"I'd like to form an alliance," their leader said solemnly, as he approached our group and extended his hand in a gesture of friendship and peace. His face and chest were painted - red and white - and two companions, their bodies similarly adorned, followed closely behind him in his diplomatic enterprise.
Thomas Ryan, his face striped with his team's blue and gray, took two reluctant steps forward from the sea of gray shirts and blue wigs that were always donned by the rest of the self-professed "disciples of JTIII" during these heated contests.
Their leader's proposal was straightforward and purportedly in the best interest of both groups: "We say 'wild,' you say 'cats.' You say 'Hoya,' we say 'Saxa.'" The alliance seemed strategic to Ryan, the treasurer of Georgetown University 's student-run athletics promotion group, and he made the executive decision that we would support the Davidson University Wildcats in their battle against the heavily favored Ohio State Buckeyes. After all, our group had always been more of a cheer-tatorship than a cheer-ocracy.
The scene? The University of Dayton Arena, filled to capacity with 13,409 rowdy college basketball fans. The occasion? The first round of March Madness, the 2006 NCAA College Basketball Championship Tournament. Our motivation? .
"Well, it's called 'March Madness ' for a reason," said Michael Segner, one of the 50 Georgetown students who had arrived at the Days Inn in Dayton, Ohio at 5 a.m. after an excruciating ten-hour bus ride from Washington , D.C. "I think you have to be a little crazy to be such a hardcore fan," he joked.
Known only to us diehards as "Chris from North Dakota ," one Georgetown alumnus has taken his love for his alma mater and his team to the extreme. Nodak89, as he is known on HoyaTalk, the online message board for Georgetown fanatics, was a freshman when Georgetown won the National Title against Houston in 1984. His passion for Georgetown basketball has instilled in Nodak a fit of musical inspiration: taking the tunes of popular hit music, Nodak has "Hoya-fied" the lyrics and recorded several records from his basement in Fargo , N.D. His songs, among them "Jeff Green's Mom" (sung to the tune of "Stacy's Mom"), "Heart of a Hoya" (80s rock favorite, "Eye of the Tiger") and "Jessie Sapp" (Rick Springfield's "Jesse's Girl") have gained notoriety among Hoya basketball fans. Many superstitious students can been seen rocking out to Nodak on their iPods just moments before game time, and the tunes are an absolute staple of Hoya Blue roadtrips.
Several Hoya Blue executive board members met Chris, his wife and their two young children when they traveled to Washington , D.C. , from their home in North Dakota to watch the Hoyas face off against the Fairfield Stags in December. Matt Kamenski, Hoya Blue's communications officer, had a chance to catch up with the man and the legend, and the script of their interview is on the Hoya Blue web site , along with (free!) mp3 downloads of his songs.
The lyrics to Nodak's most recent "release" are bittersweet for us graduating seniors, as they bring to the front of our thoughts the many memories we've had in our four years of Hoya Paranoia. Sung to the tune of Green Day's "Time of Your Life," here are the lyrics to Nodak's "A Season on the Rise":
Another turning point
Every March, thousands of college students around the country feign "madness" to support their team as it dodges oncoming traffic on the "Road to the Final Four." As I learned last month, this process is mentally, physically, financially and (unfortunately for my GPA) academically exhausting. Then why do we do it?
"Going to New York City for the Big East Tournament is fun and all, but it pales in comparison to the NCAA Tournament," said Ken Wong, a recent Georgetown alumnus, who joined Hoya Blue on the road trip to Dayton . "Every possession is magnified, every basket becomes that much more important, and every turnover becomes that much more critical. The chance to witness something special while showing your love for you school and team, while being with your friends, doesn't come around that often," he added.
Road tripping and camping out (and by "camping out," I mean shacking up in the nearest and cheapest two-star hotel) are fairly new phenomena for recent Georgetown students, who have not experienced an NCAA birth since the team's 2001 Sweet Sixteen run. But under the guidance of second-year head coach John Thompson, III - incidentally the son of Hall of Fame coach John Thompson, Sr., who led the Hoyas to the 1984 National Championship - the team, and Hoya Spirit, are on the rise. Some are hailing the Classes of 2008 and 2009 "Generation Roy," in honor of the Hoyas' 7'2" center Roy Hibbert, who along with sophomore forward Jeff Green, received all conference honors this season.
Even ESPN.com noted the increasing spirit among Georgetown students, choosing Georgetown senior Mark Murphy as a finalist in its 2006 Mr. Bracket competition. Each year, ESPN holds a poll to elect the most dedicated and spirited college hoops fan. Known on campus only as "Murph" and for his signature cape and blue wig, he says of his life as a cheerleading Hoya fanatic, "It's not about me. I pump everyone up. Sure I wear a striped cape my mom made me to complete the Hoya ensemble. I listen to Jock Jams getting dressed and I've camped out before big games. But I spread the love. I dance, I yell, I jump, I hug, I cry, I bleed Hoya Blue."
This year, over 450 fans as dedicated as Murph joined Hoya Blue on one of the seven roadtrips the organization sponsored: the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., James Madison in Harrisburg, Va., University of Connecticut in Hartford, Villanova in Philadelphia, Pa., the Big East Tournament in New York City, and the NCAA Tournament in Dayton and Minneapolis, Minn. The Navy Roadtrip was by far the most heavily attended, with 300 students packed like sardines into six charter buses - one of which broke down on the beltway and one of which hit a car on M Street, allowing its passengers time for a Philly Pizza run. But for those of us who saw all nine of these away games, we traveled more than 2500 miles over the course of the season.
Although the signing bonus at my new job doesn't even cover half of the credit card debt I incurred, and although I've spent every weeknight of the past three weeks cooped up on the musty first floor of the university library to make up the classes and schoolwork I missed, every one of those 2500 miles was worth it.
For some Hoyas, roadtripping has simply been a part of life. Georgetown alumnus (COL '91) Christopher Patterson, currently residing in Boston, Mass., says, "For me, Hoya roadtrips started at the wee age of seven, when my old man took me for my birthday to see our boys beat up on [Syracuse] in the Carrier Dome. There's nothing like walking into that place with 30-odd thousand dopes dressed in orange yelling at you, cursing JT, asking what a Hoya was (in the most pejorative manner, of course), and simply put, acting like savages... and walking out with a win for 'the Dear Old Blue And Gray.'"
For Patterson and many others, it has become a tradition. He and his "pops" did not miss a Georgetown-Syracuse matchup at 'Cuse until he left the Hilltop, not coincidentally, Patterson contends, the only two games at Syracuse that have been Hoya losses. "I guess what possess me is hanging out with the old man, doing something we love doing, watching our boys, and all that mushy stuff," he concluded.
"The initial motivation for these trips is definitely our shared passion and love for Georgetown . It's the pride we have in being members of this family that makes us feel like we have a true connection to the team.," said Kurt Muhlbauer, the president of Hoya Blue. "The feeling of entering an opposing gym and seeing hundreds of people stare at you, seeing their looks of disdain when you cheer louder than them and noting the frustration on their faces as you walk out the arena, victorious, it makes me feel on top of the world," he added.
Yet for Muhlbauer and many others, these cross-country trips are about more than winning or losing basketball games. "Yeah, the games are important and always will be, but the best part of these roadtrips is the people you are with and the memories that comes from these shared experiences," he said. "The wins are nice, the losses are brutal, but the memories of the people I was with stand out more than all of that."