John McCann waves the flag for his daughter’s team and teaches students a thing or two about bringing college spirit to the stands amidst STU’s known attendance problems
Everyone who sat near John McCann watched his St. Thomas flag cut through the air above their heads. He sat among Mount Allison sweaters, but had a smile on his face.
“We’ve got a good game on our hands,” he said to a man passing by.
McCann is the super fan of the varsity Tommies women’s basketball team. The father of third-year starter Kathleen McCann, he attends every home game. But his support for his daughter and the Tommies doesn’t stop at the South Gym. He takes his flag on the road and even opens his doors to the team.
“I made the resolution this year that we were going to go to all her games. We went to the States last weekend and they stayed at our house when they came for the Miramichi tournament,” he said.
McCann stood while the first notes of the national anthem echoed through the gym. He took off the Tommies hat that covered his greying hair and put his hand over his heart.
As the anthem faded out, everyone sat back down – except McCann who stood as tall as the flag by his side.
“Kathleen McCann, number 12,” Kyle Douglas said from the announcers table.
Her father raised his flag and swung it with both hands. The skin around his eyes creased behind his glasses as he cheered. He watched his daughter slap her teammates’ hands.
“When my dad runs with the flag, it always makes me laugh. In a way, it really lightens the mood and helps me relax before a game,” she said.
“One, two, STU!” the girls’ fists were in the air and McCann’s white running sneakers left the floor where he was standing.
His St. Thomas flag carried him across the gym in front of the crowd. He ran to a sea of gold-and-green sweaters and stopped. The game was starting.
“When she [Kathleen] was in Grade 10, they made it to regional playoffs and we took an old bed sheet that I had at home and went to the school. All the team decorated it for the game. I put a hockey stick in the end of it, and just started waving it around. So that’s where I got my start with the flag.”
By half-time, the Tommies were leading 30-18 against Mount Allison.
Ron Murdoch sat on the top of a plastic chair, feet on the seat. The word Tommies stretched out across his belly and his green scarf was wrapped three times around his neck.
“I have a St. Thomas flag that I lent to the team three years ago when they went to Quebec or Ontario, and I bring it to the hockey games. It’s at the Beaverbrook rink permanently. I’m going to have it put up somewhere where it can be displayed for the whole year.”
Paul Patterson thinks McCann’s spirit is refreshing.
“School spirit is a big problem here. I’m alumnus and when I go to games all I run into is old alumni like myself that have graduated from here years ago. You don’t see many students here, it’s a bit of a crime. The team is definitely worth watching.”
McCann played some basketball in high school, but admits he was never as good as Kathleen.
Still, he has made a name for himself in the gym. If he isn’t chanting “defence” by the basket or taking his flag for a run across the court, the team notices.
“The first year Kathleen was playing – when I didn’t cheer – the senior girls, they’d say, ‘We didn’t hear you cheer,’ so I guess they like to hear it.”
McCann works as a physician at the Miramichi Hospital. He said he gets wound up at work too, but always tries to keep a lid on it.
His wife has come to accept her eccentric husband, but doesn’t join in the fun.
“She doesn’t run around with me, but she’s here. I think she hides her head, but she’s always here.”
The Tommies finished up the game with a 90-32 win over MTA and McCann’s flag in the air.
“I have always loved the way my dad supports the teams I play on. He has always been my biggest fan,” Kathleen said. “And I honestly hate when he misses games because it just isn’t the same without him.”