Inside the Cult of The JimmerPosted by rtmsf on February 16th, 2011
Kraig Williams is an RTC contributor. He lives in Utah and has witnessed the Jimmer Phenomenon closely over these last four years.
The Cult of The Jimmer grows every day. Fredette finds converts not with a door-to-door approach but with word of mouth and YouTube videos. He wins over non-believers with an effortless jumpshot and a quick release that is nearly impossible to defend. Fredette does not wear a suit and tie with a name tag on his breast pocket while converting members. Instead he wears a tank top with his name on the back and the number 32 below, a combo that is often copied on the shirts of 22,000+ fans in the Marriott Center, almost all of whom came to see him play.
To understand The Cult of The Jimmer, it is important to understand the culture of basketball in Utah. The Beehive State loves its hoops; with the notable exception of Indiana, there are few places that love basketball more. Every LDS church house has a small basketball gym inside. These gyms host scores of underground pick-up games during the year and organized leagues of church ball, the unofficial slogan of which is “The brawl that begins with a prayer.” Utah only has one professional sport, the NBA, where the beloved Jazz dominated the Western Conference for years. Every self-respecting boy who grew up in Utah in the last 20 years dreamed of one day being the next John Stockton or Karl Malone. Even lesser stars like Jeff Hornacek, Byron Russell and Antoine Carr are all revered to this day.
It has been a long time since the Marriott Center has been the place to be seen on the BYU campus, and Fredette is the reason why it is en vogue this season. The arena is full almost every night the Cougars are in town, no small accomplishment for a building that seats 22,700 people. In a year where college basketball has lacked a mainstream superstar, Fredette has filled the void. Locally while the Jazz are floundering in another so-so season, the Cougars have been steadily grabbing the headlines. Fredette has gotten so much national attention that the Salt Lake City’s Deseret News has been doing stories on people doing stories on Fredette, or stories on who is tweeting about Fredette, all of which are warranted by the people wanting to read stories on their newest hero. So few are the dissenters of the cult of Jimmer that they are publically mocked online and nobody bats an eyelash.
Why the love for Jimmer? Besides the fact that he is really good at putting balls through hoops, he is a role model for kids growing up in the state. Fredette is not particularly large nor fast. He lacks the physical attributes that can make NBA stars like LeBron James hard to relate to. Instead, Fredette is the guy that every young Utahn imagined themselves to be when they took the floor in their youth leagues or in pick-up games; a guy that can hit a jumper from anywhere on the court; a guy that you could have been had you just spent some more time growing up in the gym working on your outside shot.
Being a humble soft-spoken superstar does not hurt either. Even where I live, in the shadow of Utah State University, there are few Jimmer haters. There mostly exists just a quiet respect for a guy that plays for a team nearly everyone around here despises. Two hours to the south, in Provo, it is a different story. The quiet reverence for The Jimmer’s game turns into a loud roar coming from the massive student section in the Marriott Center; a student section that passed around a giant Fredette head in celebration of their recent 78-64 victory against UNLV. That afternoon was a quiet one for Fredette. He scored “just” 29 points, thanks mostly to a 16-16 effort from the free throw line. Fredette took advantage of the UNLV double-teams to dish seven assists, and let his teammates capitalize on wide open looks. Afterword the crowd filing out of the Marriott Center marveled that he scored 29 points despite being “roughed up” by the tough UNLV defense. Others sounded a little disappointed they did not get to see one of the 40-point outbursts for which Fredette had become known.
That best illustrates the Cult of The Jimmer, a place where you can be disappointed by a 29-point outing and a 14-point victory, because the show-stopping point guard did not put on a big enough performance.