Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Long Way From Charlotte: Trip to Hokie Country

Hope everyone had a great holiday and is properly preparing for a fun yet safe celebration of the new year. ’09 has been a good one, hopefully ’10 will be even better!

Just so happens that the women’s basketball team is up here in Blacksburg, Va to close out the decade, the same place they closed out the last decade (’99-00). Little fun fact for ya! The team ended up losing to the Hokies in the final of the Hokie Hardwood Classic. I’m writing this a few hours prior to our rematch inside Cassell Coliseum with VT.

We bused a few hours up the road. Trip went quick due to the fact I slept and fingered through my IPOD touch, surfed the net, checked emails and listened to a little MGMT. Buses are now equipped with WI-FI, who knew?

Anyway, here are some pics of Cassell Coliseum (again I don’t know what makes a coliseum, a coliseum? But it’s a pretty neat place.) No 100 or 200 levels, it’s just one big never ending section. And the basketball teams, much like the football team comes out to ‘Enter Sandman’, check the video. The place was far from full yesterday, but when you pack 9,000 in that arena I’m sure its rocking just like the football stadium.

On a more solemn note, after shootaround we had the bus driver stop at the Virginia Tech Memorial, which honors the victims of the April 16th, 2007 shooting on their campus. Stones engraved with the victims names and a sealed case displays photographs of the ones who lost their lives that day. Certainly a beautiful memorial and a constant reminder to Va. Tech students of that tragic day in Blacksburg. Certainly classifies as one of those 'I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news' moments in my life. Especially considering I was a student at UNC Charlotte in 2007 and to think something similar could happen is certainly numbing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Long Way from Home: Trip to South Bend

It is the end of December. What does it do in the north and northeast at this time of the year? It snows. Luckily, the weather didn’t affect our travel plans too much. The flights lifted and landed without a hitch.

Now to the trip…
Indiana looks identical to parts of middle to eastern Pennsylvania (my old stomping grounds). The drive from Chicago to South Bend could be even more uneventful than the ones I used to take from Allentown to Lancaster. Snow on the ground, trees submitting to the chilling temperatures, billboards advertising scummy bus stops and sleazy hotels and never ending cornfields except without the corn. It was like a scene out of Ethan Frome (if you haven't read it, don't bother, bunch of symbolism that climax's with a tragic sleigh ride down a mountain side. Hope I didn't ruin it)

The ride to South Bend was bleak. It was 5pm and pitch black outside accompanied by an occasional snow flurry. The trip back was even bleaker. The loss to Notre Dame set a pair of records we hope never again get broken. Fewest points scored in a game (31) and most turnovers in school history (43). The last game before holiday break got us again…

Purcell Pavilion is as good as advertised. What makes a pavilion a pavilion? What makes an arena an arena? Stadium? Hall? What’s the difference? Anyway, the recent renovations make Purcell Pavilion top notch. Still no video board? But after talking with the SID, he passed along that the video board will come next year (they needed to raise more money, which for Notre Dame is really a non issue). I can only imagine, it might end up being the size of the Bobcats scoreboard at TWC Arena. I digress, the banners hanging from the rafters are intimidating, the pro style seating creates awesome sight lines and to sell out of season tickets and slam 8,000+ people in there days before a major holiday is unprecedented. Of the 8,000+, I’d venture that maybe 400 of them were actual students. A lot of community support was just like Coach Aston warned the team about.

But when you boil it down, a court is a court. They all span 94 feet and a cylinder at each end. Its basketball. Even Coach Aston agreed. The only gym she felt shell shocked in was Pauley Pavilion (Go figure another pavilion that regularly haunts visiting teams) and rightfully so. She even met the man himself that day!

I’m writing this on the bus to Chicago, looking for inspiration from the scenery, looking for something to turn me from my hellacious mood, but coming up with nothing but dead trees, dusting of white stuff and a billboard for ‘Big Billy’s Truck Stop and Rest Area’. Adding to the buzzkill I already had.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It Felt Great To Be A Fan For Once

A sport is a dish best served with a group of friends, cold beverages, high definition, outstanding passion and a win.

From time to time, I feel like working in athletics sucks. I can't fully enjoy a game of my alma mater because I am working them. No time to be a fan. It’s cliché but I have green blood in my body. I’m naturally more invested in the outcome of a game then someone who collects a bimonthly paycheck, but does not have that UNC Charlotte diploma hanging in their office. It’s fact.

(If I had Spears and Jones on top of me like that, I think I might wet myself...This reminds me of that scene in Goodfellas, Spears is Ray Liotta and Jones is Joe Pesci.)---------------------------------------->

Having to work every home game slowly sucks the fandom out of my body. Dating back to my days as a student, I’ve never watched a basketball game inside Halton as a fan. Never sat in the stands, stubbed a ticket, pregamed at Picassos or screamed at the referees. That’s six years and counting! Don’t get me wrong I often have the best seat in the house and enjoy my all access credential, but it becomes physically painful to sit emotionless only cheering and jeering on the inside when we hit a big three or the refs make an obvious blunder. And half the time after the game, I have no idea what happened in the game. I don’t get a feel for the game when I’m running camera.

Saturday was different. With the men’s team in Louisville on ESPNU and no other home athletic event on tap the rest of the weekend I was able to unleash complete and total fandom in the privacy of my own home along with some of my closest Niner friends.

It was liberating. Refreshing. Awesome.

We pregamed, postgamed, watched, yelled, dissected, cursed, cheered, drank, ate and celebrated. It certainly would not have been as enjoyable if we lost, but we didn’t lose. We won by 22. It almost felt like a mirage. The game started, led from the getgo, Braswell looked like Tim Duncan, won by 22 points and then it was gone.

Now back to the usual. Tuesday will come. I will film Derrio Green hitting a 30-foot three pointer and sit stoically on the sideline as the crowd erupts. But ya know what, every now and then I may crack a slight smile.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A House Divided...

I know this will rub some people the wrong way, but I am a Louisville basketball fan. You can't blame me, I spent my young and impressionable years there and they won a National Championship when I was a youngster living there in 1980. After my family moved to the Charlotte area in 1983, I watched from afar as the Cardinals were able to capture another title in 1986.

Charlotte and Louisville were conference foes in the Metro for a time and renewed their rivalry when they were both Conference USA members up until just a few seasons ago. My dad took me to some games at Charlotte when Louisville came to town (I remember wearing red and being treated very fairly by the home crowd, even when my Cardinals took the road loss here in the Queen City).

I know that Charlotte and East Carolina (the 49ers previous men's basketball opponent) were Conference USA foes, but the games between the Niners and Cincinnati and Louisville were classics, and even I knew this as a fan of one of Charlotte's opponents. Halton Arena became an impossible place for great teams to win. Going back in time to channel my previous fandom, I will admit that I hated for my team to have to travel to play in Charlotte (with the exception of my being able to watch the game in person) because I feared taking the loss.

I now work for the Charlotte 49ers, so I am a traitor to my former fan base. I made the conscious decision to not have a rooting interest in the Cardinals if somehow the teams should play one another. I didn't realistically think that the day would come when I would have to face this scenario. Saturday is going be very difficult for me. I am taping the game because I have plans during the time the teams will play, so I will actually work very hard to block out any knowledge of the game while I'm out on Saturday (if you have my number, DO NOT TEXT OR E-MAIL ME during this period -- I won't even bother to check my e-mail and I won't look at your text, but I'll know who gets put on the naughty list after the fact when I check the time you tried to spoil my watching enjoyment) and I will try to watch the game in its entirety on Sunday morning.

This is my first time facing this day I have been dreading. I have met many of the guys for Charlotte and I have to admit, knowing them and the coaching staff compels me to pull for the 49ers. These are great guys and I want them all to do well. I guess I don't have to be loyal as a fan to the department, but it is hard not to when we work in the same place and we get to know one another. But, this will be the first time in my life I will be against Louisville.

I am admitting that I am using this blog entry to sort of talk out my issues. I don't necessarily want credit from you, the loyal 49ers fan, for my joining your bandwagon for good officially, starting with this game. I just need to talk out my internal struggle, which I am anticipating for this contest. This is a lifetime of being a fan that will unravel for me in this later stage of my life. I may need some support. I abandoned my former clan and am looking for a little understanding. Part of me feels I cannot lose in this game, but other parts feel that I cannot win.

I miss this series. It was good for both programs. There were some classic games and a little venom and a lot of respect. It's weird being on the other side, but it's now to the point for me that I am unsure which side the "other side" is anymore.

OK, I think I talked myself to the conclusion. I am a Niner. This Saturday will finally prove it. It's the last step in my conversion. I talked the talk, but now I will have to walk the walk. I've never converted over as a fan before. I think I can do this. I once felt like a stranger in a strange land. I originally thought I could get away with dual citizenship, but I have had to choose a side and choose to be a member of Niner Nation. I pledge my allegiance to you, Charlotte 49ers.


(that felt good, thanks for the sounding board)

--Ryan Rose
Charlotte Media Relations
Former Louisville Native