Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Behind Enemy Lines

Earlier this evening I attended a BGSU basketball game at the house of our archenemy, the University of Toledo Rockets.

I debated for a while over whether I would attend the game or not, and I didn't decide until this morning, while I was at work. The season is winding down, and there are only so many opportunities left to see these guys play. Last year that wasn't an issue, but this year's team is a whole lot of fun to watch (most of the time, anyway). Besides, I knew tickets were pretty cheap, and since I work in Toledo, I was already in the general area.

Unfortunately, the Falcons lost, 58-50. This was my third trip to Savage Hall (UT's arena), and I've never seen Bowling Green win there. It's pretty frustrating. Tonight was a display of bad basketball by both teams. It just so happened that the Falcons played a little bit worse than the Rockets did. There were turnovers and missed shots galore. If Bowling Green had been playing even mildly well, I would have enjoyed watching UT struggle so mightily.

Attending away games is always an interesting experience, and even more so when it's on the campus of your biggest rival. I most assuredly do not hide my colors under such circumstances. I wear just as much orange as I would for a home game. I had to park in a garage a short distance from the arena (parking cost: $5), and I received a few dirty looks on the walk over, but nothing overly hostile. I don't know how it is in other conferences, but I've never felt threatened or even all that out-of-place when walking around at an away game. MAC rivalries are intense, but for the most part, the fans are a friendly enough bunch. I've heard stories of hostilities at other schools, but they were during football season instead of basketball, and I've never experienced such things myself.

At the ticket window, I asked for a ticket in the visitor's section (ticket charge: $7). I didn't get one, but I don't think the lady did it on purpose. I think she just didn't know where the visitor's section was, exactly. It wasn't a very big deal, at any rate. I gave up my reserved seat to go to the other side of the arena and sit in the general admission section with a group of fans wearing orange. The seat I took was just as good as the one I left, if not a little better, and I got to sit with a guy I know from going to BG home games for as long as I have. I don't mind at all on the occasions (and as I go to every game I can, these occasions are many) when I have to sit by myself, but having someone to chat with about the finer points of the game is nice from time to time.

Shortly before tipoff, I went down to the concession stand to grab a snack: a popcorn and a Coke (total cost: $6.75). The lady who sold me said food was decked out in blue, as were all the concession workers, but I noticed she had a falcon-head pin attached to her apron, and as she handed me my food, she said "go Falcons" both quickly and quietly.

Savage Hall has a capacity of 9,000, give or take, but it rarely approaches that number in actual attendance for men's basketball games. Tonight's game, even given the rivalry, was no exception. There were a large number of empty seats in all the upper sections of the arena. Nonetheless, the usher stationed in our entrance--the entrance which led to the general admission section I sat in plus the reserved section immediately across the aisle--felt it was necessary to check everyone's ticket as they entered, to make sure they sat in the correct section. He did this until nearly the very end of the game, which angered a lot of the people in these sections. It would have been understandable under other circumstances, but given the fact that there were plenty of empty seats, and also given the fact that almost everyone in both of these sections were BGSU fans, it seemed like nothing more than petty harassment. I don't expect it to change, though. This was my third trip to Savage Hall, and this was the third time this individual has so patrolled his domain.

During one stretch of the game, when Bowling Green was making a run, a good number of BG fans in these sections stood up and cheered loudly. The usher turned around and motioned for everyone to sit down. At this point, an elderly BG fan, who had not stood up to cheer, did stand up. He slammed his fist on the empty chair next to him and yelled "Goddammit, we'll stand up if we want to!" That was when the usher finally gave up and left the section. There may have been five minutes left in the game at that point.

One final observation: Toledo's student section features a "spirit crew" of individuals wearing jumpsuits and masks. This seems to be a fairly direct knock-off of BGSU's Sic-Sic organization. Sic-Sic members walk through the crowd at sporting events, throwing candy and annoying spectators. I think they're fairly useless, but Toledo's spirit crew takes the cake. As far as I can tell, the only thing they really do is give the finger to opposing fans.

Anyway, despite my lack of success at Savage Hall so far, I'll probably continue to go each year whenever I can. It is, after all, the closest away game the Falcons play, and as long as I work in Toledo, there's no real reason for me to stay away. Eventually BG will get a win there, and it will be so sweet when that day comes.

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