I got to attend my first Maryland basketball game of the season last night, in a less-than-packed Comcast Arena on the beautiful land grant that is alma mater. I'm still buzzing. The game was less than spectacular; my team is less than spectacular, although they won't repeat last year's shame of missing the NCAA tournament entirely; and walking halfway across the land grant because you don't have a parking permit is less than spectacular. And yet I buzz.
The opponent was the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, the game one in the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge invented by ESPN a few years ago to create an excuse to let Dick Vitale broadcast at least one extra Dook game each year. Minnesota wasn't taking the thing entirely seriously; they only dressed nine players for the game. My perfectly rational response to a situation wherein the other team has a shortage of players is, "Damn the suspensions, kneecap the fuckers." Fortunately, My Lord and Personal Savior Gary Williams, the Finest Human Being in America, and the Coach of My Beloved Terrapins, takes a more dignified view of the sanctity of sportsmanship.
The first game I attend each season sets me to buzzing with the pageantry and ritual of it all. One proceeds to the campus, perhaps eating some sort of garbage en route, depending on the time of day. Back when I was a season ticket holder (in the days before our googletybajillion dollar new hoops house), this was an excuse to eat at Popeye's twice a week during the season. One arrives in time to see the teams shooting around and warming up, to hear the Mighty Sound of Maryland laboring its way through 70s pop standards, to watch, if one is early enough, the cheerleaders practicing before they dress in their hideous little cheersuits (considering that this is, at least technically, a Southron state, alma mater's lack of attention to the babeification of our cheerleaders is pretty appalling--I'd trade our cheerbabes straight up for Dook's any day of the week).
Most important, though, is an arrival in time for Our Local National Anthem. Because right after that? It's showtime.
Showtime at Comcast begins with the desultory introductions of the evening's visiting sacrificial victims (it used to be that we simply did not lose at home, except to talented in-conference opponents). The student body, which circles the court about 20-deep, picks up newspapers and begins to pretend to read them, ignoring the visitors. The shaking of 5,000 pages of newspapers is deafening. It should invoke terror in the bowels of the main course. Their identities do not matter.
Except they do matter, because as each victim is introduced, the crowd appends, "SUCKS!" to his name. "Starting for Gnechtegezoid State at forward, a 4-foot-1 freshman from Trailerton, Alabama, number 13, Bo Weevil!"
The fun grows, as the names of the sacrificial assistant coaches are read (... SUCKS! ... SUCKS! ... SUCKS!).
I'm proud of my land-grant school. Aren't you proud of yours?
The loudest SUCKS! is reserved for the enemy head coach, wadded-up newspapers are tossed into the air, and the real fun begins. The lights dim, spotlights swirl about the floor, and loud, throbbing music begins to play. Everyone jumps up and down and sort of sings with the music. It's hard to describe, because the lyrics consist simply of "O", sort of moaned up and down in melody and time with the music. If I were a sacrificial victim? I'd be heading back to the locker room to take a leak right about now. A really long leak. Because this? Sounds like some seriously wackjob religious ritual performed by people who eat their young. Or anything else that crosses their path when they're hungry and fervid.
The Terrapin heroes are introduced, in some order roughly corresponding to how badly they've pissed Gary off in practice since the last game, although the seniors (with the exception of our giant loping Saint Bernard of a power forward, Travis Garrison) are usually introduced last. This makes mathematical sense, because they're the ones with over three years of practice at not pissing Gary off (with the exception of Travis Garrison, whose over three years of practice at not pissing Gary off do not appear to have sharpened his learning curve).
One by one, the starters are introduced to the screams and ritual fainting of the faithful; the aforementioned Saint Bernard; gigantic all-elbows center Ekene Ibekwe; Maine's Mister Basketball 2001, the insufferably Caucasian Nik Caner-Medley; chest-thumping local-boy point guard Chris McCray; and the undisputed straw that stirs the drink, the original Straw That Stirs the Drink's nephew, D.J. Strawberry.
D.J. is a fascinating kid. He's taken a lot of shit around the league for the last two years, first for being Daryl's nephew, then for blowing out his knee last season, a misfortune that fundamentally cost Maryland a berth in the NCAA tournament, DJ being the only kid on the team who takes his scholarship seriously enough to stay alert through 40 minutes of basketball. He is relentlessly energetic, diving after every loose ball, dogging ball-handlers until they almost inevitably pass the rock to a Maryland player, toss it out of bounds, or simply turn into whiny little puddles of goo that chirp, "Please, Mr. Strawberry, take this ball with my compliments and use it to run another fast break as you and your mighty Turtles rain points down upon our insignificant sacrificial heads like radioactive ash in a nuclear winter!"
Of course, by the time the victim gets all that out, DJ has swiped the ball, slammed it home, and stolen two more to pad the Terps' lead by another six points or so. Better call timeout, Victims.
This is not to be taken as an assertion that the Terps will win this year's national title or anything. Far from it. They're way too small--a big, deep team will grind them down like hundreds of millions of years have ground down the Appalachians, except they'll do it in less than 40 minutes. No, we're not going anywhere except the second round of the tournament, and that only if we're lucky. But at home, for mid-level Big Ten teams that don't bother to field enough players for a biggish road trip? Just fine, thanks.
And DJ will blow out his knee again by late January anyway.
After the introductions comes everyone's favorite part. The Mighty Sound of Maryland tries to play the fight song--actually, the Victory Song, because they only play the fight song when we're getting our asses kicked beyond recognition--in fact, in my circle, when the band starts playing the fight song, the correct conditioned response is "Shut the fuck up! Loser song!"
But The Mighty Sound of Maryland is drowned out by tradition. Tradition consists of Gary Glitter's famed sports cliche, Rock and Roll, Part 2. If you don't know it, you would if you heard it. If you need to hear it, there appears to be a MP3 file here. The lyrics to this song, as recorded, consist solely of "Hey!" At my land grant university, the lyrics consist of, ,"Hey! You suck! We're gonna beat the hell out of you and you and you and you!"
This is a fine old tradition, one universally indulged at Maryland sporting events. However, four years ago, after Carlos Boozer's mom successfully attacked the entire Maryland student body singlehandedly armed with only her considerable fangs and claws*, the school decided that "Hey! You Suck!" is "obscene," and banned the Mighty Sound of Maryland from ever playing Rock and Roll, Part 2 again, for all of history.
By the way, Gary Glitter is in jail in Vietnam for child molesting. Seriously. No lie.
Anyway, the student body of my land grant university is way smarter than the censors, and the song gets sung anyway. Loudly. Drowning-out-the-band loudly. Because, after all, you do, in fact, suck, and we are, in fact, going to beat the hell out of you and you and you and you.
One of my companions told me last night that J.J. Reddick, a noteworthy poncy, palming, diving pussy, most despised two-guard in the ACC, and nauseating poet laureate of the Dook basketball program, was asked recently who were the best fans in the rest of the league. He fondly recalled seeing a sign in Comcast during a Dook-Maryland game that said, "J.J. Reddick Drinks His Own Urine."
For my part, I note that J.J. did not deny this charge.
I'm proud of my land grant university. Aren't you proud of yours?
By the way, recent addition to the Minions family and cringing, censorial pseudomoderate PurpleState is proud of the same land grant university. Which he attends. He would like to very politely let you know that you suck.
So, Hey! You Suck! And so does Dook.
Oh. Maryland won. But check back when they're playing a big team.
*Germbabe will tell you that, actually, the entire Maryland student body attacked Carlos Boozer's mom with frozen bottles of Aquafina. Impartial observers will tell you that, actually, in the course of a riot that followed a game we hereabouts don't mention, some wanker (accurately) tossed a partially filled bottle of Aquafina at Carlos Boozer's mom's head. I will tell you that the riot was perfectly understandable and justified, I personally kept two ignorant Dookie sorority slatterns from being murdered in said riot, and it was really, really hard not to let the onrushing horde of very angry students--who, over the course of 54 basketball seconds, had just watched a 10-point Maryland lead dissolve into the worst defeat I have ever seen, because no one in a white jersey could sink a freakin' free throw--just stomp those little blonde bags of Dook into the floor of Cole Field House.
But I'm probably not impartial.