KANSAS CITY, MO – Despite the recent turn of events down on Buzzer Beater Blvd. in downtown Upset City–-which by the way is a suburb of Bracketville—-I still say that the Atlantic Coast Conference is the toughest and best basketball conference in all of NCAA hoops.
Yes, that statement might be complicated by growing up in the state of North Carolina in the limelight and back yard of ACC country, but I’m pretty open-minded when it comes to sports.
So, after witnessing the partying by the Southern Conference champion Chattanooga Lady Mocs and the UNC Greensboro Spartans on the floor at the supermarket coliseum – er, the BiLo Center, I started a seven-day journey that would take me away from Tobacco Road and the ACC and into the nation’s bread basket, home to the Big XII.
Working as a stringer for the Internet company Totalsports.com, I had the opportunity to work alongside Big XII conference officials and representatives from member institutions in broadcasting the women’s championship games via the Internet. I was also able to witness the fan support and the caliber of competition in another big-time conference.
Flying out of Tri-Cities, Tennessee, our flight was rerouted out of snow-blown Pittsburgh and to Charlotte, apparently back into the heart of ACC country, at least for a brief layover. Yet, after boarding the plane, destination Kansas City, there was a delay.
After about half an hour the pilot came over the speaker.
“This is your captain. The reason for our delay in departure is one of the two fuel pumps on the right jets is malfunctioning.”
“Maintenance is currently checking on the problem, and we’ll be on our way as soon as possible.”
Well, at least they caught the problem before we were, say, 10,000 feet in the air.
At the end of the 30-minute delay the pilot once again addressed the passengers and crew.
“This is your captain speaking. Maintenance has ‘checked-off’ on the pump, and we are set for departure. Flight attendants please secure your doors…”
What was that? Maintenance has “checked-off” on the pump? That’s just great. The first thing that popped into my mind was straight out of a Jeff Foxworthy skit. Three guys standing around this multi-million dollar jet engine staring at the fuel pump.
“Well Bubba I reckon that there pump looks like it’s a’pumpin’ to me… Reckon we oughta check off of it, and git this here plane outta here.”
Needless to say, the flight was fine, and the pump worked out A-Ok. Thanks, Bubba. But that wasn’t the end of the memorable moments when I went to the Midwest and Big XII round ball action.
Trouble with Mascots
During the Wednesday quarterfinal between the Colorado Buffaloes and the Missouri Tigers, the bright yellow Tiger of Missouri had a little trouble. Wielding the giant black and gold “M” flag, bringing the Tigers back onto the floor after the half, the mascot ran over one of Mizzou’s players. He stayed up; the player hit the deck.
Colorado applied the three count, eliminating Missouri from competition.
More Mascot Mania
The ACC is full of loveable mascots such as the Deacon from Wake Forest, “Testudo” the Terrapin from Maryland, the swashbuckling Cavalier from Virginia, and the confused Ram “Ramses” for the Tar Heels.
Yet, the Big XII has its own set of adorable icons, and I got to meet several of them up close.
Take for instance “Baby Jay,” the smaller version of the Kansas Jayhawk and the full-sized Cyclone out of Ames, Iowa who made the southward trip to Kansas City. Up from the South came the green and gold Baylor Bear and black and red “Red Raider” from Texas Tech, along with the Oklahoma Sooner Dog and OK State Cowboy.
But perhaps the most ingenious and creative—not to mention the smelliest—name of a mascot was that of the Buffalo from Colorado, lovingly named “Chip.”
Yet, in the spirit of my column, the University of Texas by far wins the Mascot Award with their longhorn steer appropriately named “Hook ‘Em.”
Hated More than UNC Fans
I never thought it would be possible, but alas, it happened. My trip to the Midwest uncovered a set of fans that I have more distaste for than the baby blue-clad Tar Heel following. They were red and yellow and hail from Ames, Iowa—Iowa State fans.
First of all, I must compliment their following of the ISU teams. Out of the 8,100-plus fans that packed the Kansas City Municipal Auditorium for the women’s championship game, I’d venture a guess that around 7,000 of them were cheering for the Cyclones. I don’t think they left anyone in Ames.
However, they take whining to the next level. During the three games ISU’s women played in during the tournament, the second half was painted red and yellow.
Perhaps it was the underhanded attempt by the Big XII to hold on to the team with the most fans in attendance, but regardless, in the second half of all three games the team foul situation was 44-11 in favor of Iowa State.
And, in “whine and cheeser” fashion, even when the second stanza fouls were 18-2, as in the case of the ISU-Baylor quarterfinal match-up, the red and yellow fans still screamed for more.
Well, perhaps the title is a little of an overstatement. There will always be a special place reserved for all UNC fans in the bottom of the colon. The Iowa State resentment was a mere case of heartburn in the smorgasbord of college hoops.