On the Road with Marquette Basketball

Marquettehoops.com's Head Student Writer Andrew Sharos was in Winston-Salem, North Carolina over the weekend to chronicle the first round of the 2007 NCAA tournament. The following will be a complete journal of sights, sounds, quotes, and observations centered on the traveling experience to watch the Golden Eagles during their second straight appearance in the Big Dance.

 

Thursday, March 15, 2007

 

6:15 a.m. The alarm clock "Rings out Ahoya" as another Marquette basketball adventure is about to begin. For the perspective of my readers, I am a senior at Marquette and have covered the basketball team for the past three seasons. Sadly, I am making my final journey to cover the team, this time, all by my lonesome. Nonetheless, it has been a great ride and I am looking forward to one final dance.

 

7:57 a.m. After just three hours of sleep from a long night before (it is her spring break after all), my sister drops me off at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. She is my early favorite for MVP of the trip.

 

9:30 a.m. Though delayed slightly, my plane is finally on the runway ready to take off. For the first time in my life, I can count the amount of passengers on this flight with both hands. There are twelve rows in this beauty, with an aisle separating the single seats on each side. That's right folks, capacity: 24. If the plane I took to Georgetown last month was a Mercedes Benz, than I am flying to Greensboro, North Carolina in a prop car from the movie, "Fast and Furious." Strike that, "Too Fast, Too Furious" (the sequel).

 

9:42 a.m. I immediately begin to focus on the task at hand: Coming home from this trip with a couple of victories. That got me to thinking about my four years at Marquette and the road trips I have taken to see our boys. In 2004, I witnessed a loss to DePaul at All State as Drake Diener picked our Golden Eagles apart. In 2005, I gutted out a double OT victory at St. Louis but dropped another one at DePaul. Hey, life was hard on the road in Conference USA. In 2004 and 2005, MU finished just 6-10 on the road in conference. During 2006, I witnessed the pounding of the Irish but lost the big ones to Wisconsin and Alabama in the NCAA's. After my first three years, my road record was just 2-4, but I came back strong this year notching wins over Texas Tech and Duke in Kansas City. With my first .500 record in four years, I proceeded to drop my next three games at Providence, Georgetown, and DePaul. Thank God for that snowy weekend in Milwaukee a few weeks ago, or I would have had to endure the Notre Dame loss too. Entering this weekend, my record is a paltry 4-7, giving my friends and MU fans alike enough reason to worry about our team winning this weekend. Something tells me we will have our work cut out for us, regardless of my presence or not.

 

10:13 a.m. I am beginning to worry about getting to the arena on time to see Bobby Knight's press conference after the Texas Tech/Boston College game. They start at 11:20 Milwaukee time, and I still have to make the half hour drive into Winston-Salem from Greensboro. Getting anything on my recorder from Knight is priceless and a memory that will always last.

 

10:31 a.m. What is more pathetic? The fact that I am flying 700 miles from home, skipping student teaching, and spending a grand to watch Marquette possibly for just one game…or my girlfriend telling me that I was talking in my sleep last week about Dan Fitzgerald and his three point shooting as a key to MU's success? Just a thought.

 

12:11 p.m…Eastern time. I scurry off the prop plane to grab my luggage and find the quickest, easiest, and most importantly, cheapest way to make the 17 mile drive from the Greensboro Airport to Winston-Salem.

 

12:13 p.m. I arrive at a counter that says TAXI. Here is the transcription of my conversation with the lady at the counter. Her name was Matty, a Southern Bell, aged near 70, I would guess.

 

Me: Hi, I am looking for the best way to get to Winston-Salem as soon as I can.

Matty: Dat be us, sar.

Me: Oh, ok. How much would it cost me?

Matty: Dat be fowrty-nine dollas and fiddy cendt.

Me: For a 20 minute cab ride?

Matty: Dats raght young man.

 

Beautiful. Matty grabs my charge card like she was stealing it and I was not looking and swipes that puppy till it smokes. The smell of burnt plastic fills the air.

 

12:17 p.m. Game time between the Red Raiders and Eagles is in just three minutes, so I have given up that dream. Let's hope my cab driver can step on it so I get there by halftime.

 

12:20 p.m. Two other middle aged women join me in the Soccer Mom vehicle-cab for the ride to the arena. As they chat, I quickly figure out that they are in town for the same purpose as myself. I meet and begin conversation with Mary and Maryanne (thank God those names were easy to remember) and learn that they are two Georgetown alums who live in New York and are flying in to see this afternoon's game.

 

12:23 p.m. Conversation with Mary is now non-stop, as I charmed her pants off saying that she must of graduated from Gtown just 15 years ago. She liked that, and I liked her. Get this. Mary went to all three Georgetown games in the Big East Tournament last week and sat courtside. I later learned that she was flying into Greensboro just for today's Georgetown game, flying back tonight, picking up the rest of her family in New York, and coming back Saturday for Georgetown's game against Boston College. What a fan. I stopped three seconds short of asking her to be my wife, but quickly remembered how much I hated Georgetown when they beat us last month.

 

12:51 p.m. I arrived at the hotel to meet a man in the lobby talking to the receptionist. Turns out, he is a sports lawyer from Portland, Oregon who used to work with the Michigan State basketball program. He saw my Marquette hat, and conversation instantly began. Two minutes later, I had made a new friend and gotten myself a ride to the arena in a sporty Honda Civic rent-a-car. That's five more dollars saved—chalk that up to friendly conversation and southern hospitality, baby!

 

1:39 p.m. Its game time, and by that I mean time for Bobby Knight's press conference. Knight was pretty laid back as he answered questions mostly about the x's and o's of his team's nine point loss to Boston College. I felt really small sitting near Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe and other prominent national college basketball writers. Marquettehoops.com Head Student Writer, beyotches.

 

1:41 p.m. Knight provides his only quote that gets a laugh from the media. When a reporter asks him if he wished Jarrius Jackson could have played better in the second half, he responds:

 

"I wish it would rain dollar bills from the sky, but that ain't gonna happen."

 

3:10 p.m. Belmont 11, Georgetown 3.

 

3:16 p.m. Belmont 11, Georgetown 18. Game over.

 

4:45 p.m. It IS raining dollar bills. I just ran into Shirley Knowles, now in her second year shooting photos for the Marquette Tribune. She remains my favorite Tribune employee…by far.

 

5:56 p.m. Now, you would think that in the NCAA tournament, the 300 media members in the house would be treated to the red carpet special. Not the case here ladies and gentleman. I am on my fourth box of popcorn and have turned my back on Pepsi, drinking my third diet Coke.

 

6:02 p.m. Shirley, still chilling with me in the media room, mentions her hunger for some real food—something besides popcorn and chips. Thanks Shirley, if you would have mentioned that an hour ago when we first met, maybe we could have solved this problem together. I need some southern cooking like MU needs McNeal to play tonight.

 

6:38: p.m. I'm going through the pre-game jitters. Yes, I am trying to be professional. But as I have always said, Fan first, media member second.

 

6:39: p.m. Dick Enberg just took a stroll through the media room. He looks a lot older in person; his forehead wrinkles are really pronounced. But what would I give to get my hands on that pimp CBS suit that he is wearing? Very cool stuff.

 

7:13 p.m. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. "Oh, say can you see…"

 

7:20 p.m. Thump, thump, thump, thumpthumpthump

 

7:21 p.m. Really great to see the Marquette band bring back the slow clapping version of Ring out Ahoya before the game. Since MU went to ACDC's "Thunderstruck" right before the tip, the slow clap version of our fight song has disappeared. Love the comeback, love it.

 

7:29 p.m. Kind of a slow start to the game. Ousmane Barro just picked up his second early foul, which almost always means an MU loss. *See Wisconsin game this year.

 

7:37 p.m. Uh-oh. I never imagined a start like this in my wildest dreams. Marquette is down 14-0 following a Neitzel three point shot. Wait, bam! Cubby for three! We are on the board and all the North Carolina fans just gave us a real nice Bronx cheer. Speaking of arena numbers, we are looking at 10% MU fans, 10% MSU fans, and 80% North Carolina fans. Seriously, a lot of baby blue in the crowd already!

 

7:51 p.m. I am thinking about switching my man crush from Bill Raftery to David Cubillan. Is there a more exciting player to watch when he is pumped up than Cubby? We are still trailing 20-15, but we are definitely back in the game. If Cubby claps anymore in Drew Neitzel's face, his hands are going to be numb.

 

8:25 p.m. I remember being in San Diego last year. We were down by 13 to Alabama but it looked a lot better than this. 30-12 MSU is leading. Marquette shot just 21% in the half.

 

8:26 p.m. The diet Coke's are really wreaking havoc right now. I am headed to the can.

 

8:28 p.m. Celebrity day continues as I walk about of the port-o-john and see none other than Jay Mariotti waiting to get in. Wow. Being from Chicago and being a lifetime White Sox fan, I hate Jay Mariotti. He might be my most hated sports writer. I balked at the chance to flash him a dirty look, concentrating more on zipping up my fly and getting back to the action. Damn.

 

9:01 p.m. Drew Neitzel just made a floating jumper off the top of the backboard as the shot clock expired. You have got to be kidding me.

 

9:12 p.m. Things are getting ugly. I am watching my last MU game as a student.

 

9:14 p.m. If you want to talk about REAL basketball fans, come to the state of North Carolina. I momentarily forgot that I was in one of the cradle states of this sport's popularity, especially at the college level. When the Duke score was flashed up on the score board, every North Carolina fan stood up and wildly cheered at the comeback taking place. Duke 68, Virginia Commonwealth 67.

 

9:20 p.m. With three minutes left in the game and MU down 14, we took 25 seconds to find a shot. Before we could find that shot, we turned the ball over. I think I am conceding victory. It was just not in the cards tonight.

 

9:22 p.m. I get back to the media room and every single media member is huddled around the TV sets in the back. All the North Carolina media members, waiting for the game to begin, are glued to the Duke game. Duke is on the ropes and its looking like they might lose. With 1.8 seconds left, a VCU player hits the game winning shot. I kid you not, these media members start celebrating. Now, typical media etiquette states, "Never cheer for your team, or show any sort of emotion while working." Certainly, I have found myself in violation of this code before, but wow. Is this rivalry intense or what?

 

9:23 p.m. The scoreboard in the arena flashes the final score of the Duke game and the crowd erupts. I know this not because I was in the arena, it was just that loud.

 

9:30 p.m. Time to go to work. I grab my recorder and my microphone and head towards the Marquette locker room.

 

9:58 p.m. Tom Crean finally emerges from the locker room to get to the press conference. A huge gathering of people, including former NFL coach Steve Mariucci, had gathered outside the locker room waiting for Crean, notorious among media members for taking his time. Even the NCAA officials were trying to get him out of there. Tom Crean takes so much care and concern with his teams and I really respect that. I do not mind waiting for him to comment after games because I know what he says in that locker room makes a difference.

 

10:01 p.m. Tears, long faces, and disappointment.

 

10:19 p.m. I conclude my interviews and return to the media workroom. My first plan of attack is to call the airlines and try to get a flight out tomorrow, instead of waiting until Sunday. There are few things worse than paying extra because your team lost early. One hour and 100 bucks later, I got the flight moved.

 

11:22 p.m. I make a few phone calls and begin writing my post game article. Still hard to believe it's all over.

 

1:40 a.m. I am beat. After 12 hours at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, I am ready to return to the hotel. I walk outside only to find pouring rain. At this hour, few people are still hanging around the stadium, so I begin to walk towards the hotel. Luckily, a cab passed me and brought me out of my misery. Back to the luxurious Crossland Hotel. It's sort of like the Weshley Arms in the old SNL skits, only doesn't have a "ha-tub" or any spiced meats.

 

2:20 a.m. After reading the message boards for a few minutes, I have come up with a few conclusions. Fans on our website are passionate and they really care. There are a few bad eggs out there who seem to always see the glass half empty. But you know, Marquette basketball is something truly special. I can say that in my four years here, following this team has become an exciting part of my life. It is part of who I am. I hope you enjoyed the crazy day that was. Here's to the Big Dance and March Madness baby.

 

 


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