A maroon hat covered in pins, pieces of basketball nets and a stuffed eagle bobs in the crowd at Winthrop home games.
Zeta (Zee-ta) Sistare, the snowy haired wearer, has been coming to games since she first came to work for Winthrop in 1979. Sistare has continued coming to games since her retirement in 2003.
Two pieces of winning nets hold places of honor on the hat. One button is from a Nashville tournament that Winthrop attended and didn’t win. A plastic purple flower is from a trip to Hawaii with the softball team.
A favorite token was found in St. Thomas when Winthrop was competing in the Paradise Jam. Sistare proudly pointed out that it said, “We be jamming.”
Sistare has pins with the old Winthrop logo on it and even one that reads Winthrop College instead of Winthrop University. A gold pin with the state insignia was presented to her for her years of service at Winthrop.
The hat was purchased at the women’s basketball semi-finals a few years ago, but it is not the first Sistare decorated in buttons and other memorabilia. The first hat was a handmade garnet and gold beanie, she made it for a tournament and Winthrop won. Sistare also made a vest with a shiny eagle on the back when the beanie got too heavy from the pins. Sistare wears the vest in addition to the hat when it is not too cold. The older hat usually remains at home.
The miniature stuffed eagle used to ride atop the beanie. Sistare remembers one woman cheering for the opposing team at a game in Asheville did not like it.
Sistare recalled the angry fan’s jibe: “’What are you doin’ with a dead duck on your head?’”
Sistare is not one to sit back and watch the game quietly. Throughout the game, Sistare leans forward and yells, “We need more points! Get more points!” She is not afraid of chiding the players either.
“Xavier,” she groaned after Xavier Cooks lost the ball while doing some fancy dribbling. “Don’t get so smart dribblin’ the ball ‘round and around you.”
Sistare said she likes “most all” of the players, but she eventually admitted Keon Johnson is her favorite. She was also quick to compliment Cooks.
“I thought at the first of the season when Cooks came ‘Boy, this is gonna be fun.’ He’s got the moves nobody else has,” Sistare said.
It’s not surprising Sistare spends much of her time on Winthrop athletics. Basketball is close to her heart. Both she and her mother played in high school. Sistare’s granddaughter usually accompanies her to the home games. The 11-year-old does not play basketball but hopes to go to Winthrop someday.
Sistare remembers much of Winthrop and its athletic history.
“You see that guy over there with the jacket sittin’ behind the cheerleaders on the front row?” she asked. “He was on the first men’s basketball team ever here at Winthrop. He’s pretty faithful about coming to the games too.”
The banners around the Coliseum’s ceiling boast Winthrop’s accomplishments. Any attendee could read the banners and see Winthrop’s wins. But if you really want to know the stories of Winthrop’s victories and loss, look for the woman in the hat. She has seen the highest and lowest moments, and she will continue to be there to see them for years to come.