Copyright by Global Electronics Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes.Com
December 13, 2001
Irish Fan Brings
Family Together on Road
By Mark Allen
For The IrishEyes.Com News Service
OXFORD, OH (IE) -- Notre Dames mens basketball game at Miami of Ohio on Saturday, Dec. 8 was a special one for me. It brought my two "families" together.
My sister lives in Hamilton, Ohio, which is about 10 miles from Oxford, home of the Red Hawks of Miami University. To see her and experience a Notre Dame basketball game was a special combination.
I also wanted to see us snap a nasty three-year losing streak to Miami. I remember the first game of the series; I was there. Yes, it was David Graves', Harold Swanagan's and some guy named Troy Murphy's first game as freshmen. But, on that day, as I sat next to Martin Ingelsby's uncle, Ed Hastings, I knew we had something special. I knew those three freshmen, as they stated as a goal, would lead us back to where we belonged.
Notre Dame and family; what a combo! So to see both of my "families", Notre Dame and the Allen's made this trip great.
So, Jim Ritter -- trusted friend and fellow member of the fabled "Subway Alumni" -- and I made the trip from our Indianapolis home. But, that wasn't all. My girlfriend, Barbara Boyd, at the same time was on the way to Hamilton, Ohio, all the way from her home, Rock Island, Tennessee! This would be her first game. We were to meet up in Hamilton to get my nephew, Matt and his friend, Demetrius, affectionately referred to as "D."
We all met up at my sister's house in Hamilton for lunch before going to the game. Of course, I had to show my father George Allen the video of "Here Come the Irish." If you haven't heard it or seen it, it is a must for all Notre Dame fans.
At about 2:00, we made the short trip up the road to Oxford and the campus of Miami University. The surrounding area of Oxford is a pretty, rural area. In the Cincinnati area, Miami has a reputation in some circles as a "party" college. You notice an abundance of fraternity and sorority houses upon arriving on the campus.
I bought tickets in the visitor's section so we could be near any Notre Dame fans making the trek to the game. This was in one corner at an angle, from the floor up to the upper arena. Being a very small arena, it was not that far up, even at the highest point.
I was surprised to see that there were a nice number of ND fans in the section. But, overall, I was not impressed with the total attendance. That was ok with me. There is no use in Miami having too much of a home court advantage!
We started out in our section. The seats, in the corner, faced straight ahead. One has to turn their head to the left to see the action. It was a very strange looking arena. I like all college arenas. I just think it was different. As the game went on, we noticed the ND fans were moving to empty seats near midcourt. We also did this.
At first, we were sort of quiet, being in enemy territory and all. But, it wasn't long before I could hold it in no longer. I had to cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame. Early in the game, Matt Carroll had an offensive foul called on him. He had a rebound and a Miami player tried to tie him up. He was behind Matt. Matt tried to protect the ball and swung his arms. The player, draped all over Matt, was not called for the foul; Matt Carroll was! The student section started chanting "Car-roll, Ca-roll, Car-roll". They did this for much of the game.
That made me lose any inhibitions of cheering out loud!
Early on, Miami could not miss. Would this be more of the last three games against Miami? I felt like Miami could not keep up the pace of their early barrage, especially, the guards of Miami, Davis and Jubi Johnson. On top of that, Chris Thomas is "ice." He is rapidly becoming a clutch player and does not panic. He is playing beyond his years as far as confidence. Repeatedly, Chris hit shots to keep us close. He would not let Miami pull away. Despite, leading 41-28 at one point, I knew we were in it.
In the second half, it was a series of small streaks by both teams. Notre Dame led by seven late in the game. But, I looked over at our group of five and said, "This is a helpless feeling. I just know that it is meant to come down to the last few seconds and there is not a darn thing we can do about it". At the end, Barb, Jim, Matt, D and I were all on our feet. As a fan, it is hard in a close game to sit down. I looked at Matt and he was pumping his fists. Barb said, "I can't believe how calm you are." I was not calm. It was hard to watch. I had the butterflies of competitiveness inside me. And, for those out there who have played competitive sports, you know what I mean. It is harder to watch than it is to be playing in those close games.
The score was 68-67, Notre Dame, when David Graves was fouled. He had to hit the first to get the second. We were in the bonus. This was clutch. I wanted both. If we hit both, we, at worse, would go into overtime. Barb drove five hours. I wanted her to see a win. Ohhhh, the pressure! But, David is an excellent free throw shooter. Bam, he hits the first. Ok, now if we avoid the three, we can at worse clinch a tie. Second one-GOOD! OK! Now, we have clinched a tie with a three. 70-67, Irish.
Timeout, Miami. Whew, a break! 15 seconds left.
Miami inbounded the ball. This is tough. We watch as the guard drove to the left of the foul line. Please no three! Uh oh, he is going to shoot for the tie. If he makes it, this place will erupt. The momentum may be too much to overcome in overtime. Torrian Jones blocks the shot attempt. HUGE! Alex Shorts picks up the ball and heaves another three and it falls short. It is picked up and put in on a layup. 70-69, Irish! We win!
What a great feeling it was for all of us to see our team win. And, to win a close one at that! This would make the trip home for all of us a pleasure. There is nothing like savoring a victory and talking basketball, especially, after a victory.
There is nothing like being with family-both immediate and extended! Notre Dame is family.
(Mark Allen has been a Notre Dame fan for over 30 years. He lives in Indianapolis and is a regular contributor to many Internet message boards that focus on the Irish. He pens a "Fans Perspective" column for IrishEyes.)