If you've been to a few games at the Rock this season, no doubt you have seen Cameron. A balding, hefty dude who gets on up, does something resembling dancing, takes off his jersey, and then prances about taking off one of his 6 or 7 t-shirts and throwing it to a crowd. He leads chants, gets people clapping during the game, and has yielded mostly positive reactions to wherever he is. Despite what you may gather from the description, he's really, really good at getting people excited at games.
Via the Devils board at Hockey's Future, his, uh, spot got blown up last night. You see, for Cameron Hughes, what he does is his job. He's a paid, for lack of a better word, cheerleader. The NY Post found him out and reported on Hughes as he started his stuff at a Knicks game (seriously, the Knicks?) recently. He does his bit for the Devils, the Atlanta Hawks, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and others. Hughes also gets paid incredibly well for it too. I don't begrudge him for getting paid to go nuts!
However, it is disappointing in a way that the Devils are essentially paying someone to get people to publicly excited. It's not surprising if you think about it though. Really, just think about it - do you think you would be able to gallop about through the arena during the game, sit wherever during the game, and get up, dance, and throw a ton of t-shirts in between? I think by the second section, an usher or security would kindly ask you to leave.
However, what I find most disappointing isn't that he's a plant and not actually a Devils fan. I'm sure that would bother some of you, and understandably so. Yet, I'm more disappointed in that Cameron Hughes or someone like him is necessary.
From where I see it, this is hockey. A sport where players get hit, you can witness amazing plays in a matter of seconds, and enjoy the ecstasy of a goal being scored by your favorite team (as well as endure the agony of a goal scored against your favorite team). Yet, the majority of people are essentially sitting on their hands all game! Some even complain if you try to get some banter going unless you're with the Crazies or up in 215 or 209 (by Scott Mackie)! Upset that you paid your money and would like to do more than just sit and look at the rink - something you could do at home while watching it on TV.
Back to the rest of the fans. If they chant, it's only when someone else (or other sections) start something off. Otherwise, it's just when the Devils score, get a call in their favor, and at the end of periods and the game. Oh, and when the Rangers Suck. And that's it! That's why there's always a PA or a jumbotron sign or a mascot or a dance team trying to coax a reaction out of them. That's a reason the Crazies and other crews get so loud, to get their infectious brand of fandom out there. Yet it feels like I'm the only one following in down in Section 1. It's like a large percentage of the people going to the game are ashamed to make some noise! Ashamed to support the Devils vocally!
Exclamations aside, that's the unfortunate fact. If you're not trying to create the atmosphere - the general feeling in the arena that boosts the home team's morale and intimidates opponents - then you're part of the problem, really. Bless those unofficial supporters groups for sticking through and bringing the sounds of support, be it a 7-2 win by New Jersey or a 4-0 loss to Atlanta. And so, there is some one like Cameron Hughes there.
Cameron Hughes works. He succeeds where others have failed, even if it's for a little bit. You can deny his integrity, being a "hired fan," but you can't deny his charisma. But now with this report out there, who knows for how much longer? Will the fans be immediately turned off by his antics knowing that he is not actually a fan of the team? Could the Devils replace him with a Devils die-hard (don't look at me, I wish I had a fifth of his charisma)? And how much will the atmosphere be hurt by this, should he be let go?
Maybe I'm exaggerating, but the fact is that he does something what most aren't able to do: get strangers otherwise unwilling to get loud making noise. And I don't know about you, but I don't want that to go away. I don't want the Rock to be more of a library. You can't tell me that the most of the rest of the fans can make up for it; they've proven over and over again that they can't. I wish I could be proven wrong and the general fanbase can provide a very powerful atmosphere on a regular basis. Then it wouldn't matter if Cameron Hughes is at a Devils game or not.