A Grand Hoops Experience: Norris is the Place

So charming is the whole experience that is Bellarmine basketball, I feel compelled to issue at least one plaint. For objectivity’s sake, mind you.

The Bellarmine Knight, the mascot I’m talking about, is butt U.G.L.Y. In an age when cute reigns so much that ESPN features college mascots in its marketing, the Bellarmine Knight stands out as something else entirely. His is a surly — not to be confused with Sirly — look. King Arthur would have kicked the guy off the Round Table simply for unacceptable negativitude.

Which is not to say that the student section didn’t have the Knight’s back, giving him a standing O when he nailed a three from mid court during pre-game shenanigans.

The point is that if that’s all I can find less than exhilarating by a Saturday night at Knights Hall, methinks it’s about as much fun as you can have at a sporting event these days.

Bellarmine is cruising along on the hardwood. “Un-De-Fea-Ted” as those same undergrads taunted the Screaming Eagles while time ran down and it was obvious Top 20 power Southern Indiana would be victim #14 of this campaign.

For the second home game this week, the place was SRO. (Before Thursday, the last sellout was in 1989.) Which is not to say, you had to go to Stub Hub to score a ticket. A nice lady asked if I needed one as I approached the arena entrance. “It’s free,” she smiled. “Give it to someone who needs it,” I demurred. I did take up a smiling coed on her offer of a free program.

What else is their to love about the experience? Other than you don’t have to endure Ring Road, of course.

There’s the smell of popping corn at the concession stands, (wo)manned by actual students. There’s no histrionic bombardment of strobe lights and thunder music during introductions. There’s only one quaint little T-shirt toss. And it just happens without some commercial announcement beforehand.

The Dance Team isn’t world famous. It actually dances a couple of times during the game, rather than humping the hardwood like it’s a “Girls Gone Wild” video. The pep band sits on the stage at end of the court. The student section approximated what appeared to be a white out. Most wore white T-shirts. But, thankfully, it appeared more haphazard than a school dictum. Kind of like the idea spread around the dorm a couple of hours before the game.

That stage at the end of the court gives the place a “Hoosiers” feel. Speaking of which, Braydon Hobbs, Bellarmine’s leading scorer, is from New Albany. He’s just a few barber snips from wearing an honest to Betsy flat top. Let’s hope he goes all the way on that one. Of Hobbs, who took over the game in the second half, that student section taunted the visitors with this chant: “He’s a Fresh-Man.”

Knight’s coach Scotty Davenport schmoozed with fans before the tipoff. He gave a fist to one teen in the front row. “Tell that wild woman to sit down,” he teased another fan. When C-J columnist Eric Crawford showed up after the game started, Davenport looked over — during the action — and inquired whether the scribe had been kicked out of the house, since it was his second Bellarmine game in three days.

Then there was the entertainment, other than the Knight’s resounding victory that is, which would have been plenty enough.

I’m talking about the ZooperStars, who gave the hall the feel of a minor league baseball game. That’s a good thing. They’re those big blow up dolls with people inside. Like the Dean’s Milk Chug. Except they’re funny. And commercial free.

There was Monkey Mantle and Shark McGuire and Nolan Rhino and Elephant Presley. They did the “Tootsie Roll.” It was boffo. Then there was Yao Flamingo, Alex Frogriguez, Pee Wee Geese and the inimitable Harry Canary. They danced to “Who Let The Dogs Out?” More grins. Wide grins.

Finally, during a timeout, Mackerel Jordan, to the tune of “Eat It.” — Thank you, Michael Jackson — ate a a kid and then spit him out. Smiles were a time zone wide.

At halftime they introduced the guy who wrote the school fight song. Frank Newton’s his name. Uh, I think. If I’m wrong about that somebody will let me know and I’ll correct it.

The good guys won, 82-68. The game wasn’t really that close. For some observations of the actual basketball as played by those undedeated Knights, check out my sports blog here at http://score.leoweekly.com.

Just before the fans left, those wacky students final chant advised the assembled to “Drive Home Safe-Ly.”

2 thoughts on “A Grand Hoops Experience: Norris is the Place

  1. Great piece. Hoping for many more Knights Hall sellouts and a D-II championship for Bellarmine’s hardworking, hustling, perfectly-executing team this year!

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