POSTED ON JANUARY 21, 2009:
A trip to the Reynolds Center awakens latent interest in TU athletics
"Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit!" the Reynolds Center was full of fury. The referees had blown another call, but this late in the game, with 15 seconds on the clock, ordinary boos would not do. The nearly 6,000 fans in attendance followed the lead of the ornery student section in a disdainful chant denouncing the previous call.
My neighbors in section 212 were as outraged as the students.
TU's chances didn't look as promising as they did 30 seconds earlier, when they were on the other side of a one point lead. The Memphis Tigers now had the upper hand.
This was shaping up to be the best basketball game I'd ever attended, and I've been to many - both professional and collegiate.
I know some of the bigger blue and gold fans might take issue with this statement, but based on my time in this state, the argument over the top collegiate sports program has only two players. Either you're a Cowboy or a Sooner. And if you aren't, you're not taken seriously.
My thoughts on TU athletics aren't as fully defined as lifelong Tulsans, so I'll use the words of a fan after the Memphis/Tulsa basketball game on Tuesday, January 13: "That's the first time I've ever actually cared about TU athletics." From my observation, TU's like the cute sibling who is cheered on if we remember he or she is playing.
I'm essentially TU's neighbor. I cheer for the school because of my geographical location but also because I feel like supporting the Golden Hurricanes is supporting the underdog. Who doesn't love an underdog? That may be awkward to say because TU's athletes are performing well, but I feel like TU remains in the shadow of bigger schools.
Not Just a Sooner Nation
Generally speaking, I know basketball isn't as popular here as football, but I've always loved basketball. We also have the professional team in Oklahoma City; so maybe that will balance fan interest.
Again, I live in Tulsa. Not Norman. Not Stillwater. So, while I didn't graduate from the University of Tulsa, they're as close to a home team as I have. I'm adopting the Golden Hurricanes, damn it!
You don't have to take me seriously. When I check my sports scores I scroll right over the O's and go directly to the T's. TU, that is. I don't care if they are the smallest school (undergraduate enrollment) in NCAA Division 1-A (football). It makes my appreciation of the program only grow.
That said, what the hell is a golden hurricane? And, what does it have to do with Tulsa, Oklahoma? Seriously, send me an email or stop me at the local grocer. I'm curious.
While pondering column topics, I remembered (about two months late) the ORU/TU battle and thus checked the calendar- only to find a matchup looming with the Memphis Tigers, last year's NCAA runner-up. I'm delighted that I did.
The first half of the game involved rudimentary basketball lessons for my girlfriend, Cristi. I feel like we've gone over these at other games, but I admit, there are many rules.
Why do people, mostly men, including myself, think that shouting at referees, even from the worst seats in the building, will alter the calls or outcome of the game?
"I'm glad I don't do that," I said, reacting to a gentleman behind me who knew all of the Golden Hurricanes by first name. He was particularly miffed with Bishop.
I verbalized this to Cristi roughly three minutes prior to beginning my own denunciation of the officiating.
"Oh, that's a double dribble, ref. I'm all the way up here and I can see that!" I blurted. (Yes, the replay on the overhead monitor confirmed it, okay.)
"What's a double dribble?" Cristi asked, effectively dissolving my indignation.
Halftime came and after watching the cheerleaders, we determined there were two squads. One group wore what seemed to be mandatory bows in their hair with exposed midsections. The other wore barrettes and exposed no midsection. The male cheerleaders catapulted the ladies into the air, but only seemed interested in throwing around the women with bows. No bows. No air.
I thought, man, I wish I were strong enough to get away with those lifts. I'd use it to fight evil, though. And, master the art of rocketing women into clouds. You know, for a fun party trick.
With the second half quickly approaching, I heard ice cream and nachos and pretzels calling my name, but the halftime festivities deterred me from moving.
"I can't leave. I want to know if Mr. Green down there is going to make a lay-up for the $25 prize. He only has 20, no, 18 seconds," I said. He made the lay-up. It was suspenseful. Should've been there!
Throughout the second half the game remained close. Tulsa took its first lead with less than five minutes remaining. Even Cristi found the game "interesting," although it seemed more "exciting" to me.
As I noted earlier, there were some questionable calls. One of the guys next to me declared, "This is the worst officiating I've ever seen." He hadn't said that since January 8.
Memphis inbounded under their own basket with 15 seconds left on the game clock and seven seconds on the shot clock, after obviously knocking the ball out of bounds some 60 seconds and thousands of boos and bullshits earlier.
Tulsa's luck hadn't run out. Memphis botched the play and Tulsa found itself in possession of the ball with less than 10 seconds remaining. Nearly all in attendance were now on their feet as Tulsa's Ben Uzoh drove to the basket. He was fouled with 4.5 seconds remaining. After making both free throws, Tulsa was in control 54-53.
Now all TU would need to do was stop Memphis' Antonio Anderson from dribbling the length of the court unabated and making a lay-up at the buzzer, and we'd all forget the officiating, missed opportunities, and overall "bullshit."
Sadly, TU did not stop Antonio Anderson.
TU fans were disappointed, but cordial.
It was the best game I've ever seen in person.
Some TU students who left the building near me were obviously enraged. They made calls for Memphis fans.
"Where you at Memphis?"
When one older Memphis fan took them up on their offer, they graciously discussed the fortune of the Tigers. I later heard the once-rambunctious student say, "Did you hear that Memphis fan? He was way too nice. I couldn't be mean."
With neighbors like that, I think I'm okay. But, next time let's win, Golden Hurricane.
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