Q&A: CMU Athletics 'superfan' says students should go to more games

Matt Werstler cheers for the CMU basketball team Feb. 5 in McGuirk Arena.

Self-proclaimed Central Michigan University athletics "superfan" Matt Werstler said many students do not go to sporting events often enough.

Werstler attends almost every sporting event he can, either decked out in CMU gear or in his uniform for the CMU Marching Band Drumline. When not playing music with the band, Werstler often wears maroon and gold streamers on his head, a CMU flag and a basketball jersey. He got every part of his outfit from the CMU Bookstore and also brings a maroon and gold kick drum with him. 

Werstler is a junior from Massillon, Ohio studying geography. He is also in a competitive tennis club.     

Central Michigan Life sat down with Werstler recently to discuss his unique participation in CMU athletics' student sections.  

Why do you dress up at every sporting event? 

I sort of got progressively more and more into sports. The drums I bring around actually started much smaller and as a cross country tradition that we had in my high school. The drums got bigger—I have a kick drum now. The dressing up and stuff—that was for basketball. I was only planning on doing it one time, but people liked it so I was like, ‘well I guess I’m doing this now.’ We’ve always had like a tiny student section for basketball. I originally dressed up around campus for the full day—telling everyone like, ‘tonight’s the home opener.’ It was more to get the word out that it’s basketball season, you can go now and it’s gonna be a fun time. 

What is something you enjoy about going to every game? 

It’s definitely a huge stress relief. It’s always something to look forward to. When the games are empty, it sort of feels like it’s lacking, but at the same time, there’s weeks in the winter where it’s like three men’s basketball games, two women’s basketball games and it’s just a lot of fun. It’s definitely something that’s like a break from school work. If I was one of the students who never went to a sporting event, that just seems like it’d be all work, no play. I cannot see myself not going to sporting events at this point. 

How do you keep track of all the games? 

I use the CMU Athletics app for that. Baseball, lacrosse and softball are really the only sports going on right now so I can just memorize (the schedules). I’ve missed two women’s basketball games, a soccer game and I think that’s it for this year. It’s funny, I tend to remember the ones I’m not at.

The only reason I tend to miss games, is you can’t just drop a six page essay to go to a basketball game, no matter how much you want to.

What's your favorite CMU sport to watch?

That’s a tough one. I do love football, but I’m part of the drumline there. As a fan, I’d probably go with basketball, with women’s soccer being a close second—that’s a sport that definitely gets overlooked on campus. 

Which sport do you think has the best student section? 

My freshman year, there was like nobody at the football games—they looked like high school games. This year, the student section did really well at football. Besides that, I’d say baseball showed up really well. We’ve got a good baseball team and (the stands) are usually half, if not more like completely full. There’s been two games I remember that were just completely packed for the baseball team and that’s always good to see. I think a lot of it comes down to people wanting to go if a team is winning. The successful sports are really good at pulling in students.

What kinds of reactions do you get from other fans?  

Honestly it’s more alumni. Non-students come up to me like, ‘oh wow that’s like a lot of school spirit, it’s nice to see someone coming out to all the games. The club hockey team—I went to a few of those games and they seemed to appreciate it a lot. I got a lot more comments about the kick drum, more so than the dressing up. Once, there was a little girl sitting behind where the away team was. I don’t really have any idea of how loud (the drum) is, but apparently it was loud enough where it was sort of hurting her ears. I felt bad in that regard, but other than that the feedback’s been pretty positive; people tend to like the drum.  

What CMU sports do you think students should watch more often?

Definitely the soccer team. That’s sort of more of a compact stadium so it’s really easy to interact with other students. Women’s lacrosse—it’s a much smaller field, but I would say everyone’s got to go to at least one sporting event for every team. I mean, who knows? Field hockey is not my favorite sport—I still go to every game—but someone else could go to a field hockey game and absolutely love it. I say try them all.

Why do you think more students should watch CMU sporting events? 

(The student section) is usually pretty empty at most of the sporting events. Some people could find it boring, but that’s only if you go alone. That’s maybe subconsciously why I try to go to every event. If there’s a student section, I’m going to be a part of it and we’re going to have a good time even if it’s just three or four people.  

If it was just me and five other people at a basketball game, I’m going to enjoy the basketball game but it won’t stick out as opposed to hearing like 50 people chanting. It really makes a difference. 

Some people are on their phone for quite a bit of it, but I’ve never seen anyone leave a game wishing they hadn’t gone. You’re either going to love it or it’s just going to be a one-time experience. Even if it is a one-time experience, you never know what you’re missing. If I decided not to go to one game freshmen year, it could have started a pattern and I could just lose all theses memories.  

What’s your favorite memory from watching CMU sports? 

The first one would be last Spring when the baseball team hit a three-run home run and the crowd just let loose. It was like a flipped switch. I think it was against Miami. The second best memory would be soccer against Ohio. That was a very fun one. They had very rowdy visitors and we pulled off the upset —  I believe in overtime. We poured out of the stands and made a tunnel for the soccer team and everything. It was great; the experience was like one you wouldn’t forget ever. The third one would be this year’s Western game. That was the most packed I’ve seen the student section—probably since I’ve been here. 

Are there any sports you don’t go to watch? 

I actually have not been to wrestling or gymnastics. There’s sports that I go to and then there’s sports I consider to be a bit more professional. I have this problem with baseball too—it’s a sport where there’s a lot of rules and crowds can’t interfere as much. The main way I decide when to use the drum is when there is no play happening. If the ball is in play I always keep it quiet. Gymnastic sort of loops so there’s not really much time to get into the mentality I have at other sporting events. Wrestling I just didn’t have time for—I knew they were really good and every time they have a home meet I want to go there. 

Do you have any personal rivalries with other teams or student sections? 

Student sections seem to be fairly calm, but one team me and my buddies do not like is Robert Morris’ lacrosse team. They were, for lack of a better term, disrespectful towards our team. As a super fan—we ain’t having it. That’s probably the only fan base where like—okay, you might not be Western but we’re going to fight hard to beat you. We had a player injured, but they decided to take that time to do taunting against our team. The parents didn’t like it and obviously we didn’t like it. That’s something that sticks out. I mean, it’s the little things—spirit of competition. Even in those small sports, they do have a bit of an impact when you have to go back year after year.

What’s your favorite part of marching band? 

The best part is how close you can be. I can’t speak for the other sections, but the drumline really is like a family in the Fall. If I had to choose one (memory), it would be my very first game that was supposed to be against Albany at 7 p.m. There was a thunderstorm so it got pushed back to like a 10 p.m. game. Three hours we were half grumpy, half hanging out with each other. The things that don’t go as planned are really the best memories for me. They do a really good job of building community in the marching band.

Do you prefer watching games from the marching band or the student section? 

I definitely gotta go to the fan perspective. I do love band, but they sort of keep us on a bit of a leash as far as how intense we can get with our cheering. We can get a bit riled up. Everything is about what would reflect good on the band, so no booing, no bulls— calls. I mean, I love it, but it does get a bit like, ‘oh I gotta hold myself back after a cheap shot.’ They do a good job at keeping it all professional. 

Why should students join CMU sports teams? 

We just started tennis last semester. It’s been fun so far to go from being a fan to being an athlete. There’s a ton of different sports clubs we have. Even if it’s not like club tennis or club hockey that travels, we still have the tennis courts open almost at all times. I knew some people who were thinking about joining some club teams, but they didn’t. There’s no harm trying. Freshmen year I tried fencing club. I never knew how to fence, and I just showed up. I didn’t end up continuing it, but it’s all about the experiences you’re going to have leaving college. 

What could CMU do to bring more students into sporting events? 

Quite a bit, especially with basketball. Basketball does bring in a lot of students, but for some reason they have two sides open so the students sort of spread out, not really interacting and you don’t really build those memories with each other. 

I think what would help the most is students knowing that their support is being appreciated.