Monday, December 19, 2005

UWM vs. UWGB: The Precursor To Boys' Night

Saturday night in Milwaukee was boys’ night. Every year since I was about fifteen years old or so, I’ve gotten together with a group of six friends to catch up and enjoy ourselves over dinner (and for the last 6 years, drinks). In the last 12 years, there have only been minor changes to the group, and I’ve felt privileged to have such great friends every time we have our event. Because of this commitment, I had pretty much accepted weeks ago that there would be no opportunity to take in the UWM vs. UW-Green Bay game going on downtown on Saturday night.

But over the past couple of weeks, the reality set in that it’s a lot tougher to get people together for such an event when you’re 27 years old. Between some of us having work commitments, school commitments, family commitments, and one of the guys seeming unwilling to go out without his girlfriend by his side, boys’ night was not dissolving, but it was getting a tad diluted. And while this would normally bug me, the plan allowed me to talk two of the guys into joining me at the MECCA to take in the UWM-UW-Green Bay game prior to our abbreviated evening of chatting over drinks at a bar.

So, with my mind geared more towards enjoying an evening with my friends than watching basketball closely, I took in the showdown between the state’s two mid-majors along with my friends Peter and Gus. I’ll warn you that I may lack my usual 3-4 salient basketball points, but I did indeed attend the game, and comparatively speaking, was still more tuned in than a good number of the people around me. My thoughts below:

1) As usual, my friends and I purchased cheap seats. However, rather than the standard upper-level cheap seats, we ended up with seats behind one of the baskets, right behind where the reserved tables for the corporate sponsors who never send anyone to the game are. The inability to clearly see what was going on at the other end of the court, combined with the basket itself being in the way sort of made me feel like a student again. In fact, had I been on the other side of the court, I would have been at the exact center of the student section.

2) Speaking of the student section, the consistent student section that UWM now has speaks volumes about how far the program has come over the last few years. I recall going to my first UWM game back in the 2001-2002 season when the Panthers were still playing at the Klotsche Center on campus. The game was a big one, as they were hosting Wisconsin. I guarantee the number of students comprising a UWM student section did not top 100. Now the Panthers are in an arena that requires some travel on the part of the students, and they’re still drawing much bigger numbers. You can’t beat that.

3) I had never noticed this before, but my friend Peter pointed out that from a distance, UWGB point guard Ryan Evanochko looks sort of like a miniature version of pro wrestler "The Rock."

4) It appears, based on the last couple of games, that Michael Bendall is earning more and more playing time for UWM. Certainly no one’s calling for Adrian Tigert to leave the floor, but it’s always nice to have another backup option at the post spot, even if Bendall’s tattoos are somewhat frightening.

5) Jason McCoy hit two three-pointers for UWM during the game. I guess I should be okay with this, since McCoy did connect on his shots, but I’m still left scratching my head and wondering who allowed him to start shooting the ball from long range. Last I checked, he was a tall, lanky guy whose primary specialty was guarding inbounds passes.

6) Early in the second half, I heard perhaps the worst taunt ever from some loud, obnoxious guys behind us. It was directed at Adrian Tigert. I almost laughed when I heard "You suck Tigert! Have fun playing in Europe!" Come on. If you want to taunt Adrian Tigert, surely you can come up with a better way than telling him he’s going to play pro ball. Isn’t that really a compliment to his game? I mean, it’s not like he was an all-American coming out of high school. He was a chubby post player going to a mid-major. Playing in Europe is probably about the greatest success that he could have hoped for. Next time, go after the fact that he always seems to have gel in his hair, or something else. I wish people would think before they taunt.

7) As usual, the Popeyes Chicken promotion where they have teams of fans compete to see who can catch the most catapulted rubber chickens in a laundry basket was phenomenal. Saturday night’s chicken catchers really had fun with it, and instead of just catching the chickens flung by their respective partners, they started to get physical with one another. One of the guys even plucked a chicken out of the air that wasn’t even flung by his partner. It looked like some bizarro game of 500. Definitely the best installment of this contest that I’ve ever seen.

8) Popeyes really does have a great sponsorship deal, since their other promotion was what kept people in their seats until the end of the game. If UWM dunks the ball five times during a game, everyone can redeem their ticket stubs for free fried chicken the next day at Popeyes. Near the end of the game, the Panthers had four dunks. The game was pretty much out of reach at the four minute mark. Nonetheless, I saw virtually no one leaving the arena early, and a chant of "We Want Chicken!" broke out in the student section. Not bad for an offer that I’d bet very few people actually collect on. Sadly, there would be no fifth dunk, and no free chicken for the masses.

So with the end of the game, it was off to amp up boys’ night with the other two guys who couldn’t make the game. The game was a good start, and the UWM excitement wouldn’t end there, since the tavern that we were retiring to was coincidentally near the UWM campus. Though I don’t think any of us had intended to end up in a college bar, I don’t think anyone would complain about the evening that ensued. And I was just happy to see lots of students out in Panther apparel. The excitement remains strong on campus, from what little I can tell from Saturday.


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