From A Different View

Taking a step back from being a reporter and remembering what it's like to be a fan, I found myself taking a different look about the Bearcats and the man many are talking about Mike Thomas.

Driving to the NIT game on Friday night got me thinking about the season and how fast it's gone. Since no one in the media had parking passes in hand, I left early as recommended by the Cincinnati Sports Information Department. I arrived at the Corey Street Garage around 6:15 p.m. and started making the short walk to Fifth Third Arena.

During that walk, I listened to several fans excitedly chatting about watching the Bearcats play their old league rival in postseason basketball. When I arrived at Oscar‘s statue, I noticed a fast growing line of fans waiting to enter the arena.

I walked down the media entrance like I've done so many times this past season and went through the check points to get my camera bag inspected. I was early, but I really didn't mind because it gave me a chance to walk around and reflect on the many things that have happened over the course of the past six and a half months.

After getting a little food and a soda, I went out into the arena and saw fans locating their seats. At that moment it hit me, I was no longer one of them. I didn't have that knot in my stomach and didn't share the anxious anticipation of waiting for a big game to begin. Instead, I was businesslike.

While I've been to many games and taken thousands of photos, I‘ve lost touch with what it means to be a fan. As the players took the court to warm-up, I thought about the importance of this particular game. I suddenly wanted this special Bearcat unit to prove to the NCAA selection committee that it belonged in Dayton playing on a bigger stage on national television.

So I convinced myself that I would take only a few photos tonight and then head into the stands and recapture what it's like to be a fan. But while my intentions were to watch the game, it was the people I started watching the most.

After selecting a seat, I was soon loudly cheering like everyone else. I was excited about attending a second round NIT game and fit in with all the other people of different races and backgrounds who shared my newly found passion. Then I noticed the suites in between the lower and upper section of the Shoe.

While it was easy to find Nick Lachey sitting in his box, it was another suite that drew my attention. Inside that private box was the one man many Bearcat fans and members of the media have criticized since the day he took over for the departed Bob Goin. Mike Thomas was standing in this box, and I focused my attention on him.

As I observed the new Bearcat head man, I wondered what was going through his mind as he watched the Bearcats battle and eventually defeat the 49ers.

I've spent my adult life working in sales, and it's been this training that taught me the importance of watching people in order to get a competitive edge. The more I watched Mike Thomas, the more I learned without hearing him say a word.

The first thing I noticed was his entire family seemed to be with him. Since taking the job at UC, family time has apparently been rare. In my one interview and one meeting with Mike Thomas, I learned his wife and youngest child were still in Akron until the end of this school year. It was clear this man didn't like his family being split.

Mike's wife and children were all paying close attention to the action on the floor. It was easy to see they've become Bearcat fans in such a short time. They've learned the cheers done by the cheerleaders, and they cheer and boo just like any other fan when there is a great play or a bad call by an official. But while I paid attention to the family, it was Mike Thomas himself that keep catching my eye.

From my seat, I had a full view inside this box. I watched as Mike Thomas was no longer Mike Thomas "Athletic Director", but Mike Thomas "Fan". From the time I started watching until the time the game ended, Mike Thomas was just like many other hoop junkies. Watching the action on the floor, he was clapping when the team made a great play and making the same agonizing faces of other fans when a call went against the Bearcats. And just like others in the media, he was stealing peeks of other games going on around the country. Time and again I watched as he would walk over to his television and catch glimpses of the other NCAA games on CBS. As this pattern continued throughout the second half, I started to wonder what it must be like to be Mike Thomas or even a member of his family.

Being a husband and parent of four children myself, I can't imagine what they must be going through hearing and reading the terrible things said about their husband/father. For the most part, the signs in Fifth Third Arena are directed towards President Zimpher, but the past few months have seen numerous derogatory posts on message boards, stories written in newspapers and verbal attacks by radio talk show hosts against everything involving the Bearcats Athletic Department.

I've read some of those critical posts on internet message boards and started to wonder. My kids are on the internet, have the children of Mike Thomas been exposed to the many nasty posts about their father? My older kids listen to sports talk radio, have the Thomas kids heard the rants about their father spewed across the airwaves in recent weeks and months? And then it hit me. I'm sure they have. I know my children have heard it, so why not his?

But while I sat there and keep looking into the box, I didn't see a single family member be anti-UC. Instead I saw a family at a game cheering for their team. I saw a mother who was obviously nervous when the game got close. I saw the boys clapping and cheering with each dunk or blocked shot by Eric Hicks. I saw a daughter not much older then my youngest son excited about the dance team, cheerleaders and Nick Lachey sitting just a few seats away. I saw a family at a game being fans.

While I've had the chance to speak with Mike Thomas in the past, I can't call him a personal friend. This is a business, and I understand that. But sitting back and watching that family at last night's game, I came away with a different view of the man who is in charge of this program.

Yes he's responsible for the future of University of Cincinnati athletics, but he's also responsible for his family. And last night the Thomas family was part of a bigger family-the Bearcat family.

Before I sat down to write this story, I had a chance to read the most recent story by Paul Daugherty in The Cincinnati Enquirer. It talked about five members of the UCATS being upset that they haven't seen Mike Thomas in the UCATS club at Fifth Third Arena or received the answers they want to hear about the next basketball coach. While the story didn't really say anything new, it made me think. Has anyone thought about asking those five people sitting with Mike Thomas last night in the Athletics Director's box about their feelings and the questions they‘d like answered?

I'm sure their opinion of the man many Bearcat fans and members of the media have attacked these past few months is quite different. I know mine has increased even more after watching him during the Bearcats game Friday night.


Bearcat Insider Top Stories

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During that walk, I listened to several fans excitedly chatting about watching the Bearcats play their old league rival in postseason basketball. When I arrived at Oscar‘s statue, I noticed a fast growing line of fans waiting to enter the arena.

I walked down the media entrance like I've done so many times this past season and went through the check points to get my camera bag inspected. I was early, but I really didn't mind because it gave me a chance to walk around and reflect on the many things that have happened over the course of the past six and a half months.

After getting a little food and a soda, I went out into the arena and saw fans locating their seats. At that moment it hit me, I was no longer one of them. I didn't have that knot in my stomach and didn't share the anxious anticipation of waiting for a big game to begin. Instead, I was businesslike.

While I've been to many games and taken thousands of photos, I‘ve lost touch with what it means to be a fan. As the players took the court to warm-up, I thought about the importance of this particular game. I suddenly wanted this special Bearcat unit to prove to the NCAA selection committee that it belonged in Dayton playing on a bigger stage on national television.

So I convinced myself that I would take only a few photos tonight and then head into the stands and recapture what it's like to be a fan. But while my intentions were to watch the game, it was the people I started watching the most.

After selecting a seat, I was soon loudly cheering like everyone else. I was excited about attending a second round NIT game and fit in with all the other people of different races and backgrounds who shared my newly found passion. Then I noticed the suites in between the lower and upper section of the Shoe.

While it was easy to find Nick Lachey sitting in his box, it was another suite that drew my attention. Inside that private box was the one man many Bearcat fans and members of the media have criticized since the day he took over for the departed Bob Goin. Mike Thomas was standing in this box, and I focused my attention on him.

As I observed the new Bearcat head man, I wondered what was going through his mind as he watched the Bearcats battle and eventually defeat the 49ers.

I've spent my adult life working in sales, and it's been this training that taught me the importance of watching people in order to get a competitive edge. The more I watched Mike Thomas, the more I learned without hearing him say a word.

The first thing I noticed was his entire family seemed to be with him. Since taking the job at UC, family time has apparently been rare. In my one interview and one meeting with Mike Thomas, I learned his wife and youngest child were still in Akron until the end of this school year. It was clear this man didn't like his family being split.

Mike's wife and children were all paying close attention to the action on the floor. It was easy to see they've become Bearcat fans in such a short time. They've learned the cheers done by the cheerleaders, and they cheer and boo just like any other fan when there is a great play or a bad call by an official. But while I paid attention to the family, it was Mike Thomas himself that keep catching my eye.

From my seat, I had a full view inside this box. I watched as Mike Thomas was no longer Mike Thomas \"Athletic Director\", but Mike Thomas \"Fan\". From the time I started watching until the time the game ended, Mike Thomas was just like many other hoop junkies. Watching the action on the floor, he was clapping when the team made a great play and making the same agonizing faces of other fans when a call went against the Bearcats. And just like others in the media, he was stealing peeks of other games going on around the country. Time and again I watched as he would walk over to his television and catch glimpses of the other NCAA games on CBS. As this pattern continued throughout the second half, I started to wonder what it must be like to be Mike Thomas or even a member of his family.

Being a husband and parent of four children myself, I can't imagine what they must be going through hearing and reading the terrible things said about their husband/father. For the most part, the signs in Fifth Third Arena are directed towards President Zimpher, but the past few months have seen numerous derogatory posts on message boards, stories written in newspapers and verbal attacks by radio talk show hosts against everything involving the Bearcats Athletic Department.

I've read some of those critical posts on internet message boards and started to wonder. My kids are on the internet, have the children of Mike Thomas been exposed to the many nasty posts about their father? My older kids listen to sports talk radio, have the Thomas kids heard the rants about their father spewed across the airwaves in recent weeks and months? And then it hit me. I'm sure they have. I know my children have heard it, so why not his?

But while I sat there and keep looking into the box, I didn't see a single family member be anti-UC. Instead I saw a family at a game cheering for their team. I saw a mother who was obviously nervous when the game got close. I saw the boys clapping and cheering with each dunk or blocked shot by Eric Hicks. I saw a daughter not much older then my youngest son excited about the dance team, cheerleaders and Nick Lachey sitting just a few seats away. I saw a family at a game being fans.

While I've had the chance to speak with Mike Thomas in the past, I can't call him a personal friend. This is a business, and I understand that. But sitting back and watching that family at last night's game, I came away with a different view of the man who is in charge of this program.

Yes he's responsible for the future of University of Cincinnati athletics, but he's also responsible for his family. And last night the Thomas family was part of a bigger family-the Bearcat family.

Before I sat down to write this story, I had a chance to read the most recent story by Paul Daugherty in The Cincinnati Enquirer. It talked about five members of the UCATS being upset that they haven't seen Mike Thomas in the UCATS club at Fifth Third Arena or received the answers they want to hear about the next basketball coach. While the story didn't really say anything new, it made me think. Has anyone thought about asking those five people sitting with Mike Thomas last night in the Athletics Director's box about their feelings and the questions they‘d like answered?

I'm sure their opinion of the man many Bearcat fans and members of the media have attacked these past few months is quite different. I know mine has increased even more after watching him during the Bearcats game Friday night.

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