Travel, I’ve had my share. After spending a combined six days in Cincinnati and Nashville, I feel like I’ve been everywhere. I didn’t exactly cross the deserts bare or breathe any mountain air, but I did see a nice chunk of the country these past few weeks.
Now, after five states, 16 total hours on the road to and from Cincy, two short plane trips to and from Tennessee, and a single case of Bronchitis, I’m back in the District, bleary-eyed but content, and thankfully, germ free.
While there was hope that the Foggy Bottom boys wouldn’t succumb to Georgia Tech in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the past few weeks were a success for the GW basketball program and anyone associated with it, including the players, coaches, administrators and especially the fans, who hadn’t seen their Colonials in the tourney since 1999.
If GW’s free throw shooting against the Yellow Jackets still has you feeling queasy, just remember coach Karl Hobbs’ message after the Ramblin’ Wreck bounced his team out of the Big Dance. On a chalkboard in the locker room, he scribbled out the Colonials’ accomplishments: BB&T Champions, Atlantic 10 West Champions, and A-10 Tournament Champions (for the first time).
By now, GW’s conference tourney win and subsequent NCAA appearance are old news. Still, there are a few things about the past two whirlwind weekends worth mentioning. To start:
The two compact words should appear bigger than they do on this page. The six-foot-eight-inch glass monster almost single-handedly kept his team in the game against Georgia Tech. He scored 13 points and grabbed nine boards, again quietly showing off a soft outside touch to go along with his trademark ferocity around the hoop. Hall may not make the highlight reels very often, but in my mind, is the team’s MVP.
His front court mate, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, emphatically smashed through the hype that built up this year. Working harder than ever in the low post, he scored 15 points, making big Luke Schenscher disappear into thin air. The GW big fella didn’t make SportsCenter or CBS’s highlights, but this time more than ever, he should have.
As always, CBS blissfully blitzed us with the plethora of games on tap last weekend. I have just a few complaints. To all the analysts working the games: I know your knowledge of college basketball vastly exceeds mine, but would you please stop making sweeping statements about games, players, upsets, etc.? I heard Jim Nantz say that Bucknell defeating Kansas was the biggest upset in the history of the modern tournament, the day after it happened – I’m glad he took time to reflect. The Bison beat Pitt and St. Joe’s this year, and the Jayhawks backed into the Big Dance. This wasn’t quite Villanova toppling Georgetown.
Also, GW fans scattered across the country had a few issues with CBS. Most affiliates didn’t show the Colonials against Tech, save for the final few minutes of the first half. The network also neglected to bring the greater Nashville area the end of the Syracuse-Vermont clash, which the Green Mountain boys won by a small margin. While the score flashed small in small yellow type on a television in the press lounge of the Gaylord Entertainment Center, one very prominent national media member channeled a common channel surfer – hollering at the screen and berating CBS for not switching to the Catamounts’ victory. Who can blame him? The man wanted to witness an upset, and GW didn’t exactly come through in that department.
As far as the arena goes, the Gaylord Entertainment Center was one of the more unique buildings GW has ever played in. The blue and gold color scheme and horseshoe seating pattern looked like a great place to watch a hockey or basketball game. It’s too bad the place was filled to the brim with Louisville fans last weekend. For some inexplicable reason, they adopted the Jets/Eagles spell-it-out chant. But “C-A-R-D-S Cards!” sounds a bit awkward.
As a city, Nashville was a great host. The streets adjacent to the arena are packed with affordable (but predictably touristy) bars, many of which are great places to watch sports. Eddie George’s is one, owned by the former Titans running back. An endless amount of big screens and the servers wearing Titans jerseys made it the place to go before the games began.
As a snobby northerner, I never really got into country music (except maybe a little Johnny Cash). Home of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville is the place to be if you like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings or Hank Williams. As an off-shoot of this, almost every bar has a country cover band. Most of them (in the touristy area) sounded the same and had names like “Southern Edge.” Do the band members really think adding the word “southern” to their name will increase their legitimacy? I hope not.
Compared to Nashville, Cincinnati was not as lively. The city was grey, rainy, and snowy – it reminded me of home. Coming in, I had heard about Cincy’s famous chili. I had a bad cold, no voice and a stuffed up nose, I figured chili might clear my sinuses. Here’s what I learned: no matter how good said substance is supposed to be, do not, I repeat, do not, order a bowl of it at a smoky dive bar called Madonna’s at 1:30 a.m. I think the stuff made me delirious.
Thankfully, I got better but still avoided the stuff. But after watching GW make a deep postseason run, I don’t mind that I missed out on the chili. I feel like I’ve been everywhere, but maybe I’ll be back for a bowl someday.