CLEVELAND, OH - MARCH 20: Bryon Allen #3 of the George Mason Patriots walks off the court after being defeated by the Ohio State Buckeyes during the third of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Quicken Loans Arena on March 20, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
As gloomy a day as it might be for Mason fans, they can take solace in the fact they have a team that is fun to watch and fun to cover for media nerds.
Nobody felt worse physically than the guy who went from Cool Hand Luke to Bad Stomach Puke in less than 48 hours. Luke Hancock, star of the Villanova win who missed the OSU game with symptoms of food poisoning, politely declined our interview request through the school’s sports information director. The same SID said we could try again when he would walk out, in perhaps an hour. Hmmmm, since he wasn’t holding down medicine, we wouldn’t hound him down either. The offer was kind enough but we had stories to edit and feed.
Another telling sight was Coach Jim Larranaga holding court for every question reporters had in the locker room, then again outside, even with his wife and son standing next to him, when another journalist missed the first round. After that, the game officials walked through the same hallway and Coach cheerfully greeted them with a fake yell “HEY, YOU’RE THE GUYS THAT DIDN’T CALL ENOUGH FOULS AGAINST OHIO STATE!” They all laughed and slapped backs.
As if Coach L didn’t get enough props, his actions Friday turned the heads of people from other teams. After Mason beat Villanova, Coach agreed to join us live at 5pm…but not from right outside the arena. No, our live location (not by our choice) was down two blocks and across 8 lanes of traffic. A station from Syracuse told us, “you know what Jim Boeheim would say if we asked him to come outside and join us live? ‘How about I punch you in the face?’” I’m pretty sure Boeheim wouldn’t actually threaten violence, but it would most likely be a very strong “no thanks, now go away.”
Mason’s fans seem unassuming enough as well. Here’s how one conversation went with a student at the team’s pep rally bar, which, ironically, was actually closer to the arena than our live location:
STUDENT:"Dude, will you interview me?"
ME:"ok,…DUDE, what year are you?"
STUDENT:"That would be so awesome, I’m a junior."
ME:”Ok, how many beers have you had?”
STUDENT:"Only three man! I’m good, I’m good."
ME:"..and you’re what, 5’10’, 150 pounds?"
ME: "Ok, not drunk at all. You’re going to be outnumbered today, good idea to come here and have a game plan?"
STUDENT:” MASON RUUUUULES! WOOOOOOHHOOOOOOOO!”
ME:"Ok, your ‘I’m not drunk’ argument loses traction if you answer a question with WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO"
STUDENT:"I know, I’m drunk, WOOOOOOOO!"
(personal side note:If I ever put someone on the air yelling WOOOOOO I will donate $100 to Alcoholics Anonymous. Chant your team name, nice. Poke the opponent, great. Make fun of a channel 4 on-air personality, if tastefully done, cool. WOOOO translates to “I’m too drunk to make a syllable.” Some bosses would say it represents the FLAVOR of the event. Dirt is a flavor. It’s also the lowest common denominator. Every fan has a story and the best part of it is not WOOOOO. If you resort to that, you’ve just mailed it in for the day and should mail in that portion of your paycheck to AA. I’m done being news director now, I’ll go back to cranky photog)
This is not to portray the partygoers as goofy drunks though they did seem happy in the face of what would most certainly be the last game of the year. Everyone was very polite and appreciative that I even stopped by the gathering. While Buckeye fans dominated every establishment from Cleveland to Columbus, Mason fans made the top floor of The Clevelander their retreat from the Red that wrecked Mason’s postseason fun run.