Despite being heterosexual, male and a native North Carolinian, I couldn't care less about college basketball - or any other sporting event for that matter. Sure, it's the kind of statement that could spark a knife fight at a family reunion around these parts, but it's true. That's why my station doesn't send me to cover many athletic events ... that and the overwhelming number of colleagues who would shred each other's intestines just to gain access to another sideline. No, sports ain't my gig. Spectacle, however, is - which is why I found myself wandering the grounds of the Greensboro Coliseum today as thousands of logo-obsessed zombies got their alma-mater on.
At least I assume school loyalty is the reason for all this peculiar behavior. What else but academic allegiance would cause a portly father of three to put on a day-glo sweater and throw middle-age gang signs to a passing cameraman? Then again, a guy like me is an easy target in a place like this. From the lecherous Shriner-types knocking back pre-lunch brewskies to the somewaht trapped Budweiser girls trying to escape their advances, everyone wanted a piece of my lens. In other words, it was just another day at the office for your weary lenslinger. Or so I thought - until a passing marching band struck up a dirge and I found myself camera-dancing with a giant cartoon hound dog in a bright orange tux. Pretty surreal for a Thursday morning.
But I didn't fake my way past security merely to trigger a few flashbacks. I came searching for ticket sellers, buyers and dare I say, scalpers. Looking around, I quickly realized it was a target-rich environment. From outside the gates to right by the Coiseum door, brightly clad humans of every description were thrusting unwanted tickets in the air in hopes a busload of Winthrop fans would pull up and shower them with euphoric currency. When that didn't happen, most began giving their tickets away, some even jammed them into waiting trashcans with enough flair and commentary to make a photog smile behind his viewfinder. I got so used to the welcoming nature of the crowd, I even approached a group of track-suited young gentlemen at the edge of the crowd. I only wanted a shot of the fanned-out tickets in their bejeweled grip, but when the largest one offered an unprintable greeting, I wisely retreated, knowing a fancy-cam and a pocket full of tic-tacs was no match for a gang of blinged-out ruffians, should they decide to wipe the asphalt with my lens.
A few minutes later, I hooked up with the PO-lice, not to report any infractions mind you, but just because I genuinely dig the dudes in blue. As the hollow-eyed faithful filed into the Coliseum, we stood and chatted about mutual friends, digital cameras and the unfortunate wardrobe choices of certain tourney-goers. As we manned our post, a river of round-ball supplicants flowed past, some thrusting tickets in our hands, others saying hello to Mom (whom apparently lives inside my camera), and a few even talking quiet trash to the cops. Classy, I thought, as a puffed-up Duke fan strode past with a derisive remark. Someone upchucks beer on your sacred sweatshirt and you'll come running back demanding Martial Law be imposed. Until then, your'e happy to impress your buddies with misplaced testosterone. Yep, forty-five minutes outside the NCAA temple convinced me I was right to eschew these operas of offense and defense. As soon as the last logo'd reveler made it inside their temple of choice, I bid my uniformed buddies adieu and set off for something far more important than overhyped basketball. Lunch.