Painting the Palestra Red and Blue
Penn's Red and Blue Crew is about more than chest paint, streamers and chanting – it's about fanship and loyalty
December 2, 2013, 8:35 pm·
Carolyn Lim | DP
A few times a year the echoes awaken.
A few times a year, all 8,722 people that paid for a seat in the historic Palestra arise simultaneously, creating a thunderous harmony of applause and cheers in an effort to will the home team on to victory.
A few times a year, students transform from Penngineers to Cameron Crazies, creating a fan’s nirvana in the Mecca of College Basketball.
But a few times is certainly not every time.
It’s simply impossible to duplicate the atmosphere of a Princeton game on a Saturday night when UMBC strolls into Philly for a midweek nonconference matchup.
Impossible … unless you’re a member of the Red and Blue Crew.
Without fail, Andrew Wynne, Jonathan Cousins, Joost Charlow, Jordan Holmes, Kelli Bosse and Nick Greiner assume their positions along the baseline, covered in red and blue paint, ready to rally the troops and give Penn a home-court advantage.
“I love Penn and the embodiment of that love is sports,” Holmes said. “Showing up to all of the games and dressing up in crazy colors is just what we do.”
It’s not just the chest paint that makes up their identity. The red and blue streamers, chants and rollout signs that have become such an integral aspect of Big Five rivalries are all Red and Blue Crew traditions brought to life on a nightly basis.
“The Red and Blue Crew is completely about bonding through sports and particularly basketball,” Wynne said. “I didn’t know any of the other leadership members before joining, but our love for Penn basketball has made us close.”
It’s that camaraderie and a genuine love of the players that keeps the crew coming back despite all the triumphs and heartbreaks that come with rooting for the Quakers.
“It’s fierce loyalty,” Holmes said.
That loyalty is what brings together a squad of giants and a self-described “five-foot-five Jewish kid that grew up idolizing Allen Iverson.” It’s a give-and-take relationship where the players need the fans just as much as the fans need the team.
This was evident right from the first game of this season. With the Red and Blue rallying back from a 15-point deficit, it was the Red and Blue crew that played a big part of the campus. The deafening cheers nearly blew the roof off the sacred arena, and the players clearly responded to it.
Coming off the court, star guard and senior captain Miles Cartwright stood in front of the student section and waved his arms frantically, relying on his loyal supporters and friends to keep Penn’s energy up and rattle the Owls.
“It’s the feeling in the stadium during a tight game with a big crowd,” Wynne said. “When the Palestra gets rocking and the bleachers start shaking, it’s the kind of moment that college basketball is all about.”
With an unlimited supply of heart, the Red and Blue are dreaming big.
“I don’t like making predictions,” Holmes said. “But I have a good feeling about this year.”
While the ultimate goal of any Penn team is an Ivy League championship, it’s also a dream for the fans.
“Making the tournament would mean everything,” Wynne said. “A culmination of everything I have been through as a fan over these past four years. I couldn’t want it more for the guys, and also more selfishly, for myself.”
It’s a thought so amazing and incredible to Holmes that he had a tough time putting it into words.
“I love this school and this team in particular so much but really, I would want the guys to go to the tournament because they deserve it,” he said. “They are such nice guys and to see them work hard and be rewarded with a tournament experience would mean the world.
“Living vicariously through them, you know?”