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Super fans: Sun Devil sports supporters showcase creativity, passion

December 03, 2012

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared in the December 2012 edition of ASU Magazine

True college sports enthusiasts showcase levels of unbridled passion for their teams in ways that are not often duplicated – these are the real fans who make game environments addictive, events unforgettable and who cheer student athletes to glory on the field of play.

With a diverse and dedicated foundation of students and alumni, ASU boasts a multitude of individuals and groups that live and breathe Sun Devil athletics – and prove its worth to those outside the playing field.

One such person is Kyle Martin, a stalwart supporter in all things ASU, who along with friends and former classmates, has perfected the fine fan art of positive home team support without creating a compromise of integrity.

“It’s one thing to be creative and funny, and another to be downright mean and stupid,” stated Martin. [My friends and I] always try to stop any distasteful chants that start. We want to be known as supportive and smart [fans], but still be funny and creative.”

A quick glance at Martin’s Facebook photo gallery provides an illustration of his approach. One shot is a close-up of his face, which has been painted maroon and gold in quadrants. Other pictures show off his hand-written signs, or document when the antics of he or his friends have captured the attention of or another media outlet.

Through the use of signs, chants, and a general overflow of creative emotion, in his years of tried-and-true ASU allegiance, Martin has comically exhibited a balance between enthusiasm and respect. This has helped facilitate not only the enjoyment of his Sun Devil sidekicks but even his targeted opponents.

“I want opposing players and fans to be able to laugh at the creativity and remember how much fun it was to deal with us for an [entire game],” explains Martin. “Recently there was a senior player on an opposing team that came up and said how much he enjoyed playing in front of us with all the jokes we had made over the years.”

A dynamic duo

Rinda Simpson’s road to Sun Devil support is far from typical, as it began while she strolled down Palm Walk as an undergraduate student in her late 30’s. Afraid she would be the oldest student in her classes, she quickly bonded with another mother and non-traditional student, Evelyn Droeg. The two formed a friendship now celebrated with annual ardor for Sun Devil athletics.

“We became best of friends and avid ASU supporters,” reflects Simpson. “We graduated in 1993 and both took teaching positions in different districts, but our friendship and support of ASU athletics is still strong.”

For approximately the past 10 years, the tandem of Simpson and Droeg haven’t missed a home or road football game, with the duo hitting the road with matching Sparky luggage, outfits emblazoned with the ASU logo – including shoes that have “Fork ‘em, Devils” stitched on the heels – and, of course, a resounding sense of Sun Devil spirit. Not content to make it simply a ladies’ trip, as Simpson jokes, they let their husbands tag along for the ride.

Nearly 20 years after graduating from ASU, Simpson continues to pay her Sun Devil passion forward as a teacher by decking out her classroom in maroon and gold garb while rewarding outstanding student performances with her own “Sun Devil Dollar” creation.

Face time with ASU

Jay Nielsen and Mike Pearce, two of the core members of the fan group “Moustache Nation,” are among the group’s leaders who collectively decided more than a decade ago that if the fans are the face of the athletic department, then that face should feature some majorly fuzzy flair.

“At the time, moustaches weren’t as cool as they are now,” comments Pearce. “We thought it was quite hilarious to have a group of young guys all sporting a glorious moustache for a great cause – Sun Devil football.”

Clad in game-day regalia consisting of jean shorts, custom T-shirts and jerseys and, of course, finely crafted soup strainers, the Moustache Nation members prep their most alluring lip brooms in anticipation of an annual getaway to infiltrate opposing areas in the name of pure fun and Sun Devil pride. In recent years, Moustache Nation has drawn approximately 75 members from all corners of the United States, with most men being ASU alumni ranging in age from their twenties to their sixties.

The group has followed Sun Devil football on road trips to Washington state, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Missouri.

“It’s great to get out and meet different people and leave them with an impression that we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” admits Nielsen. “We’re here to have a good time, root for our squad and get ready to do it all again the following week.” With no common denominator uniting them other than an undying allegiance to the maroon and gold, Sun Devil super fans enjoy a communal sense of pride.

“It’s not often you walk into a room and literally everyone is on the same page,” admits Nielsen. “But one thing remains fact here: we all went to ASU, we all have passion for ASU athletics and we want to support our teams. We want that support to breed success, and, ultimately, it’s an excuse for all of us to get together.”

When measured in terms of face paint, facial hair, road trips, creative chants and signs, costumes, and the fervor of their pregame tailgates or postgame celebrations, it’s clear that fan passion is alive and well in Tempe.

“[The] fan support for ASU athletics that is there constantly is as strong as you will find,” boasts Martin. “We love our teams, and we love our school. There is gratification in proudly saying ‘I am a Sun Devil.’”

Written by Joe Healey, a Mesa-based freelance sportswriter