Tuesday, March 27, 2007

(Last) Weekend in Review

St Patrick's Day 2007 Edition

By midweek, things were really starting to come together. Dave was going to fly in Friday night, coincidentally on the same plane my sister would be on, for a weekend of frolic that would include F-Bomb's birthday and St. Patrick's Day. To make things better, Klondike planned to get out of work early so he could also make the drive out to the Cleveland area. On Thursday night, F-Bomb and I went on a supply run to stock up for the weekend.
Then the East Coast Weather Bias hit. A dusting of snow caused LaGuardia to shut down all commuter jet flights, including the one Dave and my sister were supposed to be on. To make things worse, everything from New York was booked until the following Monday. We scrambled to reschedule for the next weekend, but flights that weekend were triple the cost of Dave's original flight. In the scheduling panic, Klondike missed his window of opportunity to drive out here, so it looked like things were off.
After a disappointing workday Friday, I tried to salvage things at an in-office retirement party. It was an OK time, and I did make a good impression on a pair of semi-retired board members. Afterwards, I did my best to at least lock in my local friends for festivities on Saturday, so the weekend wouldn't be a total waste. Then I got the news: my dad was supposed to drive my (other) sister out to Pittsburgh for the women's basketball tournament, but the weather was looking bad and my dad was worried about making it back in time for another retirement party Saturday evening. So guess who got volunteered to play chauffeur on Saturday? Yours truly. After cancelling my new plans with local friends, I decided to call it an early night so I could leave early Saturday morning.
The drive to Pittsburgh was uneventful - and the weather was nice, by the way - and we arrived early afternoon. At that point, I decided that while I was out there, I would at least attempt to make something out of the drive and attempt to get a ticket. The athletic department liason, Charmelle, spotted me, noticed my band jacket, and confused me for a current band member. After explaining my situation to her, I mentioned that I needed a ticket. She told me that the president of the ND club of Pittsburgh might be able to help, but that she didn't have the guy's number on her, so instead she gave me her business card. One Sam Sanchez was out on the town, so I decided to wait in the hotel lobby and watch basketball until he got back. It was then that I experienced Xavier grasp defeat from the jaws of victory while sitting just outside a crowded bar of Ohio State fans. (Ohio State's women's team was not playing in Pittsburgh, so I have no idea why the fans were there.) After waiting for a few hours, I decided to give Sam a call. After a few minutes, he was able to track down the name and number of the ND Club of Pittsburgh president. I gave said president a call, and he gave me two contacts: a representative of the ND ticket office in Pittsburgh, and a contact in the Pitt ticket office who had sold the ND Club a suite. I called both and left voicemails. Maja from the ND ticket office called back first, so I decided to arrange things with her. The woman from the Pitt office also called back, and I told her that I would call her if Maja couldn't come through. But Maja was able to come through - $16 for a two-game session. Not bad, compared to the $50+ rate for men's sessions.
That took care of Objective 1. Objective 2 was finding a place to stay that night. I went with my sister and a few band kids to a corner pizza shop named Pizza Parma, and mentioned my predicament. The lone bass in our group, a guy named Matt, offered floor space, and I gladly accepted. Objective 2 was quickly accomplished.
Objective 3 was finding a place for my car to stay the night. I originally had a spot in the underground garage below the hotel, but in my indecisiveness over staying I moved it to a garage that closed at 1 AM. By the time I had decided to stay, the hotel garage was down to valet spaces only. Valet spaces were $22 compared to the regular 8. Plus, when I asked about the rate, I was told that it was charged directly to my room bill. Being as I didn't have a room, I figured I was out of luck. As I was walking back to the garaged that housed my car, I spotted another garage sponsored by the city of Pittsburgh. It had an overnight rate listed on the sign, but I walked in and asked the attendant just in case. "Yes, you can park your car here for as long as you want." Objective 3 complete.
With everything set, I settled in for a relaxing night of watching basketball in "my" room. The next morning, I threw on my "PROPERTY OF ND WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BAND" shirt and band jacket, and was able to sneak onto the band/cheerleader bus. (Interesting note: while the cheerleaders have white adidas shoes with blue stripes, the Leprechaun is given white shoes with green stripes, gold trim, and the Leprechaun logo stiched onto the side of the heel.) We rode to the Petersen Events center behind the team bus and a police escort (not as cool as the escort for the 2001 Women's Big East in Connecticut, which included a snowplow, but still) and I followed the band as far as I could until I had to separate and find my seat.
My seat was pretty nice - on the sideline, about even with the free throw line, and maybe about 10 rows up. My ticket said row "K," so I figured the 10th row was in fact the right place. But after grabbing a few hot dogs and settling back into my seat, an usher came up with a few people who thought I was in their seat. The usher checked my ticket and pointed to the extra few rows of seats on the floor. "You're down there. You got an upgrade!" When I walked down to the floor section, sure enough there was row K, although it was only about the 6th row. As I got to the section, Wendi Nix of ESPN was interviewing Melissa Lechlitner's parents. It didn't take me long to figure out that I was in the parent's section. I was stuck in the corner of the last row, with a stair railing blocking half my view, but I didn't care one bit. Muffet McGraw's husband was seated six rows directly in front of me in a green derby. Erica Williamson's brother, who could pass as her twin, was three rows in front, then Erica Barlow's family, then the Lechlitners, then me. I couldn't figure out whether I was sitting next to the D'Amicos or the Tsipises, but it really didn't matter. The woman next to me kept apologizing for her 4-year-old boy acting like, well, a 4-year-old, but I didn't care one bit. Hey, I thought it was great that he would echo the Victory March or some of the cheers after the band or cheerleaders finished.
The game was an exciting one, and it was interesting to see the different reactions from the various family members. Down the row from me, there were a few people who weren't too happy with the refs. In front of me, Erica Williamson's brother was acting as goofy as his younger sibling supposedly does. The Lechlitners were silent and motionless, save for two audible gasps when Melissa missed back-to-back free throws late in the game. But in the end it was a win, and everyone was happy.
After the game I was able to sneak to the bus with the band (it's amazing what a band jacket, and "women's basketball band" shirt, and a "if you act like you know what you're doing, people won't bother you" attitude can do for you), and it was there that I spotted Pitt coach Jamie Dixon. I hope Coach Dixon wasn't parking in his normal spot, becuase it was a rather long walk from the arena. I said hi to Coach Dixon, he returned the greeting, and then spotting who we were, he asked us if we won. From the arena, the band and cheerleaders headed to the Cheesecake Factory for an early dinner. On the bus, Sam mentioned that people were still needed to play for Tuesday's game. In fact, the only trombones at Sunday's game were Matt Merten and Bob Casarez, who had arrived in Pittsburgh at 4:30 that morning from the previous night's hockey game in Detriot. I gladly volunteered my services, and it was then that people asked why I hadn't played in Sunday's game. It turns out that the NCAA likes to have an official list of participating band members at least a day in advance. If that wasn't the case, Matt and Bob could have brought a trombone down for me, or I could have participated as the cowbell player. (Yes, I definitely would have called everyone I knew before/during Sunday's if I was to be playing the cowbell at a women's tournament game.) That was a moot point, and all that mattered was that I would be back on Tuesday to play bone for the second round game against North Carolina.
I picked up a full cheesecake for mini-Kanka's Super Sweet 16, which was that day, and then the bus headed back to the hotel. In the lobby, we were greeted by a very friendly "Hey guys!" from Crystal Erwin. Right before I left for home, I stopped by Sam's room, now occupied by Bob and Merten, to say goodbye. Crystal Erwin walked up right behind me, and it turned out that she was staying in the room right across the hall. I congratulated her on the game. "Thanks! Hey, you're right across the hall from us!" After I explained that it was my room, we struck up a little conversation until it was broken up by one of the managers. After saying goodbye to Bob and Merten, and reminding them that I would be back Tuesday, I headed home to plan my work schedule so I could make a return trip.
After alluding to my weekend on the message board, F-Bomb asked if he could join me. After discussions that included him, Bob, and Sam, we were finally able to work things out. It turned out that we would actually make things easier on Sam - in addition to playing, we could also pick him up in the Pittsburgh airport after he dropped off the rental van he was going to drive from South Bend. (Sam had to return to ND after Sunday's game a) to return the school van that Bob and Merten had driven from school to Detroit to Pittsburgh, and b) to bring back more band kids.) I left work a little early on Tuesday, and picked up F-Bomb in Cleveland when he got out of work at 4:30. (By the way, I was wearing my other "PROPERTY OF ND WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BAND" shirt on Tuesday.) After F-Bomb and I both took a detailed personality test that work had given him (and one that confirmed my attraction for outgoing types and creative types), we arrived at the airport to pick up Sam. Sam had us drive back to the hotel, where the band hadn't yet left for the 9:30 PM game. We were able to follow the bus from the hotel to the dropoff point next to the arena. But there we were in a bit of a jam. Where were we supposed to park? An arena traffic guy pointed to the line of cars crawling along in the opposite direction. He said that we needed to follow them, but that if we did, we'd never make it to the game on time. He agreed to let me park in a small spot on the curb between our bus and the fire hydrant, as long as we put something to identify our allegiance to the ND band in the windshield. That "something" was actually three things: a handwritten sign that said "NOTRE DAME BAND," my band jacket, and a Sam Sanchez business card.
We walked into the arena, but we were actually not allowed to watch the Tennessee-Pitt game that was going on before ours. So we were hearded onto a practice court with the cheerleaders and the North Carolina band and cheerleaders. It was there that Bob handed out part assignments for the bones. Merten had caught strep sometime between Sunday and Tuesday, so he wasn't playing. With Merten out, Bob handed me the trombone I folder. Awesome, thanks Bob. Someone found some basketballs, and a giant game of knockout was started between the two bands. The North Carolina bandos were very proud that their basketball-rich school had a few band kids who were actually mediocre enough to consistently beat our band kids. (Most of our band kids, and even most of the UNC band kids, made me look good.) The bones chose not to play, instead opting to shoot the breeze while F-Bomb scoped out the UNC cheerleaders.
As Tennessee put the finishing touches on their win over Pitt, we were moved to a tunnel just outside court and the Tennessee locker room. I'll admit it - it was kinda cool seeing Candace Parker in person and being no less than 10 feet away from her.
When we finally made it to our seats, North Carolina was warming up on our end of the court. I decided that Notre Dame might need a little help in this 1 vs. 8 matchup, so I started heckling Ivory Latta from the moment the pregame clock started. As the game went on, Latta actually gave me a few good reasons to heckle her - she chose to cover our shooting guard instead of our point guard, she cherry picked each time the Tar Heels got a defensive rebound, she was held to 3 points in the first half, and her fiery attitude almost got the best of her at one point - after being bumped around in the key on her defensive end, she got up and gave an ND player a shove right in front of one of the referees.
I recapped the game the other day, so I really don't need to go over it again. The parents' section was just to our left, and from time to time Ashley Barlow's dad (or uncle) would do his best to get the band cheering. After the game, Crystal Erwin walked by us in the tunnel, and needless to say the senior wasn't in the same friendly mood she was in the other day.
The ride home was uneventful, insomuch that neither F-Bomb (who drove much of the way) nor I fell asleep. We got to F-Bomb's place at 3 AM, and he was at work by 8. I was a bit more of a slacker. I made it home at 3:30, and blessed the fact that I told my boss I wouldn't be in until noon. Go leftover Veteran's Day hours!
The end.