Man versus Ball: Vermont should dedicate court to Tom Brennan

Former Vermont head coach Tom Brennan celebrates the Catamounts' upset over four-seed Syracuse in the 2005 NCAA Tournament.
Former Vermont head coach Tom Brennan celebrates the Catamounts’ upset over four-seed Syracuse in the 2005 NCAA Tournament.

I shouldn’t have to write this. It seems so obvious. Plain and simple: The basketball court at the University of Vermont should be dedicated to former men’s basketball coach Tom Brennan, who helmed the team for 19 years.

Most memorably, 10 years ago this March, his team upset a heavily favored Syracuse team in the first round of the NCAA tournament. In short, TB won the big one, the near impossible one.

When TB took over the UVM reigns, it was inconceivable that the Cats could achieve such a feat. At at least one point, TB’s team was ranked dead last in Division I. UVM was considered a hockey haven and basketball graveyard. But TB gave the hoops program at UVM life. He did it with fewer scholarships than his competitors. He did it with less than stellar facilities. He did it without a recruiting gold mine on his doorstep.

He did it with passion, persistence and humor – lots of humor. And even if TB didn’t win that first round NCAA game, I’d still be writing this, asking that he get his due.

TB has been much more than a basketball coach. He has been a pillar in the community. He has been beyond generous with his time, from everything from high school graduations to charitable causes to stuff I don’t know about. Coach K has his court. TB should have his. In my mind, he’s bigger than any other. He’s ours – and he let everyone enjoy his team’s success. So give TB his court. Ten years after his team shocked the world, it’s time.

Jon Hart is the author of Man versus Ball: One Ordinary Guy and His Extraordinary Sports Adventures,

Man versus Ball: Q & A with Catamounts broadcaster, former player, Bernie Cieplicki

Bernie Cieplicki. Courtesy Photo / St. Michael's College
Bernie Cieplicki. Courtesy Photo / St. Michael’s College

Bernie Cieplicki currently does color commentary for the Vermont men’s basketball radio broadcasts. His commentary is so adept that some might not be aware that Bernie was a tremendous player. A 1996 team captain for the Cats, Bernie is one of the best shooters in Catamount history. He ranks fifth all-time in three pointers made (228), fifth all-time in three point field goal percentage (.385) and third in threes made in a season (91). Bernie took a time out to discuss his playing career, his broadcasting and that glorious game in Worcester.

Where were you for the Syracuse game? Who were you with? Who do you call? Who calls you? Describe your emotions.

I was home hosting a family and friends party, and my house was packed. I was calling my brothers non-stop, and it was one of the proudest moments I can ever remember to be a Catamount.

The Duke game, how was it to call that game? Also, discuss your relationship with Duke.

The Duke game was so much fun to call and to be in Cameron Indoor Stadium. I started
following Duke in the early 80’s when I saw them play against my brother Keith at the College of William and Mary. Just watching them in pre-game warm-ups to how they played, I was just mesmerized by them and have never stopped following them.

As a kid, do you growing up going to Catamount games? Which players do you recall?

I did grow up a Catamount fan. I was a ball boy for many years and remember a lot of players like Mike Evelti, Jeff Brown, the head coach at Middlebury College now, Kevin Roberson, Howard Hudson, Raheem Huland-El, to name a few of the many that I have great memories of.

You chose [to attend] Fairfield [out of high school]. How do you break the news to TB (then Vermont head coach Tom Brennan)?

I broke the news to TB on the phone, and it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Continue reading “Man versus Ball: Q & A with Catamounts broadcaster, former player, Bernie Cieplicki”

Man versus Ball: Never forget Trevor Gaines

Trevor Gaines
Trevor Gaines

I noticed the tweet: Trevor Gaines would have been 34.

That tweet stung.

Trevor was won of the greatest players to ever wear the green and gold for the Catamounts.Standing somewhere around 6-foot-5, he was relatively undersized, but Trevor played huge and somehow managed to lead the country in offensive rebounding as a senior in 2001-2002.

They say you can’t teach size – but you also can’t teach desire, and Trevor’s desire was bigger than any 7-footer. It was a desire that began as a child, and carried through to high school, where he paid his own way to attend a Five Star Basketball Camp, where the Cats found him.

Perhaps Trevor put in his most memorable performance during a 2002 America East semi-final tournament game against Maine. At that point, the Cats had never made the NCAA tournament, and they were hungry.

Trevor was the hungriest.

In the second half of that game, Trevor put
the Cats on his back, scoring 20 points and ripping down 12 rebounds while scoring at will against Maine 7-footer Justin Rowe, one of the top shot blockers in the country. Trevor’s effort should be mandatory viewing for any basketball player, or anyone for that matter.

Simply, Trevor put on a clinic.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, and the Cats lost a heartbreaker. Trevor collapsed on his way to the locker room. It was a painful defeat. In those days, there was no NIT bid for the regular season conference champions, which they were. Trevor had played his last college game. Continue reading “Man versus Ball: Never forget Trevor Gaines”

Man versus Ball:  Q&A with Jimmy Dunn, star of CBS’ The McCarthy’s

Comedian Jimmy Dunn. Photo courtesy of
Comedian Jimmy Dunn. Photo courtesy of

Jimmy Dunn is one of the stars of The McCarthy’s, which airs every Thursday on CBS. He plays a diehard, Boston sports fan. It’s art imitating life because Jimmy is that guy. Jimmy, a veteran stand-up comedian, took a few minutes to discuss his new show, the new sport he’s creating and gambling on shuffleboard, among other topics.

You worked for the Red Sox. What was that experience like?

I was their travel correspondent. I covered a Giants game from McCovey Cove in a kayak, ate BBQ with Boog, got punched by a woman at Yankee Stadium, all while watching the 2004 Sox win it all!

What was your sport of choice growing up? What’s the highest level you took it to?

I played baseball and basketball. I got cut from my high school team as a freshman, so I played in a church league for St Margaret’s. Our city had a great church league. I never tried out for the high school team again. I was having too much fun in the church league.

Have you had a chance to shoot hoops or do anything remotely athletic with your co-stars?

We have a court on set, the home gym of The Cardinal Hennigan Saints. Joey and Tyler are both great basketball players. My game is mostly trash talking.

Your character on The McCarthy’s is a former athlete. How did Sean’s athletic career go?

Sean was a two-time Boston Globe basketball all-star. But that was many sandwiches and beers ago.

What’s tougher memorizing lines for the show or hitting a 90 mph fastball?

Fastball. You can be a little off with your lines and still get a big laugh. And I’m not afraid to get hit by a script. Continue reading “Man versus Ball:  Q&A with Jimmy Dunn, star of CBS’ The McCarthy’s”

Man Versus Ball: Catching up with the former voice of the Catamounts, Chris Villani

From 2011-2013 Chris Villani was the voice of the Catamounts, serving as the play-by-play announcer for the team for two seasons. Now working in Boston for the Boston Herald, the WEEI Sports Radio Network, and for ESPN Radio in Bristol,
Connecticut, Villani still has found memories of his time traveling with John Becker and the Catamounts, and took some time with OBW’s Jon Hart to reminisce about the NCAA Tournament trip, his place as the Catamounts’ undisputed Scategories champion, the best Catamounts to interview, Beach night in sub-zero Maine, and coach Becker’s introduction to Mister Boston Blackberry Brandy.

OBW: So you’re a Syracuse grad. You followed The Orange as a member of the media. Where were you the night The Cats upset Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament? What were your thoughts that evening?

Chris Villani: Believe it or not, I was probably one of the few Syracuse students who wasn’t all that upset about the upset against Vermont. The reason being, I was on spring break in Tampa during my sophomore year and having too much fun to worry about it too much. The game took place in Worcester, about 20 minutes from where I grew up. Had I not been down in Florida, I most certainly would have been there to witness the carnage firsthand.

After covering The Cats for a few years, how has your perspective on that monumental upset changed?

I definitely gained an appreciation for how much that victory meant to UVM when I was up there. It’s a lot different for a mid-major program when you’re on that side of a significant upset. It’s not the first time Syracuse has been beaten in the tournament by a lower seed and certainly will not be the last, but for Vermont fans, that was a great moment and one to be celebrated.

When do you know that sports broadcasting is your future? Is it in little league, or before. or much later?

I had a teacher in high school who knew that I had a love for sports and also my affinity for talking. She suggested I try doing play-by-play for the high school football team that season, and the rest, as they say, is history.

How did you land the gig in Burlington?

It’s the only job I’ve ever had when I didn’t know anybody going in. I applied, one of probably 100 or so, and was fortunate enough to get an interview and an offer.

How different is it to cover The Cats as opposed to a BCS team like Syracuse?

The biggest difference is probably the relative access to the players and coaches. John Becker is a very down-to-earth guy and great to work with and the players were always more accessible and accommodating. Both sports information department’s were very helpful. Obviously the venues and the size of the crowds are different, but the passion for college sports is very similar in both places, in my opinion.

When you’re covering The Cats, are you traveling with the team? Are you on the bus? The planes? What’s the grind like? As a member of the media, how much of a distance do you have to keep from the team your covering?

On most road trips, I didn’t travel with the team, I opted to travel independently. There were a couple of reasons for this. First, it allowed me to leave on my own schedule and miss as little time doing my talk show as possible. Second, it allowed me to maintain a little bit of distance from the team. I never wanted to be around too much. I always thought it was important as someone who had to occasionally be critical of the team in a talk show format to maintain that professional distance and not always be reliant upon them for transportation.

That said, they were always more than willing to tote me along whenever necessary. Road trips were fun. The team watches movies or TV shows. Some of the favorites during my two years were Entourage and movies like The Dark Night Rises and Thor. We also passed the time by playing Scategories, and I’m not ashamed to say that I remain the undefeated champion. Most times, the team checked into the hotel in the evening, the night before the game. There’s always a set schedule with meals, which I typically did not attend, shoot around, study time, and of course leaving for the game. Continue reading “Man Versus Ball: Catching up with the former voice of the Catamounts, Chris Villani”

Go east, young man: OBW interviews former Catamount and Kansas native Rob Zin

In order right to left: Former Catamounts Bart Donovan, Rob Hamlin, Chris Kappas and Rob Zin prepare for a feast at the legendary Henry's Diner in Burlington.
In order right to left: Former Catamounts Bart Donovan, Rob Hamlin, Chris Kappas and Rob Zin prepare for a feast at the legendary Henry’s Diner in Burlington.

Way before this year’s Midwest-heavy recruiting class, Rob Zin, a Kansas native, went east and played some stellar ball for the Cats. He was a team captain and also served as an assistant coach after graduation. He took a time out to talk Sorrentine From The Parking Lot, Mama Gooch and TB’s special meal at HoJo’s.

OBW: How do you feel about the Cats recruiting the Midwest hard?

Rob Zin: Increased recruiting in the Midwest will only help the Cats. I highly encourage it.

So before UVM, what was your life like? You mentioned Kansas.

That’s where I was born and raised.

Could you talk about your background?

I was always a Jayhawk fan. I still am a Jayhawk fan. I came to UVM in 1985.

Did the Jayhawks recruit you?

They did to an extent. There was no scholarship involved out of high school.

So there was a chance to walk on perhaps?

Yeah. It was interesting because it was a chance to walk on with two other people: another gentleman that I played high school basketball with, Chris Piper and another guy that I played high school basketball against, Mark Turgin, who is now the head coach at Wichita State. He went on to become the starting point guard at Kansas for a number of years. And Chris Piper. They redshirted him and then he played pretty frequently his junior and senior years. He was the captain his senior year with Danny Manning in 1988 when they won the national championship. And so it was really nice from my point of view to watch two close friends, who decided to take that chance and go ahead and walk on to have that type of success, because that is very unusual at a university of that caliber. It was fun to watch.

What were your options other than trying to walk on at Kansas?

I was looking at a number of different places. I was looking at Penn State. I was looking at Dartmouth. I was looking at the University of Wyoming. I was looking at Boise State.

So you were pretty widely recruited?

Yeah, there were a number of different things. Just through all the time I spent playing with the Kansas basketball team, a call was made to Bill Whitmore (Vermont’s head coach) that I was interested in the school. They ended up taking a look at me.

Was Larry Brown (Kansas’s head coach at the time) behind UVM hoops back then?

No, nothing like that. It was a favor to me, a phone call. ‘Here’s a good kid. You should take a look at him.’ That was probably the extent of it.

Where did you learn to shoot?

{Laughs] Hours and hours of repetition. I was always a gym rat. I was always a sports junkie in all different areas.

Did Bill Whitmore come out to recruit you?

No, no.They didn’t know I existed. I brought myself to them.

They were sold immediately? Did you have to show them tape? How does that work?

I was actually out there. I basically played for them. Put it that way.

Why UVM? Was it the school? Was it the program?

[It was] The reputation of the school academically [and] the setting. I wanted to go to school in New England. I had been in Kansas for a long time. I loved Kansas — still do, always will — but I wanted to leave there. I did not want to go to college there. I had come to Burlington and fell in love with the town and the school and it was a pretty easy decision after that.

Describe the basketball program when you enter the picture?

Pretty bare bones. And also bare bones when Coach Brennan came aboard my senior year.

What is your first impression of Coach Brennan. I think he was a little younger than you are now.

He was 36 when he took the job.

What do you think of him?

Just that he was the absolute antithesis of what Coach Whitmore was, his approach to the game, his approach to the relationship with the players; the importance of the sport to the school and the community.

Describe Coach Brennan, “TB.”

He was awesome. You instantly admired and respected him and wanted to work for him. His enthusiasm and attitude is infectious, not only with the people that he meets that don’t play for him but ten to twenty fold for the people that do play for him. Continue reading “Go east, young man: OBW interviews former Catamount and Kansas native Rob Zin”

Catching up with former Catamount Rahim Huland El

After his own career came to an end, Catamount legend Rahim Huland El (left) helped to mold his daughter, Aliyah (center) into one of the top high school players in the country.
After his own career came to an end, Catamount legend Rahim Huland El (left) helped to mold his daughter, Aliyah (center) into one of the top high school players in the country.

Only 11 Vermont Catamount have surpassed the 1,000 point and 500 (532) rebound barriers during their careers. Rahim Huland El is one of those 11.

As one of Coach Tom Brennan’s first recruits, Huland El was instrumental in turning the Catamount program around, scoring 1,287 points and ripping down 532 rebounds during his career in Burlington. Huland El played a pivotal role in the upset of heavily-favored Northeastern during the 1990 conference tournament – one of the most memorable victories of the pre-Sorrentine/Coppenrath/Cinderella Catamount era.

The first member of his extended family to graduate from a four year university, Huland El passed on an opportunity to play professional basketball after graduating from Vermont, opting instead to attend law school. Now a coach and the father to Aliyah — a consensus five-star recruit who signed with Virginia and is regarded one of the top women’s basketball recruits in the freshman class of 2014 — Huland El sat down with OBW to discuss his time in Burlington; the great upset of Syracuse; the late, great Kevin Roberson; life lessons learned from Tom Brennan; and his daughters success, among other things.

OBW: Describe your experiences and emotions on the night the Cats shocked the world and upset Syracuse. Where were you? Who were you with? Who called?

RH: Obviously, I can vividly recall that day. When the brackets were announced, I felt that we had a decent chance to beat Syracuse. On the day of the game, I was at a restaurant in West Orange, New Jersey. I was supposed to meet my buddy there, but he was unable to make it. So, I sat there alone at the restaurant cheering every UVM basket and every ‘Cuse miss.

Right away, I thought back to the 1989-1990 season. I think we won 15 games that year. It was our first legitimate team. This was also the year that Roberson emerged as one of the best defensive players in the country – he averaged about 4 blocks (and 6-8 “alters”) per game. I have always seen the 89-90 season as the start of the run that UVM has been on for the past 24 years. So, as I sat watching the Syracuse game, my primary emotion was extreme pride – pride that classy guys like Taylor Coppenrath and Sorrentine and Mopa Njila were creating the culmination of something that us “old guys” started many years before.

Let’s back track. How did you get involved in basketball? Who were your earliest mentors? Where did you learn to shoot?

I originally became interested in basketball as a sixth grader living in Irvington, New Jersey. I was a tall kid so I figured I would tryout for the local traveling basketball team. Well, I was tall but I could not play a lick! So, I did not make the team. At that time, I decided that I would not be cut from another team…ever.

So I started practicing 2-3 hours per day on the playground. I was like the mailman, neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow would stop me from practicing. I would play and get beat on by older players and grown men. Within a year, I was the best player in my age group. I did not get cut from the seventh grade team!

My earliest role models as players were guys like Julius Erving, Bernard King, Michael Ray Richardson and Magic Johnson. The common thread among these players was that they played with passion. I always liked to play with extreme passion as well.

Let’s talk about the recruiting process. Who was looking at you? Did Coach Brennan visit you personally? Describe his charm: Did he woo you with poetry? (Editor’s note: During the recruitment of TJ Sorrentine, TB wrote a poem for him.)

Ahh, recruiting… In addition to UVM, I was recruited by Fordham, Cornell, Rutgers, Columbia and several other mid-major schools. I was part of TB’s first recruiting class at UVM. The other members of that class were TJ Whitaker, Mark Madden, Matt Johnson and Bill Bright.

Coach Brennan came to visit my home and commenced to charming the heck out of my mother. He also mentioned that he preferred an up-tempo style of play and that I would have a chance to play as a freshman. TB got my attention with each of these statements. I was a pretty athletic player, so running was right up my alley. Unfortunately, no poetry.

Prior to TB’s home visit, UVM was my third or fourth choice. After his home visit, UVM was right at the top of my list!

Before choosing Vermont, did it bother you in the least that Vermont was one of the lowest ranked teams in Division I?

UVM’s ranking did not bother me. In fact, I knew that this would increase my chances of playing right away.

First impressions…When you first meet your teammates: Kevin Roberson, Kenny White, TJ, Bill Bright, Matt Johnson, Mike Lubas…what are your thoughts? Was there instant chemistry – on and off the court? Do you think ‘we are going to turn this thing around?’

First of all, I was one of five freshman players during the 87-88 season. We were a very young team. But, we had good chemistry. The upperclassmen – Joe Calavita, Mike Lubas, Rob Hamlin, Bart Donovan, Chris Kappas, Francis John and Brad Chandler – all looked out for us young guys.

And, since we were 3-24, we had to get along. All we had was each other. The first season was about survival. Aside from a big home win against Northeastern, we did not have much success on the court. However, the seniors, Rob Hamlin and Francis John, set the tone of working hard everyday in practice. The younger guys watched and tried to follow suit.

The next year, Roberson (“Hutch” as we all called him), Kenny White, Mike Malachuk and Rich Tarrant joined the team. So over a 2 year period, we added nine players to the team. This signified the changing of the guard.

Hutch’s rebounding record was broken this past year, which was a little sad. However, it got a lot of people talking about Kevin. What was Kevin Roberson like off the court?

Kevin was one of the finest human beings I have ever met. He was smart, humble, kind and considerate. But his quiet nature sometimes masked his fierce competitive fire. I looked at him very much as my little brother. I and several of my former teammates still struggle with Hutch’s untimely and unfortunate passing. He was destined to achieve some spectacular things with in his life. In fact, I named my son “Ahsan” because it’s meaning “gentle, kind, charitable and handsome” is very close to the meaning to “Kevin.” Both names also describe Kevin Andre Roberson to a T!

What are your memories of Kevin Andre Roberson? Continue reading “Catching up with former Catamount Rahim Huland El”

Man versus Ball: How to fake being a soccer fan

About two weeks ago, soccer was an orphan sport compared to basketball, hockey and baseball – even college baseball. Now, everyone’s watching. If you want to join the World Cup party, here are some tips on becoming a fake soccer fan.

1. Whenever someone comments on the game and you have no clue what they’re talking about, just pivot and comment: “Ronaldo’s artistry is magical!”

2. Save your baseball cap for baseball and bad hangover days. If you need to wear something on your head, go with something kooky. If you got a sombrero or a jester hat, go for it and then paint your face. Soccer loves kooky! And even though it’s blistering, wear a stupid scarf. A jersey would complete the ensemble but don’t put your name on the back. You’re not playing!

3. If you feel the need to initiate a conversation, ask anyone who’ll listen if Landon Donovan’s exclusion from the U.S. side – yes, say side instead of team – made any difference besides getting everyone’s attention and making soccer relevent before the World Cup.

4. Go to a beer hall and sit at a long table with people that you won’t see again because you’re a fake soccer fan. Drink lots of beer, exotic stuff, in humongous mugs and sing stupid songs. If you don’t know any, just make one up. No one will know the difference. Everyone will probably be too wasted.

5. Let the facial hair grow and show those tattoos. Soccer is big with the hipsters! Mention to anyone that you’re considering a move to the Pacific northwest in part because you heard that the MLS is just awesome there.

6. If anyone asks you what you do for your soccer fix when the World Cup is not in session, just say that you fixate on The Premier League.

7. Lastly, watch the game or pretend to watch. React emphatically preferably with loud moans and groans when anything remotely interesting happens. When someone gets bitten, act outraged.

8. After the game, fantasize about creating a soccer fantasy league.

Jon Hart is the author of Man versus Ball: One Ordinary Guy and His Extraordinary Sports Adventures,

Man versus Ball: Ban the First Pitch

By Jon Hart

Until further notice: Ban the first pitch in baseball!

There, I said it. The first pitch used to be sacred – something reserved for leaders and symbols of heroism and sacrifice. Now, sadly, it has devolved into a disgrace, just another marketing ploy.

When George Bush threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium, it was an unforgettable moment, a rallying cry for solidarity. Let’s fast forward to 50 Cent’s recent first pitch fiasco.

Why was 50 Cent there in the first place?

It was strictly business: 50 has a new television series to promote, and he has a post-game concert at Citi Field next month. Mets management figures that if baseball can’t draw fans, they’ll get people to the stadium with rap. Rap this Mets brass: Take the dough and spend it on better players!

Ultimately, it was excellent business that 50 Cent screwed up his first pitch. He got great publicity for everything he’s trying to hawk. It also provided some great publicity for the Mets, who are, well, less than irrelevant — if the Mets aren’t hitting, what do you do? Blame it on the hitting coach of course!

Now, 50 Cent is back to being a household name, and the general public thinks that Citi Field is happening. If 50 makes the simple throw, there’s no media attention and not a soul cares.

Ultimately, nothing is sacred as far as the so-called national past time. These days, baseball stadiums are glorified malls. It’s all about over charging fans for parking, tap water and processed chicken and soggy fries. Sadly the once sacred first pitch has become just another pitch.

Jon Hart is the author of Man versus Ball: One Ordinary Guy and His Extraordinary Sports Adventures and a columnist for One-Bid Wonders.

Amongst the Cameron Crazies

By Jon Hart

There’s the sacrificial lamb. And then there’s the sacrificial fan.

I planned on being the latter. I trekked down to Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina to see my beloved Vermont Catamounts play the Duke Blue Devils. With a record of 1-4, the senior-laden Cats were under performing, so no one expected much of a contest.

Days earlier, they were blown out by Bryant. Bryant is a good squad, but they’re not Duke. In short, I’m hoping for a moral victory, unfortunately – perhaps the Cats can keep it within single digits.

A victory in itself was getting to see a game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. With its wood-paneled doors and chrome railings, Cameron is the Fenway of hoops to some degree. Arriving in Durham just hours before the game, I immediately head over to Cameron, hoping to get a glimpse of anything. When I get there, the door’s locked and a security guard tells me that the gates will open for students at 4:45 p.m. He suggests that I visit the Blue Devils Hall of Fame.

I’d rather get stuck overnight on a chairlift at Stowe with J.J. Reddick.

I was here to see the Cats, the sole team I root for. A few hours later at 4:30, I return to Cameron. A few fellow Catamount fans are just behind me in line. They’ve printed t-shirts that say “Catamount Crazies.” They tell me something about Tom Brennan I already know but enjoy hearing: His players would take a bullet for him.
Frankly I would take a bullet for TB too.

Why? He let the fans inside, allowed us to be a part of it.

Just after 5, a bus pulls up. I can vaguely make out green and gold, the Catamount colors, and I’m immediately overcome with emotion. Abandoning my place, I run towards the bus. I spot the Cats’ head coach who’s heading inside Cameron.
“Coach Becker! Let’s go Cats!” I yell, as a security guard gets in front of me. I’m sitting in the nosebleeds of Cameron, so this will be my and only chance for the Cats to hear my encouragement.

“Let’s get this done!”

My words are meant to be ironic. I refer to Duke as just a mere chore that can be easily vanquished. In reality, this is how Duke perceives the Cats. I also want the Cats to know that their fans have made the journey. Perhaps this will serve as some inspiration.

Following my outburst, Coach Becker continues to walk – but he seems to smile. Just making this happen was worth the trip in itself. Coaches don’t smile enough. Like place kickers in football, everyone thinks they can do their job but few actually can.

As I head back to the line, I mull over the fact that security had to restrain me. It’s not too often that the Cats have to be protected from the public, their own public. Also, I’m amused at myself for becoming the fan that believes they can have an actual influence, however slight, on the game.

When I enter the arena, it’s empty except for the much-publicized Cameron Crazies, who are already at work, harassing the Cats as they do their exercises. As I head to my seat upstairs, I reiterate my dislike for the Crazies. Cameron is the smallest 9,000-seat arena anywhere. Not an inch is spared. Everything is practically right on top of the court. No, there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

Now, the Crazies are chanting and gesturing with their arms. They particularly enjoy holding their arms straight while waving their fingers. When a few hundred of them do this, it creates a nice effect not to mention a great photo op.
After tip-off, I brace myself for a blow out.

It doesn’t happen. Continue reading “Amongst the Cameron Crazies”