January 26, 2007

No 'Deis: Judges super-fan Allen staying home

When men’s basketball takes on Brandeis at Ratner this Sunday, the squad will have to face one of the top point guard tandems in the league and yet another of the UAA’s killer big men in third-year Steve DeLuca. When the women battle the Judges later that afternoon, they’ll be challenged by a squad whose depth, dedication in the paint, and defensive skills have pushed them to 17th in the nation. Fortunately for the Maroons, neither team will need to contend with persistent shouts of “D-up! D-up! D-up!” every time they charge down the floor.

Allen Karon, Brandeis’s iron-lunged answer to the W-Heads and the Shirtless Stinson Screamers, will not be holding court on the South Side when the Sons and Daughters of Louis come to town. Monetary concerns after last year’s extensive travel schedule will keep him at home in Canton, Massachusetts. But needless to say, he’ll be following the GoMaroons audiocast of the games from beginning to end. This ultimate die-hard fan wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’ve done soccer, and I’ve done some baseball, but this is my favorite sport and my favorite time of year,” Karon said. “I know how the game works, and we’ve had some great teams. I’m pretty much always around.”

Long before anyone currently associated with Brandeis basketball was with the program, Karon was there. He first matriculated at the college in 1987 and began to go to games during the winter of his freshman year. While his team interest started off as just another way to spend a weekend evening, Karon became attached to the legendary squads that called Waltham home during the late ’80s and early ’90s. He was in the stands constantly throughout his college career and saw no reason to give it up after he received his politics degree in the spring of 1991.

Karon was living with his grandmother during much of the late 1990s and skipped some night games to prevent her from waiting up for him. But he moved out on his own in 2000 and has been a fixture at Auerbach Arena ever since, rarely missing an outing. He is notorious both at home and away for shouting at the top of his voice for all 40 minutes of every game. The self-appointed “number one Brandeis basketball fan” is a one-man cheering section, getting his fellow fans going as best he can and wearing a custom-made shirt with the words “Deis, Deis, Deis” on the front and “I’m Allen” on the back.

“I’m trying to watch it a little bit this year, but it’s pretty much the same rotation each time: ‘Let’s go Brandeis,’ ‘Hands-Up (clap clap), De-fense, Hands-Up (clap clap), De-fense;’ ‘D-up, D-up, D-up, D-up, D-up, D-up,’ ‘Work the ball, work the ball, work the ball.’ You go whenever you score a basket in a hard game,” Karon said.

In his free time, Karon has taken to traveling with the team, hitching rides with players’ parents to non-conference games and to the Appalachian outposts of Rochester and Carnegie. Last year, he took a plane to make his second-ever showing at a Midwest game. His appearance at the first annual Ratner Beach Night won the attention and acclaim of all those in attendance with his trademark call of “‘Deis! ‘Deis! ‘Deis! Let’s Go Blue!” This included Maroons players like third-year forward Tom Watson, who founded a Facebook group in response to Karon’s persistent shouts.

“I got to thinking about what our version of Allen’s shirt would be and came up with ‘’Cago, ’Cago, ’Cago, I’m Tom.’  I created a Facebook group [with that name] to amuse a couple of friends and I, but it soon attracted others who had been touched by Allen’s cheers,” Watson said. “[Third-year forward] Nate [Hainje] made some shirts for me as a gift and before long Allen’s legend grew to mythical proportions. Obviously Allen is one of the best fans in the UAA and his enthusiasm is unmatched.”

Virtually every squad in college sports has at least one or two followers who bleed the school colors. But few take it to the lengths that Karon does, and even fewer are more than just fans. Karon is a student of the game and one of the most dedicated disciples of Division III basketball as a whole. In college, he expanded his cheering repertoire by picking up tips from fans at Suffolk, Boston University and Northeastern, sometimes attending games at all three schools in a single day. He is a major presence on the message boards, posting his expert analysis and, as he admits, more than a little friendly taunting under the moniker “deiscanton.”

“I’m being a little more lower key right now, trying not to do as much trash talking because of the karma factor. There are a lot of good teams out there now,” Karon said. “I’m most familiar with the New England teams, but I read a lot and I follow things pretty closely.”

Karon, who suffers from Asperger syndrome, is currently unemployed and makes the trip to Judges away games on his own dime. While he makes sure to take the trip to NYU every year and trekked up to Rochester on January 5, trying to make the Midwest swing an annual affair would put a little too much of a dent in his finances. But the Maroons can expect to see and hear him next weekend at Auerbach, just as they did on their last seven trips to Waltham.

“I know I’m in the conference now, and I’m going to have to be ready,” Karon said. “It’s the UAA. You’ve got to do as best you can at home.”