Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, December 17, 2014, 10:30 a.m.
On the one hand, I enjoy going to ballgames, in part, because I’m trying to learn how to be a fan again. Most of a lifetime as a writer of sports trained me not to be a cheerer of sports. If I’m going as a fan, though, I should be a fan.
Last night I attended Presbyterian College’s men’s basketball game against Samford. The Bulldogs won, 81-71, largely as a result of many three-pointers (fourteen) and full-court pressure that the Blue Hose often found nettlesome. It wasn’t a clash of Titans. Samford improved to four and eight. PC declined to four and seven after leading at halftime, 34-33.
School is already out, which, as a practical matter, meant that the stands on the opposite side of Furman Pinson Arena — the epicenter of Ross E. Templeton Physical Education Center, in other words, the gym – were largely vacant. In fact, admission was free and will be, also, at the Blue Hose’ December 31 game against Big South foe Gardner-Webb. Getting in free made me feel a little guilty, so I felt it incumbent to at least support the program by visiting the concession stands. A box of popcorn and a sixteen-ounce Diet
Pepsi cost me three bucks.
Not only is Presbyterian College the hometown school. Nelson Jones, the head trainer, and I once worked together at Furman. So did head coach Gregg Nibert, who was a Furman assistant when I was the sports information director. This was back in the eighties, when SIDs were men and stats were manual, with none of this tweeting that is required today. Back then, it was not uncommon for sports information directors to enjoy actual human contact.
I’m not one of those anymore. As mentioned earlier, I was trying to be a fan.
Like most fans, I rather enjoy sniping at the officials, and on a December evening with students gone, it’s quite possible the refs could hear my brickbats. I loudly proclaimed missed traveling violations – “He walked, he walked, he walked, ref!” – that have not been called sinc
e John Havlicek led the Celtics and Jerry West the Lakers. My trouble is that the complaints in which I feel pride are ones that strike nearby partisans as, well, weird. Even at a proud liberal-arts institution like PC, literary allusions are, if not frowned upon, at least considered, oh, a bit much.
So what if one of Samford’s forwards matched my image of Caleb Trask in East of Eden?
I tried to limit my criticisms to calls I actually considered bad. I lectured the zebras on my perception of “the pivot foot,” though, I suspect, if anyone needs remedial work on the rules, it is I. I even complimented them several times on good calls, though I knew better than to extend these rave reviews to calls that went against the Blue Hose. Alas, at fifty-six, I still respond to peer pressure.
The team lost. It was still an entertaining game. I tried to cheer and jeer in a way that was enjoyable, even relaxing, a blowing off of steam, a relief of pressure. Besides, I remembered to take my blood-pressure pills.
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