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Librarians by day, fanatics by night

The unwavering spirit, support of Louisiana Tech’s Boris and Mike
Wednesday, January 25, 2023
Librarians by day, fanatics by night

Mike DeCarlo (left) and Boris Teske (right), are fanatics of Louisiana Tech athletics. The duo was up to their usual antics during a Louisiana Tech men’s basketball against the University of Louisiana-Monroe in November. Photo by Darrell James

Looking out across the sprawling seats inside Thomas Assembly Center, the sparse crowd can’t go unnoticed.

On a pleasant evening in Ruston, 1,459 people are in attendance for the Louisiana Tech women’s basketball season — and home — opener. But it’s the highest- attended home opener for the Lady Techsters in the last three seasons.

The TAC seats 8,000. It’s November. The Lady Techsters — picked second in the Conference USA Preseason Poll — host the Central Baptist Lady Mustangs to get the year started.

If you pan across the arena, you’ll without question notice the Tech band riling each other up, all while providing spirited chants. Outside of them, attendees are spotty.

But if you look just to the right of the rows of instruments and up to Section 106, two men stand out. Literally.

One has a white collared shirt and blue dress pants. The other wears glasses to go with a red Tech dress shirt — standing bent over, hands on knees in anxious anticipation for a free-throw attempt. Besides the band, they’re the only ones standing.

The two offer distraction during opponent free throws and berate officials (as politely as they can).

They yell. They scream. They cheer.

Only by appearance, they’re the most buttoned- up fans in the building.

Watching them, you wouldn’t know the Techsters lead 60- 24 with eight minutes left.

It doesn’t matter. For the two men, Boris Teske and Mike DeCarlo, you’re not a true fan if you take days, plays, or games off.

And when it comes to Louisiana Tech athletics, they’ll never apologize for how they support their Bulldogs.

And by the way, they’re both librarians. That’s right. Librarians.

“We’re not some sideshow,” Teske said. “We’re hoping that we just are doing our thing and that gives other folks license to not just sit there like statues. Mike and I are just fans. The fan is short for fanatic — don’t expect rational, measured, controlled behavior.”

Teske and DeCarlo see their antics as them fulfilling their end of the fan-team contract.

Home court or home field should mean something, and Teske said all fans of a school have to grasp that reality before they say they want to support.

No, you don’t have to match the octave or the calories burned by Teske and DeCarlo. But anything is better than passivity — a word so grotesque Teske quinces as he says it.

Show up. Get loud. That’s a fan’s end of the bargain.

“Our part of the contract is we’re supporting you, and theirs is to do everything they can to win,” DeCarlo said. “Win, lose or draw, you’re a fan of the team.”

So, where did this unmatched obsession (and admitted addiction) for supporting Louisiana Tech come from?

It wouldn’t be a basketball love story without Michael Jordan.

The mission begins

Boris Teske arrived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in August 1982.

After electing to become a Tar Heel, he began work in graduate school for a master’s in history and library science.

It’s where Teske gained the schooling necessary to become a librarian — and where his love for basketball began.

Seeing ‘His Airness’ play will do that.

Teske remembers the packed crowds and amazing basketball on display just about every night for the Tar Heels. Energy was never a problem for the fanbase, as they were often entranced by the magic of Jordan and his teammates.

And two Sweet 16 runs, along with an Elite 8 appearance, will help.

The closed-quarters thrill of the sport quickly became a love for Teske.

So when his time in North Carolina ended, Teske began his professional work as an academic librarian before finding his way to Ruston for a position at Louisiana Tech University in 2003.

He spent the first year on the job hunkered down, just trying to establish himself and get work done. Attending sporting events was last on his mind.

But in Nov. 2005, De-Carlo wanted to introduce his new colleague to a Lady Techsters game.

Mike and his wife Beth had been going to games since the 1990s, sitting in the back row of Section 106, and wanted Teske to experience what a game in the TAC would feel like.

They picked a good one for his first.

It was Nov. 22, 2005. Tech hosted the Iowa Hawkeyes in an early non- conference showdown in front of close to 2,500 fans.

The Techsters climbed all the way back from a 19- point deficit and stunned the Hawkeyes in a 95-91 win in doubleovertime — Iowa’s first road loss since Feb. 3.

Just like his days at UNC, Teske realized the power in an inspired fandom was infectious. He wanted more.

From then on, he and DeCarlo knew they had to become forces for change and show up no matter what.

“I could just sense that the audience participation, the home court was just crucial and this team that probably should have beaten us didn’t,” Teske recalled. “And so that adrenaline rush, that’s where my addiction began because I hadn’t really followed the women’s game quite so much.”

The DeCarlos offered Teske the aisle seat in their section, and for close to two decades the duo has been side by side cheering on Tech.

An advantage of the seats? No one is sitting behind them, which would have made the antics and unbridled enthusiasm harder to justify.

But with a row to themselves, the freedom of — let’s call it expression — has remained strong ever since.

DeCarlo remembers Teske coming to him in the weeks after the Iowa win with a clear message: Let’s keep it going.

“Boris said, ‘Well, we gotta do this till the students get going,’” De-Carlo said. “He’s used to the way students do it at (North) Carolina and the intense passion.”

Don’t forget, these are two librarians talking.

These aren’t the recluses tucked away beneath stacks of research papers under candlelight you see in the movies. DeCarlo is retired now, but Teske is in his 20th year in Ruston and neither have plans of stopping any time soon.

“If that’s all the more engaged you are, go watch, go home and go watch it on TV,” Teske said. “You know, this is a home game,” Teske said. “ The crowd is a sixth-man — it should have an effect on what’s going on on the court. We need more students. This isn’t about us. It’s ultimately about the program’s welfare — Tech athletics.”

Campus celebrities

Keiunna Walker’s official visit to Louisiana Tech was playing out like any other would.

The Lonoke, Arkansas, native came to campus during Christmas break in 2017 to watch a game and to get a sense of what life would be like on campus as a prospective student athlete.

She sat behind the bench and watched the Techsters play up close, all while the TAC crowd cheered them on.

But she couldn’t help but notice Teske and DeCarlo in Section 106.

“I didn’t know who it was,” Walker said. “I thought it was somebody’s parents or something.”

She eventually committed to Tech and made the three- hour move south to Ruston.

In her high school, she never had crazy parents or students root for the team — not like these two.

As the years went on and her playing time increased, Walker recalls seeing Teske and DeCarlo pop up on film and would talk to them a time or two.

“It’s really cool seeing that, that we have fans like that cheering us on. They have our back even if we lose or win because they’ve been here when we weren’t doing too good. It’s a really big thing for us.”

For Brooke Stoehr, head coach of the Lady Techsters, she’s become well aware of the librarians over the years. She’s been at Tech for seven seasons and has watched first-hand their celebrity grow and grow.

Opposing coaches have come up to her after home games and commented on Teske and DeCarlo. Players coming on visits have occasionally mentioned it.

“Everyone knows about it,” Stoehr said. “Everyone knows about the librarians.”

Like Walker, Stoehr appreciates the librarians’ genuine love for Tech athletics. Rain or shine, win or lose, they show up and try to bring enough energy to fill the TAC themselves.

Stoehr said in some cases, the two can act as mini unofficial ambassadors for official visits for coaches to show recruits how much Tech fans can truly care.

“It’s awesome because they are all in,” Stoehr said. “ You want fans that are all about your teams and supporting your teams. And it’s pretty funny.”

DeCarlo and Teske don’t understand the idea of why they’ve become celebrity figures at Tech, but at some level they’re grateful someone has noticed over the years.

Even family members have gotten involved in the hype.

DeCarlo’s daughter attended Tech in the early 2000s and came to her dad one day with a realization. People knew he wasn’t just your typical librarian.

“She said, ‘ You know everybody I go to school with knows you’re my dad,’” Mike said with a laugh.

The image of what the campus librarian should be has come up toward DeCarlo and Teske in their decades of fandom. But they’re people too — emotional and spirited as anyone else.

No doubt, both admit the irony of the situation.

But don’t let the occupation fool you.

“We’re not really like people think we are,” De-Carlo said. “It’s an image but if you work with any of us in libraries, we’re just about like everybody else. It is kind of funny.”

“Someone came up to me one time and said, ‘I didn’t know librarians could be that loud.’” Walker, now in her fifth season at Tech, hasn’t been to Tech’s library to actually see Teske or DeCarlo outside of game day.

She chuckles thinking about what they might be like away from the TAC.

But time has given her perspective on how much the librarians care, and brought it full circle whenever she’s asked about two of Tech’s most passionate fans.

“I think it was last year and there was a free throw being shot and there’s a girl standing beside me and she was asking, ‘Who are they?’,” Walker said. “And I was like, ‘Oh, those are our librarians.’”

Bring the chorus

With a combined four decades of support at Tech games, it’s natural to ask how much longer do these librarians have in them?

Teske and DeCarlo mentioned their overall physical stamina is naturally not what it was when they first started and said toning it back ( by their standards) could be coming in a few years.

But don’t take that as a sign of them slowing down. They’re planning on attending every home game for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, baseball, softball, and all other home events as long as they can.

It brings them joy. So before the two are done, (which neither had a firm timeline on) what should the average Tech fan take away from the librarians?

Teske, a man who’s lived his life surrounded by millions of words and thousands of scholarly articles, had a parting message to the Ruston community and his fellow Tech faithful he hopes they take to heart.

“It shouldn’t be, ‘What are those crazy guys doing?’,” Teske said. “It’s, ‘ Why aren’t the rest of you?’ Unbutton the top button and get in on it. You know, there needs to be more of a chorus here. This isn’t a solo act or a duet. There needs to be a lot of voices.”