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Monday, December 4th, 2006

M-A-C chant can be heard far and wide during state

By Randy Bruns
CANTON - Just before the Marion Local Flyers accepted their Division VI state championship trophy, a familiar cheer began in the sections occupied by the Blue and Gold faithful.
It wasn't the now-familiar "Who's in the house?" chant that started a few years ago and seems to crop up every time Marion makes a long tournament run.
Instead, it was more of a tribute to the Flyers' league mates in the Midwest Athletic Conference.
"M-A-C, M-A-C, M-A-C" echoed through the wind-swept bowl of Fawcett Stadium, just as it does most times that a MAC school wins a state title.
While I'm not sure where the chant got its beginning, I first remembered hearing it near the end of Marion's first state title game in 2000 at Massillon, where the Flyers beat Mogadore.
Some Coldwater fans may well have had a hand in it, as the Cavaliers were due to play just a couple hours later up the road at Canton and plenty were in attendance.
The Coldwater fans later showed their appreciation for Marion's championship effort when they gave the Flyer team a standing ovation when it filed into Fawcett to watch the Cavaliers do battle with Ursuline in the Division IV final.
More memorable to me was the M-A-C chant at Marion's 2001 game at Massillon, another blowout win over Mogadore. With the outcome clearly decided in the fourth quarter and the weather conditions getting nastier, a couple of burly Delphos St. John's fans decided to head for home.
As they made their exit through the front row in front of throngs of Marion fans, though, the Blue Jay backers stopped and turned to the crowd just a few feet in front of where I was sitting. The pair dropped their blankets, looked up, and loudly started the M-A-C chant, complete with arm movements that loosely formed the three letters as each was shouted. The Marion fans quickly joined in, making for a warm moment of conference camaraderie.
Since that game, there have been eight state championships won by MAC teams in football and boys or girls basketball, and while I haven't attended all of those finals, I'm sure the M-A-C chant was done at most, if not all, of them.
I guess the reason the chant seems appealing to me is that it's not just one teams fans thumping their chests about their accomplishments. To me, the M-A-C chant is more of an acknowledgement of the role the whole MAC plays in preparing individual teams for tournament competition.
Take Marion Local, for instance, and look at its record over the past seven years, a span in which it notched three state titles and one state runner-up trophy.
During those four years that they went to the state finals, the Flyers lost just one time in 20 playoff games for a 95 percent winning clip. And yet, during those same four years Marion was knocked off seven times in 32 league games for a much more modest 78 percent success rate.
You can't tell me that facing state championship caliber teams numerous times each year doesn't prime a team for playoff success down the road. Some of Marion's players made just that point in the post-game press conference.
"Every game is like a playoffs game in our league," said Marc Otte. "You've got to win enough of them just to get in the playoffs."
"In the MAC, you can't take a week off, just like in the playoffs," said Josh Rosenbeck. "Every team's capable of beating you and that's going to hurt your chances of making the playoffs."
Marion coach Tim Goodwin asserts that the high-level competition in the MAC doesn't just start in high school, either.
"That's how these kids grow up," said Goodwin. "In seventh grade and eighth grade every game is an all-out war, whether it's basketball or football. It's just how they grow up - the lower levels get after it pretty good."
During the regular season, of course, support for fellow MAC schools is relegated to hoping they win their non-conference games in order to provide more computer points. But once the playoffs begin, just look around the stands and you'll see coats and hats from many - if not all - of the other MAC schools.
We're very fortunate in this area to see that kind of support. The advent of Internet message boards has afforded high school football fans from across the state the opportunity to talk about their teams and leagues, and a lot of what is out there is not what we're used to.
Many fans from different leagues are joyous when their league opponents are defeated in the playoffs, usually due to jealousy. You just don't see a whole lot of that around here, possibly because so many schools have tasted success that not many have anything to be jealous about.
Whatever the reasons for intra-conference support, we are privileged to see week-in and week-out the caliber of teams (and fans) that we do in the MAC.
So you really can't blame fans for wanting to share the joy a little when their team is hoisting the big trophy.
"M-A-C, M-A-C, M-A-C."
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