Shrouded in legend, the fabled saga of The Show had the humblest of beginnings, in an era when a game known as basketball was marginally viewed as a spectator sport on Montezuma Mesa. The year was 2001, and the Aztecs were coming off of their first non-loss season in years, albeit a .500 year at 14-14. However, the program was starting to forge an identity, with wins the previous year against Oklahoma State and Arizona State, as well as having program-changing transfer Randy Holcomb entering his senior year. In turn, a small yet boisterous group of fans began to band together, establishing the roots of fandom that would someday be known as The Show.
Some individuals had been friends for years, some had been following the program since childhood, and some were actually still in high school — however, they all shared a common and unmistakeable bond of Aztec pride, as well as a knack for annoying the opposing team. Positioning themselves behind the basket and near the opposing team's bench and tunnel, the group used this strategic spot to unleash a verbal wrath upon victims with reckless abandon. This seat selection would play a big part in the innovations that The Show would soon develop, changing then Cox Arena — and college basketball — forever.
After playing an inspired 2001-2002 season, the underdog Aztecs took their new-found momentum (and fan base) to Las Vegas for the Mountain West Tournament. With an unlikely win against BYU in the first round and Wyoming in the semis, SDSU was set to face hometown favorite UNLV in the finals. However, these weren't the Aztecs of old — this was the dawning of a legitimate basketball program. With time winding down and the team hanging on to a precarious lead, throngs of Aztec fans began to hover around the baseline for something once thought unfathomable — a conference tournament championship and a court rush. Right as the final buzzer was about to sound, football player Akbar Gbaja-Biamila looked over to a Rebel fan and stated, "Remember this day, when the Aztecs came into your arena and rushed onto your court!" And then the buzzer sounded.
The Aztecs were going dancing.
Although as a group they were casual friends, the trip to the NCAAs in Chicago is what truly formed the foundation of what would become The Show. It wasn't just a group of fans — it was a brotherhood. It was the start of something big.
The 2002-2003 season became a turning point for the group. The success of the team the previous year brought more interest from fans, and the group of friends sought to do more to psychologically effect the opposing team. In turn, the invention of the "faces" or "big heads" came about. Inspired by the cinematic classic BASEketball, where you could do whatever you want to distract a free throw shooter to make him miss, and the show PTI, which features blown up athlete and celebrity faces in the background of the set, the group combined the two aspects to "psych out" free throw shooters of the opposing team by holding up a large, cut out head of a celebrity — a disturbing photo of Michael Jackson. Unleashed to the unsuspecting shooter right as he toed the line, the face was welcomed with confusion and laughter by opposing players. One thing was clear, however — unlike waving around balloons, pom-poms, and other objects, the disturbing mug of Jacko was catching player's attentions.
Drawing on that aspect, more were created — Gene Simmons (with a realistic waving tongue) and Siegfried & Roy, were first up. As the numbers grew, so did the looks from the opposing players and bench, as well as free throw misses. So more were made, primarily a collection of quirky celebs like Chris Farley, Conan O'Brien, Larry King, Chuck Norris, Richard Simmons and Emilio Estevez. In the future, this element of distraction would be copied by Marquette University, Indiana University and a litany of others, and is now a staple of many college basketball arenas across the nation.
As the impact of the faces grew, so did the visibility of the group. Already setting themselves apart from the typical student fan sections that tend appear homogenous and mindless by wearing the same colors or shirts, this group of rowdy Aztec fans represented themselves in an individual fashion, a trait still respected today. Instead of matching attire, it was a mixture of afros and mexican wrestling masks, of sombreros and fedoras. Soon, the group found itself on the in-arena jumbotron on a regular basis, and began playing to the crowd to generate excitement and laughs. Also for a short time, members also began to venture onto the floor and take on roles normally reserved by cheerleaders, holding up signs to cue cheers by the rest of the fans. And because of this, the group garnered it's name.
"You guys think you're the whole show."
It was that statement on an SDSU sports message board regarding the group's antics that jokingly gave birth to the moniker The Show.
Never seriously considering themselves "the whole show", The Show did realize the impact that a loud and engaging fan base could have on a basketball program. In the coming years, more hardcore fans joined the ranks, and the effect of The Show was felt by players and coaches throughout the league. The Aztecs and head coach Steve Fisher loved them, and opposing teams began to dread what information they dredged up on the internet or media guides to use as ammunition. One of The Show's favorite targets over the years was former Wyoming coach Steve McClain, who they facially likened to a rat, holding up an array of large cardboard cutouts with the coaches face on the body of a rat. While McClain did his best to ignore the signs, the Wyoming players did their best to hide their laughter while on the bench, usually elbowing each other and biting onto their towels to prevent their coach from hearing them laugh.
In more recent times, The Show has gained a bit of notoriety, and flack, by dressing up as missionaries while facing the team from BYU. Although donning bike helmets and sporting short sleeved dress shirts had roots back in The Show's early days, it didn't start to ruffle feathers until the 2009-2010 season, when dozens of Show members sported the outfit en masse. While the majority of BYU fans and followers of the Mormon faith saw the humor in it, a small collection of thin-skinned fans took exception to the act and formally complained to the school.
Over the years, The Show has striven to do what it can to further the support of San Diego State basketball. Whether it be the yearly student t-shirt giveaway done solely by The Show and a gracious sponsor, the expanding collection of "faces" to get more fans involved, or just creating a fun environment to be a part of, the message is clear — the original group of fans that forged this group is not The Show. If you support this team in an enthusiastic, vocal manner, then You are The Show. If you get to the arena an hour before tip-off to harass the opposing team and to cheer the Aztecs, then You are The Show. If you understand that you are a part of something special and that you have an impact on the outcome of the game, then You are The Show. If you suit up and take the court, representing thousands of die-hard fans who support you through thick and thin, then You are The Show.
Together, We Are The Show, and the saga continues.