DEVILLE: Hoops fans, come late, leave early

Les Miles was introduced to the fans during a second half timeout Saturday of the LSU-Ohio State basketball game.

Les, and wife Kathy, were greeted to thunderous applause and rowdy cheers as the nearly 7,000 fans chanted LSU wildly. The 32nd LSU head football coach and his wife were in obvious awe of the ovation as the strolled out to center court to offer a humble wave to the boisterous throng of fans.

 

It was by far the loudest the crowd got on Saturday night in the Pete Maravich Center – Oh, by the way, the Tigers beat the Buckeyes 113-101 in double-overtime. Just thought I should pass that information along for those fans that picked up and left the game early.

 

It is baffling….

 

LSU fans claim to be the best fans in college sports. The rabid Tiger faithful takes great pride in being the loudest, craziest and most outlandish fans in America. And that truly applies in football, baseball, hell…. even softball. But that enthusiasm, that passion stops at the doors of the Maravich Center.

 

The pageantry you witness within the walls of Tiger Stadium, that never say die attitude of fans that grace the bleachers of the Box; you will find none of that at the PMAC. Gone are the days of the Deaf Dome, however the archaic old sign in block letters still hangs above one of the portals. Gone are the days of the Deaf Meter, the brilliant marketing scheme by LSU to measure the noise in the PMAC. Remember Shaq-Attack? That seems like eons ago.

 

These days, sparse crowds dot the faded, ragged seats of a once-proud building to see a team that seems to time-and-again underachieve. Minus an SEC championship season in 2000 and a couple of big wins over the last half-decade (a la defeating top-ranked Arizona in 2002), LSU hoops has been somewhat dormant over the last few years.

 

Is it that Tiger fans have simply forgotten how to rally behind their basketball team?

 

Albeit the product on the court has been far from superior at times this season, it boggles the mind trying to understand how fans cannot merely enjoy a good basketball game.

 

Preceding Saturday's contest versus the Buckeyes, LSU put together its most impressive outing of the season dismantling South Carolina 79-64 before a measly 4,811 fans. But as is the case with most sports at LSU, if the Tigers win – they will come. And that was the case as LSU drew almost 7,000 for the Ohio State game.

 

However, you could not tell if it were seven fans or 7,000 fans in the building. Granted Tigers fans have grown rather apathetic over the time with basketball, but it is shocking to watch how those who do show up sit on their hands most of the game. Whether it is a bone-jarring dunk by Brandon Bass or a three-pointer launched by Darrel Mitchell from somewhere near the LSU lakes, each is greeted with a smattering of applause.

 

Even the Tiger Pregame Salute, a tune which Florida State coach Bobby Bowden called the most intimidating four notes in all of college sports, is greeted with only ho-hums cheers when in Tiger Stadium, the roar is deafening.

 

So you say, ‘but Tiger basketball gives fans very little to cheer for.' Or maybe, ‘they haven't won anything in so long.' Or even, ‘I don't like the coach or the players.'

 

Whatever the reasoning for the lack of enthusiasm, it is most disheartening to see even those who show up give such a lackluster effort.

 

But probably the most disconcerting thing of all, if a game is close or tied and is apparently going to go down to the wire, DO NOT LEAVE!!!

 

Unbelievable.

 

Let's set the stage.

 

Ohio State's Tony Stockman hit a pair of back-to-back three pointers with a minute left giving the Buckeyes an 80-77 lead with 26 second remaining in the game. The ball wasn't all the way through the net on the go-ahead basket before LSU fans shot from their seats as if sitting on a spring. Tiger fans bounded for the exits as if they were giving away free money in the parking lot, not giving LSU once chance in a million of tying or possibly winning the game in the final 20 or so seconds.

 

It wasn't all that long ago when Georgia scored on a 93-yard touchdown pass from David Greene to tie LSU 10-10 with just minutes left in the game. On that day, LSU fans did not throw up their arms in defeat but cheered wildly trying to get behind their team. Let's just say, basketball at LSU is a far cry from the beloved gridiron. At no point did these fans give the Tigers a shot at winning on this day.

 

But for those of you who left the game, you missed out on Darrel Mitchell's last-second dramatic three-pointer that sent eh game into overtime. Once in overtime, you missed Brandon Bass single-handedly carrying the team on his back scoring the first 10 points in the first extra period.

 

Those fans who tried to leave but couldn't get to the exits quick enough did manage to catch Mitchell's three-pointer. Instead of returning to their seats for the remainder of the game, they huddled around the portals waiting to see what would happen, almost waiting for the Tigers screw up so they could get to their cars first to beat the traffic.

 

The first overtime period came and went. After five extra minutes an 80-80 tie grew into a 93-93 deadlock. Sitting next to LSU associate athletic director Herb Vincent and sports information director Michael Bonnette, we pointed out several fans who decided to call it quits and head to the exits choosing not to stay for the second overtime period.

 

WHAT?

 

Fans actually grabbed their jackets and keys and left the building with the game tied a 93-93 as if they needed to get home to catch the 10 o'clock news. What they missed was LSU dominating the second overtime period, outscoring Ohio State 20-8 to win 113-101. It was the first time both teams had scored over 100 points in a game since a 108-105 overtime loss to Arkansas in 1994

 

And as the final seconds ticked off the clock, the fans that choose to stick around to watch the game play out then made their break for the door electing to try and beat the rush rather than stay and cheer congratulating a team that just played its guts out.

 

As LSU fans, self proclaimed as the best in college sports, you know better than this.

 

While the product that is placed on the floor may not be the best around, true fans know when to cheer and when to jeer and Saturday's win was definitely a time to cheer. The Tigers kept up their end of the deal, as fans, you dropped the ball.

 

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Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag Magazine. He can be reached by e-mail at matt@tigerrag.com.


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