Arizona State’s Curtain of Distraction: An Academic Study

Journal of Sports Fandom, Vol. 1. Issue No. 1

Title: ‘When I close my eyes, the unicorns are still humping’ – The 942 Crew’s Psychological Damage on Pac-12 Basketball Players

Study authors: Steve Alford, Dana Altman, Tad Boyle, Johnny Dawkins, Andy Enfield, Ernie Kent, Larry Krystkowiak, Cuonzo Martin, Sean Miller, Lorenzo Romar, Wayne Tinkle

Published: February 11

Background and Objectives: “The 942 Crew” is a ragtag collection of Arizona State men’s basketball fans—and possibly the school’s most inebriated theater majors—who, since 2013, have unveiled their signature “Curtain of Distraction” in an attempt to negatively impact the visiting team’s performance at the free-throw line. Students have peeled back the curtain to reveal scenes that include, but are not limited to: unicorn coitus, a man decapitating another student in a bear suit, a jump-roping clown, and a never-ending parade of semi-naked white male undergraduates.

The crew’s efforts continue to wreak havoc on visitors’ free-throw percentages. According to The Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective, visiting teams forfeit an average of 1.41 points per game due to Curtain of Distraction fallout. Players have also reported difficultly concentrating in other areas off the court. Basketball is just as much a mental game as it is physical. With these concerns in mind, we, the Pac-12 basketball coaches, launched a study into just how damaging these scenes have been to players’ mental health.

Methods: We surveyed 60 current Pac-12 men’s basketball players who have come face to face with Curtain of Distraction scenes. Each player was asked to rank his experiences on a 5-point scale, with “1” equaling “Played through it like a BOSS” and “5” equaling “I STILL SEE IT WHEN I CLOSE MY EYES.” We did follow-up research on players who recorded “4” and “5” ratings, and asked them to share specific details about how their experiences affected their on-court performance and personal lives.

Results: 85 percent of players surveyed ranked their experiences with either a “4” (“That was hella disturbing”) or a “5.” Anecdotal evidence from the focus groups was particularly telling. Upon seeing an overweight ASU sophomore wearing a wife-beater and swinging a wrecking ball, UCLA junior guard Bryce Alford said, “I had to watch the Miley Cyrus ‘Wrecking Ball’ video 47 times in a row to bleach the image from my head.” Ike Iroegbu, a Washington State junior, was assigned extra free-throw drills after telling teammates he kept seeing “a duck riding a penguin like a rodeo bull” near the baseline. Not all of the results were negative. Oregon State freshman Stephen Thompson Jr. admitted that seeing Michael Phelps dance during a January 28 road game was “pretty cool” and “totally worth missing two free throws.”

Recommendations: Our researchers have three recommendations aimed at mitigating the psychological damage that has resulted from the Curtain of Distraction.

1) Demand ASU Coach Bobby Hurley give those damn kids some foam noodles.

2) Each Pac-12 school should create its own Curtain of Distraction. If we have to be damaged, then everyone is going to be damaged. If Oregon State plays Oregon at home, we’d better see a duck humping a beaver once OSU reaches the double bonus. All Pac-12 fans need to do their part.

3) Lots of therapy. For the players, members of the 942 Crew, and even the coaching staff, as some of us can’t unsee the unicorns, either.

Study Limitations: Our research has a few limitations. For one, Stephen Thompson Jr. was born in 1997, and likely has no idea who the Chippendales are. With that context, he likely would have reversed his statement on Michael Phelps.

Additionally, not a single one of us has any experience in scientific research, and we may have bribed associate professors at our respective health science schools with tickets to the next conference game.

Image Credit: Joe Camporeale – USA TODAY Sports

Natalie McGill is a writer and comedian who would like to go back to school at Arizona State. You should follow her on Twitter.