The Denver Chronicles Part III: The Weekend Awards

Scotty FranchiseCorrespondent IMarch 24, 2008

We should have gone to Tampa.

A phrase uttered several times by myself and the crew during our stay in Boulder and Denver this weekend.

Last year when we discussed where to attend games this year it was between, Washington, D.C., Tampa, and Denver. We chose Denver since it was actually closer for most of us and many of us had never been there before.

We got four first-day games decided by a total of 511 points, a second-round blowout, and a run-of-the-mill competitive game ending in an 11-point win.

Tampa has been dubbed “Upset City” since both No. 12 and both No. 13 seeds won in every fashion possible. A buzzer-beater from 40 feet while falling out of bounds, an overtime game, a double overtime game, and a blowout.

The best bet of the weekend would have been to see how many times someone in our group uttered the phrase: “Where is that game?” Every time, the answer was Tampa.

We should have gone to Tampa. I won’t bore you with the details of the two Saturday games. Michigan State and Pitt played a competitive game, but in the end, it was another 11-point win.

Washington State did terrible things to Notre Dame that are still illegal in most southern states and in Utah. So, we’ll move right to the awards portion of the show.


Best Band

The Michigan State Spartans’ pep band was both entertaining and appropriate. While some school’s bands played entirely too long and too often, some had very limited playlists (how many times can you play your fight song?)

MSU’s band seemed like they were enjoying themselves and did a great job of getting the crowd involved, with everything from fight song, to facilitating the “Go Green! Go White!” chant.

Job well done all around by them. Honorable mention: George Mason University’s band leader, Doc Nix was incredible!

He was running around and going crazy for the entire game, even as it spiraled out of control for Mason. Nix and the Green Machine did a great job of keeping the fans interested. After the game, I shook his hand and he was sweating as if he had played 40 minutes himself.


Best Dance team/Cheerleaders

Washington State University. Nobody else was second. Not even close.

I’m getting married in 61 days, so I need to proceed with caution here, but they were impressive on all accounts. Usually there is a major gap in uhhh… talent between the cheer squad and the dance team. Not with Wazzu. They have all-around game.

Last year in Memphis, we had the Memphis dance and cheer team. They are the gold standard. They are the 1972 Dolphins. If someone can manage to knock them off, they are welcome in the neighborhood, but nobody is on their block yet.

If Memphis is the ’72 Dolphins, this year’s Washington State cheer/dance squad is the ’89 Niners. They’re good and they belong in the conversation, but have some work to do to top them.


Best Mascot

The Oral Roberts Eagle did his thing. I know… I know… Notre Dame fans would have you believe that their Leprechaun was the best, but there is one fundamental issue. He’s not a mascot. He’s a guy dressed as a leprechaun. He is extremely athletic and does handstands and pushups out of a handstand position.

He even walked the length of the court on his hands. Impressive, but he should just join the gymnastics’ team if that’s what he likes. If you don’t have to put the headgear on, you’re not really a mascot.

I’m sorry to be a mascot snob, but I was one for two years and it’s not the same unless you’re wearing that sweaty costume with the limited vision of the headgear. So the Eagle gets the nod. Besides, Oral Roberts needs something to confirm that they participated.


Best Fans

This one was tough. Several of the fanbases had their own areas of excellence.

Wazzu’s fans were most visible. Michigan State’s were the loudest. Mason fans were the most die-hard. Notre Dame had the most alarming amount of people present as it negatively relates to how quiet they were.

Final answer: Wazzu.

Sparty’s fans were very loud and they were very well represented, however Wazzu gets the nod for best fans since they were so unbelievably friendly.

The Spartans’ fans seemed to have this entitlement to be in the Sweet 16 thing going on. Wazzu seemed happy to be there, but were quick to tell you how good they really are and what it means for them to make it to the Sweet 16.


Best Coach

Personally, I think Jim Larranaga was the best coach in the building over the weekend.

Imagine if Coach L were given the players and talent that any BCS-conference school gets. He’s an outstanding coach, but this isn’t a lifetime achievement award. The best coaching job over the weekend goes to Coach Tom Izzo.

He pushed all the right buttons at the right times. From his team scoring on five consecutive possessions out of timeouts against Temple, to whatever he told Drew Neitzel in-between Game one and Game two to get him back on track.

After a dismal game vs. Temple, Neitzel rebounded with a 21-point effort against Pitt. Izzo made all the right decisions at the right time against both opponents over the weekend. He’s done this before, but seeing it in person was really quite impressive.


Best Sign

The best sign of the weekend actually wasn’t in the Pepsi Center. It belonged to a homeless man we encountered in Boulder during the off day.

The sign said, “Homeless old Fart- Please help!! Too young for Medicare! Too old for any woman to care! Anything you can give is appreciated!”


That wraps up the awards for the weekend in regards to the on-court play.

As for Denver, I enjoyed it. The weather is great if you can orchestrate being in the sun all the time. The people are really, really nice. 

Here’s the thing about Denver having never been there—if you ever wanted to open an outdoor apparel company, an Ugg boots outlet store, or a Subaru dealership, Colorado is where you want to go.

If you have any plans or desire to meet a black woman for any reason at all, this is not the place for you (I didn’t see one single black woman who reasonably might have been a local).

If you have any plans or desire to meet a black man, go to lot of Nuggets and Broncos games, they are the ones wearing the jerseys with numbers on them.

If you’re out of shape and run out of breath quickly, be careful. I thought the altitude thing was overblown until I had two adult beverages and walked two flights of stairs. Good golly!

Overall, the weekend was exceptionally fun. Pedro was a fantastic host and his party on Friday night was excellent. It should be noted, after the party ended and it was just the guys from the March Madness trip left at the house.

We took a two oz. drink from small glasses to celebrate another weekend together. Within five minutes, six grown men conducted the most ridiculous dance party ever seen. The altitude got the best of us and it only lasted a couple of minutes, but in those 150 seconds, six men ranging from late twenties to late thirties lost all inhibitions and became children again.

Laughing, smiling, and cheering each other on. For two and one half minutes, we forgot about what our jobs would demand of us come Monday. We ignored any concerns about bills, mortgages or 401k growth.

We disregarded our reputations and what others would have thought of us if they saw us dancing (including wives and girlfriends).

We were absolutely in the moment and all that mattered was being with your good friends and having a good time. We all went back to a place that we wish we could visit more often, but life just doesn’t let you. This is why we do this to begin with.

This weekend was a bust as it relates to the games. But as I said before, it’s not about the basketball, it’s about my boys. After that show on Friday night, we eventually simmered down. I turned to my buddy Dusty and all I could say was:

“I’m so glad we didn’t go to Tampa.”


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