“Hey!! Don’t I know that guy in the Redfoo wig hollering like a maniac? WAIT!! Isn’t that Mitch? You know, the guy from Compliance?? What, wait a minute?!!”
“Yes’m that’s me!” I text back, or Tweet or reply on Facebook with a big grin whenever a friend from church or work, a former boss or friend from my hometown asks why they see my face plastered all over a TV screen or on a billboard as they are driving through Atlanta.
After 30 years in commercial banking, primarily as a senior regulatory compliance officer, I am often asked why I am a member of the rowdy disparate group of people known as the Kia 6th Man Section of the Atlanta Hawks. If you have been to an Atlanta Hawks home game or watched the Hawks on TV, there is a really good chance you have seen and heard the 6th Man Section.
It is my duty, privilege-JOY- to scream, dance, dress in wigs, costumes, paint my face and do anything asked of me to promote the spirit of the Hawks that brings energy and life to the crowds at every home game.
While it may seem like a simple task, when you get to be 55, standing and yelling for 3 hours straight is a chore. If the players are playing, our mandate is to be yelling. There have been many days after a game, my colleagues would be concerned that I might have come down with a cold, because I could hardly talk. My response has always been, “No, I just have the Hawks!”
Of course, the Hawks regularly have theme nights, and the Kia 6th Man Section always supports the cause. Whether its photo bombing an opposing team’s fan, dressing up as a Star Wars character or in 1970’s gear, we are there for our team.
There have been many times over the last 6 years that I would get a text message from my boss, a friend or family member…. “Mitch, I just saw you on TV.” At one point, an executive of the bank would just text “again”. One of my high school buddies from Albany, Georgia, Jimmy Joiner, was recently flying out of the Denver airport. I received a Facebook post from him, “Just walked off the plane, looked up and there was your face plastered all over the TV.”
And while all of this adds a lot of excitement to the game, it also leads to the same question, Mitch why are you participating in this?
In my profession, I deal with anti-money laundering, international sanctions, and consumer protection compliance. Many see my profession as the schoolmarms of a bank, enforcing strict adherence to arbitrary rules. I often have told my friends, that going to the game and being in the section is great for stress reduction. If you knew me, you know being loud comes very naturally to me.
Being crazy with a crew of college kids is a wonderful escape from the day’s reality too. When my physicians ask me if I get enough exercise, I always tell them that between October and March, sometimes through May, I get in 3 straight hours of aerobics and cardiovascular work outs 2 to 3 times a week.
Over the years, the Kia 6th Man Section has taken several road trips. On our first trip to Charlotte, Zaza Pachulia tweeted during warm-ups that he could hear us and couldn’t believe we had come. After many games, the players will take the time to stop by and thank us.
As any Hawks fan on Twitter knows, Big Al, Mike Muscala, BAZEMORE! and others always interact with the fans. As a side note, I wish Mike Scott would post Sock Saturday pictures again, I never know what to wear now.
It really blew me away this year, when I asked Mike Muscala if he would help me with my annual Kia 6th Man Tryouts, and he said yes! Every year everyone wanting to participate in the Kia 6th Man Section for the season must try out. You would think after screaming and jumping for more than 200 games, the powers that be would know I can yell! But Mike came, we had “Moose Goggles” prepared and now, if you watch a Hawks game on Fox Sports South, you will more than likely see a promo shot that night.
I attend Passion City Church in Buckhead. The Passion Conferences that are held annually are affiliated with the church, as Louie Giulio, Chris Tomlin, Christy Nockles and a host of others are our leaders. One of our big projects over the last several years is EndIt, a movement to end human trafficking. During the public awareness campaigns, you might have seen the large red x’s. Two years ago, Kyle bought everyone in the 6th Man Section an EndIt shirt and asked that we come down on the court. Having the players show their support really affirms our efforts.
All of these reasons are the obvious reasons one would expect being a part of a group like this; however, there is an even greater, overriding reason why I love the Kia 6th Man Section. Over the last 7 years, we have become part of a family. This family extends beyond the members of the section, too.
In December, I was standing in the section and a lady approached me, asking if I was Mitch Everett. All I could think of was that I had either offended someone with my antics or that she was one of the employees at my new place of work. When I cautiously acknowledged who I was, she stated she and her husband were Mike Muscala’ s parents and they wanted to thank the section for always supporting their son and cheering on the team even when they are losing. That blew me away!
And our family includes the other employees, too. Tigger has always been stationed behind Section 118. This year he was moved into our group. All of his fans certainly add to our nightly fun.
We used to have to be at the games 1 ½ hours before tip-off. That certainly gave us enough free time to get into trouble! To kill the time, I would check in on Foursquare in Section 118. Of course, I soon became the “Mayor”. One of the other members discovered this, and word got out that I was THE MAYOR! I Yelp now, and have been promoted to Duke!
For some unknown reason, we started yelling out various random people’s names as they passed by the 6th Man Section; Jerome Jurenovich, the Stinger, Bob Rathbun and Steve Holman, I’m sure we give them huge headaches.
I can’t remember now why we started yelling at Beth Carter. We just yell a lot! She was a statistician with the Hawks for the sports broadcasters and had to walk past us multiple times a game. We would scream “ELIZABETH!!!” Over the years we have watched her daughter grow up from a baby, to a Hawks dancer now!
My buddy Ryan Coller, a Senior Group Sales Consultant with the Hawks, used to send me emails all the time, wanting to sell me season tickets. I always thought to myself, dude, I’m not going to buy a ticket, I have the best gig in town! Then I finally met him at church in a small group. This year Ryan and his wife had their first child. And who knew, but Beth and her family go to the same church! In a city the size of Atlanta, the Hawks organization can certainly make it a smaller, happier place\
There are so many other people I could tell you about, Raymond in the Hawk’s Store, the Ladies at the Bar-B-Que restaurant (Melitta got married this year), Jim the camera man, and MOOOOOOOEEEEEE!
This is especially true for the fellow members of 6th Man Section. If you consider there are approximately 42 homes games a year, and some of us have been a member of the section for 6 years, and our time together for each game is about 4 hours, that’s over 1,000 hours we have invested in each other.
When we first started Jordan Valdes was 13, and the dude’s in college now! Daniel Norton and Jessica Rodriguez started in the section in 2010, were married in 2011 and had their beautiful daughter two years ago. We are growing our own future 6th Man Members now! Now even Johnny Smallwood’s engaged!
Tyler Cromey and his wife Lydia had a similar story. Last year, however Tyler fought and won a second bout with cancer. True to being a part of the family, Al filmed and posted a great video encouraging our friend.
We have had several families in the section, like Daniel Fu, and his son’s Joshua and Jacob. Stacee Wicks Treasure and her daughter and son were faithful members for years. These days the Riescher clan has taken over, with Russ (tambourine man) and his son’s Joe and Jake. Our resident twins Andrea and Angela bring their husbands and often their children.
It’s more than about cheering on a winning team; any bandwagon fan can do that. It’s more than simply showing up at a game, or meeting a player. The answer is simple – this is my Hawks Family and I care about my crew! We are #HawksBros !!!
How long will I participate? As long as the founder and manager of the Section, Drew Frank picks me and Steve Koonin allows me! #TrueToAtlanta. We are the Atlanta Hawks!