BroncoCountry Rewind: March 15, 2001

<p>It's hard to believe that nearly 4 years have passed since that incredibly wonderful event occurred.. when all the sports-world focused on Boise Idaho, and the underdog Hampton Pirates.</p><p>It's the kind of story that will be told and retold over the years.. and now, we invite you to return to those 40 minutes of emotion, inspiration, and jubilation...</p>

THE 2001 NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT, BOISE IDAHO

 
Mike Wilbon
Washington Post


Maryland playing Georgetown will be the most important story we can get our hands on next week. But the best story of this week, here or in any other region, was Idaho's love affair with Hampton. It might be the warmest, fuzziest, feel-good relationship I've seen develop in 20 years of covering the NCAA tournament.

Thursday night, a house full of people at The Pavilion (11,250) fell in love with Hampton's underdog of a basketball team, its foot-stompin', head-boppin' band, and its cheerleaders who say to hell with stunts, let's dance. Hampton is a historically black university; Boise is 98 percent white. Their two worlds -- trust me on this -- have never ever intersected. Until here and now. The basketball team brought Boise and Hampton together, and because the house was full to the rim, the band played on. The people of Boise, who bought all the tickets for this event months ago, stayed and partied.

They were so taken with the Hampton people, they invited the band to play between periods of Friday night's Idaho Steelheads West Coast Hockey League game at Bank of America Center. Carpet was rolled out so the cheerleaders could dance . . . on the ice. Another full house, 5,800, greeted Hampton's band -- called The Force -- and made them stay and play on, and on. Folks quite literally danced in the aisles. When the arena cleared, band director Al Davis took his band members across to The Grove Hotel, where they started another set.

It seemed as if all of Boise was there, boppin', swinging. Hampton turned Boise into Bourbon Street on Friday night. People came in off the street to hear the band play.

So Saturday afternoon, in the middle of the Maryland-Georgia State game, the damndest thing happened. This mighty roar went up as the Hampton band members, sans instruments, walked to their seats in the stands. When the Hampton team was introduced to the crowd at Boise State Pavilion, it was as if the old Celtics had walked into Boston Garden. The Hampton cheerleaders held up signs that spelled out, "We Love Boise!"

Asked to talk about this instantly formed relationship between this Northwest city and Hampton University, guard Marseilles Brown said emotionally: "No words, man. . . . Sorry."

Merfeld, clearly stunned by everything that had happened here this weekend, from the upset of second-seeded Iowa State on Friday night to the reception his team got before, during, and after the game against Georgetown, had some words.

"The recognition people gave us has been very, very special," he said. "It's very obvious to us why the tournament is in Boise, Idaho. We didn't know that when we were assigned this region, but we do now. Thank you."

People in Washington and New York and Philly hear Boise, and they laugh. They wonder why the NCAA would put first- and second-round games here. They don't know how The Pavilion was filled to watch Shaq and Alonzo Mourning play their final college games here in 1992, or how the house nearly fell the afternoon UCLA's Tyus Edney drove the length of the floor with 3.5 seconds left in 1995 to beat Missouri at the buzzer, or how nuts it was in 1998, when West Virginia's Jarrod West beat No. 2 seed Cincinnati with a heave at the buzzer.

There might not be another place where these games are likely to be so appreciated, and there probably isn't a school more appreciative in return than Hampton, which will take back home to Virginia memories so fond they could make a national champion jealous.
 

Reader's View - William Harvey: 
Boiseans welcome visitors from Hampton with love

Thank you Boise, for opening up your city and your hearts to Hampton University.

From the time of my arrival on Thursday until my departure on Sunday morning, I witnessed the greatest outpouring of love and humanity by an entire city that I have ever seen in all of my life. You are very special people!

What makes this display of love and humanity even more remarkable is its blindness to racial differences -- Boise, predominately white, and Hampton University, predominately black.

In a conversation with Bishop Michael Driscoll, bishop of the Idaho Catholic Church, I said that if we could bottle what I had witnessed in Boise over the last four days and fling it to every village and hamlet in the world, it would be the most positive thing imaginable. I told him that if this could be done, there would be no more racism, unkindness, conflicts, wars and rumors of wars.

At every step I made -- from The Grove Hotel, to the Boise Towne Square mall, to restaurants, the Winco supermarket, and the Pavilion at Boise State University -- everyone was courteous, kind and caringg.

If others ever tell you that your city is not sensitive to race relations, tell them to talk to Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, who came down on the floor the afternoon we played Georgetown to embrace our players, cheerleaders, band and others from Hampton University.

Tell them to talk to the piano player from The Grove Hotel who jammed each night with members from the Hampton University Band.

Tell them to talk to that same piano player who bought members of the Hampton Boosters a cocktail.

Tell them to talk to the waitresses, cab drivers, sales associate in the Ralph Lauren section at Dillard's or the sales associate at Mervyn's who had been born in Croatia and who was now a high school student in Boise.

Tell them to talk to the bus driver and hotel receptionists that proudly wore Hampton University sweatshirts.

Tell them to talk to the large group of fans who made T-shirts that said "Happy St. Pirates Day."

Tell them to talk to the fans at the Steelheads' hockey game who gave our band and cheerleaders a standing ovation when they completed their performance.

Tell them to talk to the usher who seated me at the hockey game and who at 6 a.m. on Sunday at the airport congratulated and thanked our team, our band and cheerleaders for bringing such a positive image to Boise.

Tell them to talk to the many people who referred to Hampton University as "a touch of class."

And, finally, tell them to talk to reporters of The Idaho Statesman, such as Mike Prater, Mike Butts, Derrick Samson, Patrick Orr, or other media reporters from the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, who actually made me shiver with their accurate, sensitive and wonderful chronicling of the love affair between Hampton University and the city of Boise, Idaho.

To all the citizens of Boise, please know how much I love you.

I want you to know that I will be coming back to Boise, and if Boise State University, the Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Brent Coles, the chairman and CEO of Albertson's or Micron Technology will invite me, I hope it is sooner rather than later.

William R. Harvey is president of Hampton University.

 

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