Edin Sehovic was blue from the neck down when he handed in his first-year anatomy and physiology midterm.
“Now my professor knows me as the guy who was blue that one time,” he said.
It wasn’t a good luck charm, an exam ritual or a colossal wardrobe malfunction — it was more about convenience than anything else. Sehovic needed to write his midterm and head straight to the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) to watch the Ryerson Rams men’s basketball team play in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) National Championship in March 2015. He didn’t have time to “paint up” after, so he did it before the exam.
“That’s not what most first-years do,” Sehovic said. You’re kidding.
Sehovic is one of the four founders — along with then-first-years Jared Armstrong, Tommy Williams and Derek Chen — of the RamPack. The RamPack is a student cheering group whose members love their school athletes. No matter the sport, men’s or women’s, you can find the group at any game at the MAC, cheering enthusiastically.
Prior to the start of the national basketball championship, Sehovic and a few of his friends from residence decided to “paint up” to support their fellow Rams, but they didn’t expect to be the only supporters.
“It’s nationals, it’s a huge event, we’re definitely not going to be the only ones this rowdy, so we said let’s do it — and we were definitely the only ones painted up,” Sehovic said.
From then on, the RamPack was born and the group gained a reputation for bringing energy to Rams’ games. Ryerson is a commuter campus and that’s often cited as the reason instances of school spirit are hard to come by — especially at sporting events, which happen at irregular hours and aren’t always hosted on campus. The RamPack wants to change that by bringing more passion and excitement to watching games, hopefully making sporting events more appealing to other students.
“It was just nice to have that pumped-up feeling cause like, at Rams’ games we went to before, everyone was just sitting there having some popcorn and beer and just watching, nothing too exciting,” said Chen.
They are known to get creative, staging the birth of a baby Ram during a men’s basketball game. One member would place his heels up on a railing with a blanket covering his lower-half and begin to, shall I say, groan excessively. After a few seconds of pretend “pushing,” a small plush Ram would emerge from beneath the blanket, and the crowd would just “go nuts,” says Luke Bellus, a second-year RamPack member.
As their presence at Rams’ games grew, so did their group. Mustafa Bendago joined the following year as a first-year, and is still a member to this day.
Bendago has a distraction strategy called Iso-Moose; “Iso” for isolation and “Moose” as his nickname. It’s designed strictly to get into an opposing player’s head. Or in some cases, their coach.
A Ryerson basketball player was at the free-throw line and the away team’s coach instructed his players to anticipate a miss and box out for the rebound.
“He’s not going to miss coach, he isn’t going to need no box out.” Bendago yelled.
The opposing coach turned to look at Bendago and shrugged sheepishly in what he probably thought as the ultimate “gotcha” moment. Little did he know this was much to Bendago’s delight.
“Ah that’s what I like. You’re not even paying attention to the game, you’re paying attention to me coach,” Bendago shouted back.
Another RamPack favourite is waging war with the opposing team’s huddles during timeouts. According to Bellus, teams have had to sometimes move their huddles — a sign of victory for hecklers.
“We feed off that because they acknowledge the fact that we’re in their head and they can hear us, so we feel like in a small way, we try to (influence) the outcome of the game,” Bellus says.
But sometimes those moves backfire. Last year, for a men’s and women’s basketball doubleheader against Brock University at the MAC, Brock brought its own group of fans to Ryerson to try to compete with the RamPack. Being in Rams’ territory, Bellus tried to put a stop to it.
Ryerson was up big on Brock by halftime at the game, so Bellus decided to go sit right in the middle of the away team’s cheering section. He was shirtless, covered in blue paint with a giant yellow M on his chest, away from the other three letters that would spell out Rams.
“The thing about me is I’m six-foot-three and 170 pounds. So I’m not physically intimidating anyone,” he said.
Brock fans glared at him and quickly got right up in his face and told him repeatedly to hit the weight room. Check the score Bellus said. But it didn’t work.
“Hit the weight room, hit the weight room,” chanted the whole section, echoing through the MAC. Bellus Snapchatted the whole debacle.
“I had to get out of Dodge before things got out of hand … any more than they already did,” Bellus says, laughing.
It isn’t just basketball that they get rowdy at. They can be found at volleyball, hockey and even some soccer games. The school spirit shown by the RamPack never went unnoticed.
A year after the group began appearing at games, they’d grown so big that interim president Mohamed Lachemi approved a request to help the RamPack cover costs to send them to opposite ends of the country for the men’s and women’s CIS national basketball championships. Their instructions? Be loud, be rowdy, represent the school and cheer on the Rams.
Fifteen RamPack members travelled to the men’s finals in Vancouver and 13 went to Fredericton, N.B., for the women’s finals.
“Wow,” said Sehovic looking back on nationals last year. “We really accomplished something with this bullshit hobby that everyone said, ‘Why are you wasting your time?’ So that was kind of the coolest (moment) for me.”
Neither Ryerson team won gold, but RamPack members said the experience was unforgettable.
According to Bendago, they’re only looking to grow in the future.
“(Basketball) has really helped us build the culture there so we’re going to try and spread it to other sports,” he said.
To help improve the campus feel at Ryerson, Bellus says they need more people to participate, regardless of their level of intensity. And no, not everyone needs to start delivering baby rams right away.
“Come to games,” he said. “We go and we have a good time regardless if it’s just six of us there or if there’s a packed gym. But it’s a lot easier to create that atmosphere for that home court advantage if we have more students. So I would just try to encourage people to come out as often as they can.”
“We’re idiots, yeah, but we have a good time. It’s fun though. It’s a lot of fun,” Bellus said.