You gotta love Anderson Arena.
Actually, I guess you don't have to, because apparently a lot of people don't. The official attendance for last night was 2,146. Between students (around 20,000), faculty and staff, and locals, I wouldn't think it would be too hard to fill a 4,700-seat arena, but it looks like I would be wrong about that.
On one hand, I can understand it. The Falcons have a lot of talent but are struggling so far this season--the win last night puts them at 10-12, 6-6 in the MAC. The plain truth is that people want to come support a winner, and right now we don't fit the bill. We're too inconsistent. Besides that, parking for the game can be a problem, particularly on a weeknight when there are classes going on. The arena itself is a little old and outdated, and doesn't have any of the bells and whistles that newer places do.
Beyond that, I just don't know. The arena is right in the middle of campus, which is a pretty short walk for any students who live in the dorms. The team, while inconsistent, is talented and fun to watch. Head coach Dan Dakich is one of the most animated guys around, and he puts on a show all by himself. Then there's the arena itself. No, it's not fancy, but it doesn't need to be.
For several years, Anderson Arena has been known as "The House That Roars." When it does get full, it gets loud in there in a hurry. It's packed pretty tight in there. The student section (where I still sit, despite the fact that I graduated four long years ago) starts right on the floor, literally inches away from the sideline, with no barrier in between. They're loud and obnoxious, and being right there in an opposing player's face can start to get in that player's head as well. Ask Akron's Andy Hipsher, but ask him from a distance--he's liable to get violent, as he's done with our fans on at least two occasions (fortunately for Hipsher, this year--his senior year--his team didn't have to make the trip to Anderson).
I've heard it said that home court advantage in college basketball is generally worth five points. In Anderson Arena, when it's loud and rocking, I truly believe it's worth fifteen. I've never seen a team feed off the crowd's energy as much as some Falcon teams of the past few years. It's unbelievable. When it gets like that, the atmosphere is simply electric, and I rarely feel quite so alive as I do when I'm in that environment.
Needless to say, with less than half of the seats filled, it was nothing like that last night. Still, I love being in Anderson, and I love watching the Falcons play.
I have to start off by saying that this game featured the most incredible dunk I have ever seen in person, and I've been to a lot of basketball games. I'm happy to say that it was a Falcon who put it down. It started with small forward Cory Eyink making a three-point attempt from the corner, right in front of where I was standing. As the ball came down on the back of the rim, my eyes barely registered a flash coming through the lane, and as the ball bounced up, shooting guard Ronald Lewis took off, grabbed the rebound and tomahawked it down in one motion. It was simply incredible. I hope someone has video of it, or even a photo, because there are no words that can do it justice. If I can find it online, I'll post it.
That was definitely the high point of the game. Despite the fact that BG won 81-71, it was not a particularly good game. Basketball games generally take around two hours, maybe a shade under; last night's was two hours and fifteen minutes. I looked at my watch with ten minutes left in the game, and it was 8:30. I remember thinking there was no way the final ten minutes would take half an hour. I was right: it took forty-five minutes. The pace of the game was terrible. OU decided to start fouling with about five minutes left, and it took forever for the game to end.
The officiating was pretty bad also. Not biased or anything, just bad. Unfortunately, this is pretty typical for MAC games, although I must say that last night's officials took it to a new level of suckiness. There's one totally bald official who, every time I see him on the floor, I just cringe because I know he's bad. Look, I know that every official, in every sport, will miss a call sometimes. It's part of the game, and I accept that. Hell, I embrace it--I'm not a huge fan of instant replay in the NFL, because the human element is part of the game. Some of the calls this guy makes, though, are just outrageously horrible. I saw a guy get elbowed in the face last night, and the foul was called on the guy who got elbowed. I saw a foul called on a player who was at least a foot away from anyone. I think he rubs off on the other officials too.
One thing that has always driven me crazy about BG basketball games is our pep band. For a couple of years, the band was just bad, and painful to listen to. It was a relief when the band went home for Christmas break and their place was taken by local high school bands, or by the Falcon alumni band. I'm pleased to say that isn't the case anymore. The band got a new director, and the musicianship has improved greatly. Sadly, their song selection has not grown along with it. The "Hey" song, from what I understand, has been banned by the Athletic Department due to the mildly vulgar little twist our students like to give to it. During a game's stretch run, you can be assured that the only songs you will hear from the pep band will be "Forward Falcons" (our fight song), "Ay Ziggy Zoomba" (our unofficial fight song), or "Go Team Go." It would be nice to have some variety. "The Imperial March" (a.k.a. Darth Vader's theme) would be nice, as would "The Final Countdown." I'm sure there are plenty of others they could play to offer some variety. Hopefully that's on the agenda for next year.
But hey, despite the game's relative ugliness, it was a Falcon victory, and that makes it a great game in my eyes.
My next visit to Anderson Arena will be on February 21, when the Youngstown State Penguins come to town for the ESPN Bracket Buster game. I'll be seeing the Falcons play this weekend, though, as I'm going to the game at Kent State on Saturday. Happy Valentine's Day to me!