Inside the Curtain of Distraction

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It only takes a little more than a hundred bucks and some creativity to create The Next Big Thing in college hoops.

Look no further than the front row of the student section at Arizona State basketball games for proof.

That’s where you’ll find the Curtain of Distraction, a gallery of absurdity that’s taken distracting opposing free-throw shooters and turned it into a signature for the university and earned international renown.

Tim Schodt, a senior political science major, boasts one of the signature distractions, routinely stripping down to his skivvies and dragging a giant, homemade wrecking ball and chain behind the curtain for a demented tribute to Miley Cyrus’ iconic “Wrecking Ball” music video from 2013. Two attendants on both sides of the goal man the black curtain, which is simply strung up on a frame of PVC pipe painted yellow. Once the free-throw shooter gets the ball, they slide the curtain back, dramatically revealing a customized distraction meant to draw the shooter’s eyes from the rim.

There’s the Unicorn Love Story, where two students wearing unicorn masks wait behind the curtain. When they’re revealed, one jumps into the other’s arms and a vigorous makeout session begins. In another, two students hold a third in a kayak. He rows, while the rest of the student section simultaneously reflects his strokes.

The Curtain of Distraction made its debut during the 2013-14 season, and over time the costumes and props have piled up in a small storage room inside the tunnel at Wells Fargo Arena. In total, the curtain boasts more than 100 possible distractions. It’s had an on-floor impact, too. A New York Times study last year found the curtain’s presence “appears to give Arizona State an additional one- to two-point advantage per home game.”

No distraction gained the student section more attention than when future assistant swimming coach Michael Phelps, who also happens to be the most successful Olympian of all time, showed up behind the curtain last month.

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About Author

Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)

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