Never too close for comfort

first_imgThe media row at Wisconsin basketball games was located courtside last year, opposite the players’ benches. For the 2006-07 campaign, the athletic department elected to sell the seats for some top-shelf prices instead and move the press upstairs to the second deck, where the media reside for men’s and women’s hockey.Needless to say, my two co-editors and UW men’s basketball beat writers, Dave McGrath and Mike Poppy, were disappointed. Surely, while it may be easier to watch the action up top, there’s nothing like sitting courtside at a good basketball game.I never got the chance to take in a game from the ground level, and even had I filled in for a basketball game or two for this upcoming season, the new rules stipulated I wouldn’t get the chance this year. But that changed when one of my buddies had an extra ticket — in row 1, right on the floor of the student section — to UW’s exhibition game against Carroll College Wednesday night. Of course, I took the ticket and was eager to go.Granted, an exhibition game against Carroll College — I still have no idea where Carroll College is located — sounds like a snoozer. But while the Kohl Center may not have held the intensity of a Wisconsin-Ohio State showdown in February, the Grateful Red was still excited to cheer on the Badgers in just the second home match of the year. It certainly was loud enough inside during the game to tell that Badger fans are excited about the prospect of an outstanding 2006-07 campaign.I’ll admit, I felt a little weird donning the red shirt and hanging in the cheering section when I’ve had to have a poker face in the press box for the last 60 or so Badger games I’ve been to. But Wednesday night, I had a calling, and it was to join the Grateful Red for a night.And I’ve gotta say, there simply is nothing like sitting courtside. Or, in the case of UW’s student section, standing courtside, of course.I’ll look past the fact that the drum set was something like 14 inches behind me to my right. After all, it’s necessary and endearing to be deaf by the end of a basketball game.First off, you can hear everything the players say after the whistle. One of the Carroll College players was griping about a foul, and even though the band was blasting and the Grateful Red were yelling, we heard — or at least, we thought we heard — one or two unprintables. Thankfully, instead of the fans yelling the traditional and unoriginal “You suck, 33!” one guy had the guts and creativity to yell, “Who does your haircut? Stevie Wonder?”It was a good call, seeing as No. 33 had some weird, wavy pattern going on with the hair on the back of his head.In terms of hearing what the players are saying, this goes both ways when you’re courtside. The players, indeed, hear everything coming from the first five or six rows of the student section loud and clear. When little John Hoch, a 5-foot-10 guard for the Pioneers, was on the court, there was a very obvious, very hilarious wince on his face when somebody yelled, “It’s called ‘puberty!'”Carroll’s Buck Colomy, the aforementioned No. 33, was the Pioneers’ best player by a mile, scoring 25 points, with no other teammate hitting seven. When Colomy nailed a three-pointer early in the first half, pumping his fist all the way back to our side of the court, somebody else yelled, “You ain’t Tiger Woods, 33!” Classic.When you’re right on the court, there’s a constant wave of nicely dressed people walking back and forth behind you. Here was one of the coolest parts of the night: I’m watching the game, and I feel somebody grabbing me from behind, trying to get my attention. I swing around, saying, “Hey, what the hell buddy?”Turns out I should’ve said, “What the hell, Bucky.” Lo and behold, Buckingham U. Badger had snuck up behind me and high-fived all of us in the front row on his way by.Sounds nerdy, but it’s kind of cool to cheer along with Bucky, after going to all these games as a member of the media, not allowed to show any bias, any emotion; not allowed to look like the game’s enjoyable at all.My favorite part of the night? While I think the Grateful Red can be more hostile than it was (I know it’s just preseason, but the Red has some catching up to do to be as innovative as its counterpart, the Crease Creatures), it was like Christmas morning when not one, but two Pioneers fouled out of the game. The whole “Left, right, left, right” and “Sit down, you bum!” chant is up there with the best of ’em at Wisconsin.And it’s easy to see why my friend, along with the other guys in the first few rows, camped out at the Kohl Center last September for the best seats possible. There’s nothing like being right up front, close to the players, close to where the action’s at.I love my job in the press box, but it was awesome to be a part of Wisconsin’s raucous student section for a night.And I’m even gladder I was able to do it right — right up front, that is.Aaron enjoyed what will probably be the last day that any of us will get to wear a T-shirt and shorts outside for the next five or six months. Post your comment below or e-mail Aaron at [email protected]last_img

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