I arrive in Willimantic last Sat. around 2:45 to check out the Eastern CT/UMass Boston men’s basketball game; I see a campus cop ticketing cars where I normally park, so I decide to park elsewhere–FAR away. A lovely young co-ed exits her car next to me and enters the nearby dorm; I wish I was 22 again. I enter the gym amid the STRONG smell of chlorine from the adjacent pool; it’s probably as HOT in the gym as it is in the pool area–feels like 85 degrees. I pick up my rosters from the table behind the bench and wave to ECSU coach Bill Geitner–a pleasant man who recently appeared on my cable show; I decide to sit in the stands for a better view. ECSU assistant women’s coach Stan Harris greets me there with a big smile after his team just annihilated the UMB gals in the previous game; I guess it’s easy to smile when your team is now 17-2. It’s HOT–time to lose the winter coat, Bob. Good crowd–Alumni Day.
ECSU gets off to a quick 4-0 lead; I assume it’ll be a LONG day for the 2-16 Beacons. UMB coach Charlie Titus is wearing all-black; I laugh to myself as I realize that his wardrobe may be appropriate if his team gets “buried.” Two young kids under the age of 7 sitting in front of me with their Dad–one wearing a Josh Beckett jersey; I’m wondering if he even knows who Beckett IS. Jamie Kohn enters the game for ECSU about six minutes into it–a talented freshman who I coached in middle school; must have had a bad week of practice as he’s started almost every game up to now. “Dad” is now feeding his two kids HANDFULS of Life Savers; I wouldn’t want to have to put these kids to bed later on. Jeremy Thompson of Eastern throws up a “brick” from the foul line and commits a bad foul ten seconds later; Geitner CAN’T be happy. Halfway through the period, Jamie gets fouled–ends up missing BOTH free throws; funny, he NEVER missed foul shots in high school and I surmise that he is bending his knees too much. Kris Johnson of ECSU hits his third three-pointer to give his team a 19-18 lead–nothing but net. 4:23 left–timeout called; Little Richard’s “Good Golly Miss Molly” blasts over the P.A. system while a hungry yours truly stares intently at the half-eaten Subway grinder just placed on the bleachers to my right by a gal behind me. The younger brother in front of me is now drawing imaginary circles on the bleachers; I assume he’d rather be elsewhere–maybe a playground. 1:47 left–Johnson hits his FIFTH three-pointer to give ECSU a 34-24 lead; this could get ugly. He connects from downtown AGAIN with 1:03 left; I’m thinking that if he has a date later on, he’s BOUND to get lucky. 18 first half points for Johnson; score at halftime: ECSU 37, UMass Boston 26. I’m still hungry.
“Free Bird” blasts over the P.A. system as I conclude that none of these co-eds were even BORN when that song became popular. A kid with a “Hebron Basketball” t-shirt sits to my left–wearing a winter coat with SHORTS while I remember that the temp must be 20 outside; ah, the parenting of today, huh? “Sweet Home Alabama” follows and I’m thinking that perhaps this is a medley of Skynard tunes due to the recent death of keyboardist Billy Powell; nah, I’ve heard these songs all season long. A 21-year old, attractive blonde returns to her seat about three rows ahead; I wish I was 22 again–or even 30. One of the brothers is now drinking Orange Crush while the other is downing M&M’s at a frantic pace; they’re on a roll. “Tuesday’s Gone” now playing; gotta love Skynard.
UMB has the first possession; James St. Fleur of UMass Boston makes an “old-fashioned” three-point play and I’m thinking this may be a game after all. Two minutes into the second half, a guy three rows down pops a bag and laughs to himself; he’d probably rather be somewhere else, too. Five female co-eds enter the gym for the first time five minutes into the second half; must be ‘loyal’ fans, huh? Time-out; cheerleaders are drowned out by Seger’s “Rock and Roll Never Forgets.” Sawyer of ECSU dunks and the crowd goes WILD; however, his team admires it rather than getting back on defense as Geitner throws his sport jacket and calls time out. “Wooly Bully” now blares–great party song. I get tapped on the shoulder by Stan Harris as he now sits next to me; we chat for about 15 minutes. He talks fondly of coach Ken Smith of Windsor High School–among other things; we can’t wait for baseball season as we both love coaching at the middle-school level. Stan now has to leave to tend to family matters; I’m convinced there aren’t many better/classier people than Stanley. Ernst Jean of UMB scores easily against Thompson; he’s too quick for Thompson and I assume Coach Titus knows that. 9:36 left–Courtney Simmons of ECSU hits two free throws to give his team a 56-48 lead; both coaches are now without sport jackets as I wonder if they are wearing effective deodorant. Ref wipes the court with a towel; I could use one to wipe my brow, too. UMass Boston narrows the gap to 59-55; it shouldn’t be this close. A three-pointer by Titus (I assume he’s the coach’s son) of UMB–then a time-out called by ECSU. Bob Molta, the SID of Eastern who keeps stats, documents each play, etc., talks over the P.A. about who donated shorts for the alumni game played beforehand; yeah, he works WAY too hard for his money. 3:43 left; Titus makes two foul shots to give UMASS a 61-60 lead. Simmons then throws up an air ball three-pointer for ECSU; Geitner must be fit to be tied. Time running out as ECSU is forced to foul Titus CONSTANTLY; he makes some, misses some but UMass Boston is pulling away. About a minute left–Ortiz makes a 3-pointer for ECSU to narrow the score to 69-63, but I’m thinking it’s now “garbage time.” Ortiz scores again with about 30 seconds left–now 72-69 UMB; however, Titus makes two more from the line and I’m convinced this one’s over. FINAL: UMass Boston 75, ECSU 69. This wasn’t supposed to happen.
Sinatra’s “New York, New York” now plays; the dejected, home crowd fans around me are NOT singing along. I approach the exit as the winter chill–reaching me BEFORE I open the door–cools me down FAST. I walk the hundred yards or so to my car; can’t wait to eat the jelly stick that I bought two hours ago that may now be FROZEN on the front seat. I quickly think that ECSU just lost a TOUGH one–beaten by a lowly team at HOME. In any case, I conclude that it was an ugly game overall as both teams must have missed 25 free throws; that shouldn’t happen. Oh well–another home game vs. Wesleyan to attend in a few days. I stare to my right and see a very cute gal–probably another resident co-ed–getting into her car; yeah, I wish I was 22 again.