Breaking the Tension — A Fan’s Double Role

Breaking+the+Tension+%E2%80%94+A+Fan%E2%80%99s+Double+Role

It’s match day at the Michigan State Indoor Tennis Facility. With over 200 fans in attendance, traditional tennis silence ensues.

“Gooooo greeeeen!” chants one fan, which rumbles in all directions of the stands. A few scattered, whimpering “Go white” echo back. Moments later, another boom of “Go green!” comes from the fan and echoes in the facility — louder this time. More fans join in the response, “Go white!” Now, about 100 additional fans are fired up in their seats.

“I’ve never heard anyone project like Sonny can,” said junior John Patrick Mullane, who plays No. 1 singles on the MSU men’s tennis team. “He’s definitely the loudest one and he can make up about 50 people just himself.”

image2
Sonny Jadun (pictured above) looks on to the courts in the MSU indoor tennis facility.

Some of the fans are parents of the athletes, program alumni or students supporting friends on the team, but Sonny Jadun stands out from the rest. He is decked out in a Spartan track jacket with the official MSU tennis logo on the upper left chest and dark green Spartan pants, with a Spartan ‘S’ hat on top.

“He [Sonny] loves tennis more than anybody I know,” said Sonny’s son and senior tennis player, Harry Jadun. “Every single guy that’s come through has fed off his energy and they love playing home matches.”

Sonny Jadun’s love for tennis began in his native Pakistan, where he was a squash player. He immigrated to the United States for work, picked up a tennis racket one day and started hitting. He has never looked back.

“He’ll have work [as an engineer] at 6 a.m., he’ll go in and hit [for fun] at 5 a.m.,” Harry said. “Every single day he’s out there hitting with an 89-year old guy. He probably hits more than me and I’m a college tennis athlete.”

When Harry was in high school, Sonny served in Afghanistan for two and a half years and was not able to attend the majority of his son’s tennis matches for his junior and senior years of high school. However, he was able to catch Harry at his state championship appearance senior year and attended the major games on the schedule. This is one of the many reasons that his affinity toward MSU tennis is so strong.

“He really gets into the matches because he had my older brother and he knows I’m the last one [to play Big Ten college tennis] in the Jadun family,” Harry said. “He didn’t have a lot of time to cheer on my older brother and he probably just said ‘Screw it. Last ride. I’m gonna go wild with it.’”

Revamping The Cheering Section

“In the youth level, parents can’t talk to the kids during the matches — you see your child right in front of you and you can’t do anything when he’s playing matches. When I got to the MSU tennis matches, NCAA rules allow cheering of tennis. It’s a great opportunity to support the team,” Sonny said.

Michigan State men’s tennis head coach Gene Orlando commends Sonny for what he does for the game.

“In my 24 years of coaching here, and years playing, [I’ve] never had a fan be as vocal and still be considerate as Mr. Jadun,” Orlando proudly proclaimed. “Never seen it at any school. To do it the right way — clean, not taking it overboard, not making it personal — is great.”

Team Impact

The cheering does not stop for Sonny after home meets. He is a civil engineer for the Federal Highway Administration and is able to book his work schedule around the team’s away games. Sonny has traveled as far south as North Carolina and as far west as California. He attends about one third of the away games during the year.

“I always laugh when he’s at away matches. He’s one of the first people in the crowd no matter what,” Mullane said. “And he’ll lean over and wave his Michigan State flag in a figure eight motion all over the court just to mark our territory that the Spartans have arrived. It signifies that we’re here and ready to battle. I love seeing that wherever we go. You always want to play in front of family.”

Sonny Jadun attends every home game for Michigan State men's tennis. The men were 14-3 at home last year, winning by a three-point margin for 13 of those 14 wins.
Sonny Jadun attends every home game for Michigan State men’s tennis. The men were 14-3 at home last year, winning by a three-point margin for 13 of those 14 wins.

Junior Brett Forman, a Troy native and player on the team, recalls the importance of having a fan like Sonny at games.

“We feed off it for sure. I remember last year against Nebraska, he and some other guys exchanged some words. He said something like, ‘Watch your feet, he’s foot faulting.’ Some kid was like, ‘Who is this guy, why is he doing this?’ He’ll mix it up and he has a lot of different stuff. I don’t know where he comes up with it,” Forman said.

“I come up with the chants by just listening to some.” Sonny explained. “I talk to some of the tennis coaches and ask them what kind of experience they had and some unique chants they’ve had. Our goal is not to corner them, but to encourage our teams so that it’s their home court and nobody can beat them.”

Michigan State men’s tennis has lost only one home game over the last year, which was against the No. 5 team in the nation, Ohio State. They lost 4-3.

“We have one of the best [cheering sections] I’ve ever been to — home or away,” Mullane said. “We get a lot of people compared to other schools, but the loudness factor would significantly be heard. Taking him out of the equation, you need someone to get in the opponents head and that will definitely be lacking.”

“It definitely wouldn’t feel like 100 or 200 people being there — maybe 20 or 30,” Forman added. “No fans will start doing chants or players will start doing chants, but people start chiming in and talking more when Mr. Jadun is there.”

Family Bonding

Forman met Sonny from playing in U-15 tennis tournaments with Harry. Although Sonny was not sporting the booming “Go green!” chants back then, there was a strong bond between father and son.

“I think it’s important for Harry,” Forman said. “They’re extremely close and Harry’s dad is the type of person that has always been there for him and it means a lot coming to his matches. My mom was supportive growing up, but she never would think about going all the way to North Carolina or anything like that. I think it’s awesome that he has that good of a support system with his dad.”

“It always helps me,” Harry said. “Sometimes an opposing player looked up to him or made eye contact and said something to him. And that’s when I know he’s not worried about the match anymore — he’s worried about my dad. Every single guy that’s come through have fed off his energy and they love playing home matches. It’s a college sport — it’s going to get rowdy and chippy, so it’s a lot of fun.”

Although Harry is graduating this May, Sonny plans to continue his legacy as the No. 1 Spartan tennis fan.

“That’s my team and I play a lot of tennis, he said. “I’m a Spartan alumni so that is my contribution to the team and the tennis program. It really relieves me when I am there for two to three hours, so much immersed in the tennis there that all problems are gone. My wife passed away with advanced Alzheimer’s, and tennis is something that really gets me going. I see these great kids and enjoy it.”

“It’s an outlet for him to let go and I think the relationship has grown even more,” Orlando said. “It’s a special moment, a special time, and it’s been a treat to have this time together and be able to share it with them [Harry and Sonny].”

Although Harry finishes tennis at the end of the spring, the booming may echo for quite sometime.

Photos: Alex Scharg/MSU Impact Sports