them to realize that they a part of something that is bigger than just themselves. They are part of an organization, and in the grand scheme of things, they are a part of Vanderbilt University.

Jacob Eder on April 23rd, 2019 at 7:55 pm

Alike the writers of this essay, I found this loss to be crushing. However, I will say that this basketball game, among many others, was the most enjoyable and thrilling sports experience that I have had during my time here at Vanderbilt. Being an avid sports fan, specifically basketball, I was devastated to see our team lose our top recruit and top player, Darius Garland. This loss really cemented the fate of our season, but this game was completely separate and held a different atmosphere than the others this season. For one, I think that the Vanderbilt Tennessee rivalry has been years in the making so any time these two teams go up against one another, there is surely action to be witnessed. In addition, the fact that our team was up for the majority of the game gave the fans a glimpse of shimmering hope that there was still something left of the season. As Kevin mentioned, I really do believe that sports games offer up a really unique audience. All walks of life come together with one mutual goal: securing the win. No matter what your beliefs are outside of the stadium/auditorium, a united front is donned the moment you step foot inside and root for the same team. It really is a fascinating experience to have.

Christopher Lei on April 24th, 2019 at 10:01 pm

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