Karl Lindholm: San Antonio and all that hoopla!
It was a giant basketball party, a fiesta de hoop: just so much hoopla in San Antonio the weekend before last — March Madness, the Final Four:
And we were there.
This was the second trip to the Final Four for the four of us, a reprise of an Atlanta adventure in 2013 when we witnessed Louisville defeat Michigan in the national championship game in a cavernous football stadium, the Georgia Dome, along with 70,000 of our closest friends.
Local basketball maven Peter Hare, the impresario of that affair, proposed this junket as a high school graduation present for our basketball-mad sons, my Peter and his James.
Now, in 2018, our sons are 22 — so Pete Hare suggested we splurge and do it again, based on our earlier success, this time in San Antonio and the Alamodome, a reward for their graduating from college.
Do you know Peter Hare? His exuberance is contagious.
I’m not big on crowds, nor air travel, but I like being in interesting new places if not the actual process of getting there. The Hares had already proven themselves hardy and congenial travel companions, and San Antonio gets a good press: so it was “Look out, San Antone, here come the Green Mountain Boys.”
In fact I had been to San Antonio before, 51 years ago, working for my Uncle Sam, learning to be a medic at Fort Sam Houston. When I revealed to Pete Hare my previous San Antonio experience, he responded with enthusiasm, “We’ll go visit all of your old haunts!”
“Pete,” I said, “I was making $79 a month! I don’t want to go to any of my ‘old haunts,’ even if they’re still around.”
San Antonio was the perfect place for this basketball celebration. It’s the sixth most populous city in the country, but it didn’t feel large and imposing to this country mouse from Vermont.
It was easy to negotiate, with the Alamo itself the centerpiece, right smack in the middle of downtown. All the adjacent areas and venues — hotels, restaurants, bars — were festooned with banners and posters celebrating the four teams there to compete for the national championship. Throngs of hoop fans everywhere.
The serpentine River Walk for which San Antonio is justly famous was full of basketball zealots in the team colors of the final four: scarlet and gold for Chicago Loyola, bright red and blue for Kansas, maize and blue for Michigan, and navy for Villanova.
They strolled along its meandering length in sunny, high 70s weather, dining or having a cold drink at one of the outdoor restaurants concentrated near city center.
When partisans of one team met fellow partisans, they gloried in their immediate bond, exchanging high fives and noisy greetings. There were more men 6’6” or taller in San Antonio the weekend before last than any city in the world.
James and Pete Hare were decked out each day in their Villanova gear. Pete grew up in Philly and has maintained a keen allegiance, and James was born there — loyalty to Philadelphia teams is his birthright. Son Peter and I found ourselves in the midst of “Go ‘Nova” fervor.
THIS IS WHAT it looks like when you are watching a basketball game with 68,000 of your closest friends
Independent photo/Karl Lindholm
San Antonio was entirely given over to basketball, and such a positive atmosphere prevailed. Lots of families were taking it all in. At “Fan Fest” in the enormous convention center, hordes of kids participated in basketball events and activities all day long.
Oh yes, the basketball games. When I suggested to Pete Hare that the games really were secondary to the spectacle, he vigorously disagreed. After all, his Villanova Wildcats were playing, first knocking off Kansas, and then Michigan in the National Championship game.
Villanova proved decisively they were the best team in the country. There was great joy in section 312, our section, the nosebleed seats, third tier. We were a long way indeed from the action on the floor, but that really didn’t matter.
There were 68,000 people at the game. Imagine that. It was actually possible to watch the action down below us on the court. Or, if we chose, we could watch the game on the big screen suspended high above the action, about eye level for us.
The atmosphere in the arena was electric. I didn’t even object to the “media timeouts,” eight in all, each three minutes or longer, 24 minutes in a 40-minute game. At home, when I watch tournament games on television, I am infuriated by these interruptions of play, as commercial after commercial comes on. Makes me want to kill my TV.
In the actual arena, there was lots going on: the college bands were playing lively music, cheerleaders were doing their acrobatic thing on the court, interesting basketball stuff was projected on the big screen: the time went by fast.
All in all, we had a great time.
Peter, my son, will be 23 next month. A child of my second marriage, I was 50 when he was born. He is out of school now, his adult life lies ahead of him, and he’s talking about starting out come fall in a place far from Middlebury, his home.
So was this father-son basketball adventure in San Antonio a good idea?
It was a blessing.
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