I’ve been thinking a lot about the relatively long memories sports fans have. If your team has been somehow slighted by another team or a member of the media, there’s a pretty good bet that “Fill-in-the-blank” Nation will never forgive said slight. Here are a few examples that I’ve seen over the past few years…
“Drive home safely!” – Harrison v. Central; Sectionals, 1991
While I don’t remember the round of the Sectionals, I think it might have been the Sectional Finals. In spite of a winning tradition our high school had never won a basketball sectional title in its history. The Warriors had a good shot at winning it this year. I’m pretty sure it was the finals when they faced the reigning SIAC champs, the Central Bears because 1.) I was there (and I probably wouldn’t have been there unless it was the finals), and 2.) Roberts Stadium was packed. Some of my aunts and uncles, proud Harrison alums, were also there in attendance (would they really attend if it wasn’t the Finals? Doubtful).
I remember a few sketchy details. One was a spectacular fast-break. It was a 2-on-0 breakaway where one of the Warriors was dribbling towards the basket and he tossed the ball behind him over his head. Walter McCarty (more on him later) caught the no-look pass in the air and slammed the ball home in an earth-shattering dunk. The Warriors’ section went absolutely nuts.
Unfortunately, Central eventually pulled away from the Warriors. As the final seconds clicked away, the students in the Bears’ section began to chant, “Drive home safely!” Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap “Drive home safely!” And no, they weren’t really concerned about our physical well-being. They were taunting us for bowing out of the Sectionals…again. It left a bad taste in my mouth for the Bears. And for my generation, I think a rivalry was born – at least in the basketball world. Even though I’ve had several cousins attend Central, I still have a difficult time rooting for the Bears.
The next year, when Central played at Harrison, the much-improved Warriors beat the Bears. Many who were at the previous Sectionals fiasco began to chant the same thing to the Bears fans in the crows. “Drive home safely!” Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap “Drive home safely!” Payback (I guess).
The aforementioned Walter McCarty was huge! I remember walking close to him in the hallway and only coming up to his chest. In middle school, I thought he was going to scrape his head on the hallway ceilings – especially with his early-90’s flat-top/fade hairstyle. He was the center of the Warriors’ offense and no one could stop him (a la Shaquille O’Neil in his heyday). He led the Warriors to their first Sectional championship with his crowd-pleasing dunks and fear-imposing shot blocking. The boy couldn’t hit a shot outside of the paint to save his life, though.
Upon graduation, McCarty played for Kentucky. For those of us who are Hoosiers fans, this presented a huge dilemma. I somehow managed to justify my allegiance to the guy by saying things like, “I hope he has some great stats and Kentucky still loses every game.” All of that changed when Kentucky played Indiana in a close game. What did Walter do? He hit the game-winning three-pointer! I don’t think I ever forgave him for that. Although, joining the Louisville coaching staff has helped put him more in my good graces.
Mention his name to any IU fan and you’ll most-likely see that person cringe. He was part of the generation that had so much promise for the Hoosiers and I think he broke a lot of hearts when he transferred to Arizona. Many broken-hearted fans turned into bitter, scorned ex-girlfriend-types when he then transferred to Iowa to play closer to his girlfriend that had been in a serious car wreck (nevermind they broke up soon thereafter). When the Hawkeyes came to Bloomington, he was met with a barrage of ‘boos’ that still echo somewhere in the rafters of Assembly Hall.
Need I really say more? IU fans started hating them when they lost to the Dookies in the Final Four in the early 90’s. Kentucky fans started hating the Blue Devils after Christian Laettner’s last-second, game-winning shot against them in the NCAAs (watch the video here. I think there’s only one thing UK and IU fans can agree upon – hatred of Duke, even though their losses occurred 15+ years ago.
Classless St. Louis Billikens fans
I have searched the Net for some type of article supporting my memory here. I’m sure I’m off on some of the details, but the gist of it is burned in my memory. In the late-80’s, we were able to go to a lot of Aces games. I remember one of the games where the Aces were playing the St. Louis Billikens. It must have been during winter break because cheerleaders from one of the middle schools (Perry Heights?) served in their place. I remember the Billikens fans were not only rowdy, but rather rude and classless.
The prime example of this was during one of the timeouts the middle school girls were on the floor trying to lead a cheer. I think the squads took turns leading cheers (which doesn’t make sense, but that’s what I remember) The Billikens fans got extremely loud and were cheering for their team when the obviously younger girls were trying to do their thing. The way they treated these girls didn’t sit well with the rest of the crowd. So when the Billiken cheerleaders came out to do the cheer, they were drowned out with a cheer of “Aces! Aces!” Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap.
My experience with Billiken fans at that game left a sour taste in my mouth for the Billikens. Evansville has had some strong rivalries in the past with Butler, Xavier, and Dayton. I’ve gotten over those hard feelings and will root for those teams on most occasions. But when they recently set the modern-day scoring record in futility, a smile came across my face.
Do I really need to explain?
After Gordon de-committed to U. of Illinois, he received death threats on his Myspace profile. An Illinois newspaper editor writes in an article about Gordon that he’s a set of words that I’d rather not repeat. The Illini coach refuses to shake players’ hands after the game. No. That’s not holding on to a grudge, is it?
See? Sports fans are like elephants. We never forget. Can you think of more examples where sports fans probably should turn the page?