A look into the Flames basketball super fan – McCracken
Liberty Arena has seen its fair share of dedicated Flames fans this basketball season. The semifinal battle between Liberty and Eastern Kentucky March 2 brought a record breaking 4,043 fans to watch the Flames, one of which was J.J. McCracken. McCracken, however, is not your ordinary Liberty basketball enthusiast. The screech he emits from among the crowd is one he has been known by for many years.
The “Cracken” officially made a return to Lynchburg this season, making some wonder just where one of the Flames most prominent superfans has been the past few years.
McCracken’s superfan antics began during his high school years in Winchester, Virginia, where he played a significant role in his school’s student section that they nicknamed “wild crowds.” He was just a regular student cheering in the stands until one day, he would voice the sound that he would become known for.
“One of the leaders who was trying to get us all hype, said ‘get loud, get loud,’” McCracken said. “And then he called me out, like ‘McCracken, I can’t hear you,’ so I did my scream for the first time.”
McCracken has been at Liberty since 2013 and has continued his persona his entire time here. Back in 2018, he announced that he would no longer be able to attend all the games due to pursuing his master’s degree and having a larger course load that would not allow him time to continue his Cracken antics.
During his time away, McCracken worked on school and his future vocation. In 2019, he was completing an internship for his master’s with Liberty’s softball team. Then in 2020, the pandemic caused him to leave the Lynchburg area in search of a job due to the suddenly dry job market.
“I moved down to North Carolina with my parents for a year,and then saw a job opening as a dispatcher for Liberty’s airport in the summer of 2021,” McCracken said. “So, I moved back to Lynchburg, got that job and I have been working here ever since.”
Though he had retired from his superfan persona, McCracken’s love of sports drove him to continue to attend games in his free time. However, he found not going all out for sporting events to be a difficult task.
“I tried going to Liberty sporting events, just being a ‘normal fan,’ but honestly, I find that really boring,” McCracken said. “I would find myself on my phone pretty much all the time, and it was just not fun. My thing is having fun and making noise.”
McCracken shared that the most rewarding part of what he does is to be able to give back to his school by hyping Liberty’s athletes as well as getting the crowd more excited.
“I enjoy cheering for our teams, rather than thinking about what I get out of it. I think it’s more about trying to help our school succeed. I really want to do my best to help everyone,” McCracken said.
A few years ago, McCracken took his support of Liberty Athletics to the next level by winning an NCAA video competition for the Big South, which won Liberty $10,000.
The Cracken has no plans to retire his persona for good and plans to be back next season. McCracken is glad to see how far the student section has come over the last few years, and he urges Liberty’s student body to get out and join him in the stands this season.
“One thing I have to say is I am proud of how far our fanbase has come, and as we go into Conference USA, let’s expand our student section,” McCracken said.
White is a sports reporter for the Liberty Champion