Sunday, January 29, 2017

the U

Yesterday I drove from Del Ray Beach to Coral Gables to watch the University of Miami upset the University of North Carolina by double digits.  I am interested in UNC for a number of reasons one of which is that I am still befuddled at how the academic scandal there could have existed for nearly two decades.  Also, I think their coach Roy Williams is one of the more dedicated college basketball coaches there is. He has won wherever he has been.  Similarly I have been impressed with Jim Larranaga.  Before he went to the University of Miami (the U) he had taken just an okay talented team at George Mason to later rounds of the NCAA tournament. To be informed a bit more for this blog I was startled to read that Larranaga had played for Molloy high school graduating when I did (from a different high school) and he'd been a star at Molloy, as well as later at Providence College. I don't remember him as a player, but I do remember that Molloy was always a powerhouse team in New York.

So, for a number of reasons I was interested in going to the game.  I took notes during it making, no doubt, the folks seated to my left and right wondering why I was doing so.  But scribble away I did. Some points that may be of interest to readers.

  • It took me almost as much time to drive the 4.4. miles on route 1 to the stadium, than it took me to drive the 50 miles from Del Ray to Coral Cables. Note to U of M, perhaps hire a constable to help with game day traffic. It was enough to discourage me from going to a game again.
  • I bump into a fellow with a University of Miami shirt in the parking lot. He walks me to the arena, but then goes into a separate entrance which appears to be for the donors.  Looked like a bar mitzvah in there with all the food provided for folks who were in the club.  I remember that when I was at SUNY Fredonia that members of the booster club--of which I was one--were treated to pepperoni and cheddar cheese before games.  The U of M faithful were eating more substantive stuff.
  • I was not impressed with the arena. I am not a big fellow, but I could just about squeeze into my seat. Fortunately, neither of my neighbors spent a lot of time on the buffet line, otherwise it could have been uncomfortable--and I paid a pretty penny for the ticket.
  • I was smack at the mid court stripe. A little high up for what I paid, but could not be more dead center.  To my right were zealots from UNC. To my left were a father and son team that prayed at the alter of the U. I felt like Switzerland sitting between them.
  • There was a lot of loud noise. "Songs" I never heard of were being boomed out at ear splitting decibels.  I have Shazam on my cell, so I can detect titles of songs being blasted. I did not recognize a one. "Freaks" was one soft number. Another was "Tsunami". A third was "Light it Up." Perry Como never sang these songs.
  • When the Miami coaching staff came out, I counted ten suits. Ten.  When I played freshman ball it was Coach O'Brien and the manager.  On the varsity there was the head coach, and Coach O'Brien--that was it. Two suits for the varsity. One suit for the freshman team.
  • There is apparently a tradition at the U. Fans do not sit down until the home team scores a basket. Since Miami got off to a 6-0 deficit, I was not too pleased when a guy two rows in front of me blocked my view for an extended period of time.
  • The University of North Carolina fans to my right were the genuine article. The woman knew all the players by first name. Her husband was muttering about the referees from the start. My favorites, "What the hell call was that" and "Why don't you foul them all out you bum."  Since UNC eventually got shellacked he was not a happy camper and I hoped they had not flown in just for this contest.
  • Miami switched to a zone after the slow start and they stifled UNC. Both teams were so well coached, but UNC could not get off a decent shot against the zone. Miami must have had a half dozen steals when the Tar Heels tried to get the ball inside.
  • At a break in the game, high school seniors who had committed to playing football for the U in Fall 17 were introduced.  This is a big time sports school.
  • At half time former Buffalo Bill and the University of Miami quarterback, Jim Kelly was honored and addressed the crowd.
  • I guess the Tar Heels are deep. At one point, all five players on the floor were replaced by what looked like five other players who could start for most teams.
  • Larranaga had some terrific inbounds pass plays including a recurring one which went the length of the floor. Difficult to believe these could not be defended, but they worked regularly even against an excellently coached UNC team.
  • Father to my left had what I discern to be a Cuban accent. He knew his UM basketball. At one point I asked them how they were doing this year.  The response sounded like the guy was the team statistician. I wondered how he was reacting to the antediluvian immigrant policies created this weekend.
  • The U were never really challenged at the end. Williams tried calling time outs and fouling, but the U led by a freshman, were just too well schooled to blow the lead.
  • I left the parking lot at 322. I did not get to the Florida turnpike, 4.4 miles away, til about ten to 4.
  • Even with the traffic, it was fun. The energy, sounds, dancing and various commercial escapades, made the experience an enjoyable one.

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