In the back of mind, I had been itching to go to a college basketball game all season. On my radar was the UNC Asheville Bulldogs at the Winthrop Eagles game in Rock Hill. Both schools were playing for the regular season Big South title in this final game. To me, a key factor was getting to see the 7-foot-7 center for UNCA, Kevin George. I waited until the morning of the game to go online and get a pair of tickets, after confirming that the oft-injured goliath was going to be playing. I purchased one of the last pairs of tickets for my boy, Trent, and me, for the eventual sellout 4:30 p.m. game.
All this being said, with modest seats in a endzone corner, I was more exited for the sideshow aspect of the game -- never thinking how much a part of the spectacle we were both about to become.
Entering the arena, the first thing we saw was a State Farm (SF) guy and girl working at a booth with a big $50,000 check (ala Happy Gilmore). I was going to walk right by, but Trent wouldn't let an opportunity at winning a really big check pass by, and he made me fill one out. As I'm filling it out the SF girl announces that I'm the final entry. Some tall dude (an Eagle alum player) draws one, and I see it's not us and drag Trent to our seats, telling him I never win contests anyway. I never even asked what the deal was. Uncharacteristically, for us sales types, I didn't bring my cell phone, so I wrote down where we are sitting on the entry form.
Just as the game is under way, the SF guy comes up to us and says everyone else they drew backed out. I'm not always brave, but I'm never afraid. The deal is, I have 25 seconds to hit a layup, free throw, a three, and a one shot from half court, and I have to rebound all my misses. No way is that possible for me, but I get a $90 Visa Card and a bag of promotional goodies for trying, and entry with 11 others in a drawing to win Final-Four tix!
Down to the court
At the 8 p.m. mark, the SF-guy tells me to meet him, and we head down to the court wearing "March to Madness" T-shirts (no XXL for me of course). Then, we wait behind the basket until the first stoppage. With a record attendance of 6,314, I'm as nervous as I've ever been in my life. Why didn't I shoot some baskets this afternoon in the driveway? What if I look as bad as the people I have seen do this before at games. Wow, those guys are really slamming each other hard in the post.
Trent is cooler than I am, and keeps asking if we would do better if he did the shooting. Which they don't allow 11-year-olds to do for money, unfortunately. So now we have to wait for a stoppage and run out on the floor. I'm cheering for the ball to stay inbounds the whole time. At the 4:35 mark we get out there and the ref stops us and says it's a 30-second timeout. Well, I'm on the floor with a ball in my hand, I hit a 9-foot jumper just to get loose. Then, at 1:57, big George knocks the ball out and we are on.
I make the layup no problem and my first free throw rims out. Three more misses, each worse than the last, including an air ball, and I'm done. Game over, right? Not quite.
While I'm getting my picture taken with the Winthrop alum and the big check I don't get, Trent grabs my last rebound and steps to the free throw line and drains it! Big applause from the whole place.
At the very same time big George is walking (lumbering) out onto the court, Trent turns to give him a high five and the goon balks. The fans boo like crazy! On TV (thanks to DVR) at the 1:44 mark, as they are coming back from commercial break, you can hear me yell loud as ever over the chorus of boos, "Hey, man, give the kid a high five!"
Which he very sheepishly does. My voice on high volume can be very compelling.
We come off the court and walk up the aisle with our gift duffle bag in hand. Trent is getting high fives all the way up. My heart was racing for a good 10 minutes afterwards. Some of his favorite teachers from elementary school are at the game and run over to congratulate us and talk about his shot. As we sit down, Trent tells me he is entitled to half the $90. I don't even argue.
Now, the big question is what to do if I actually win the Final Four tickets? It's in San Antonio, Texas, and I never did find out if anything was included or if they would be good seats? Would I be able to sell them? I say it would be a good problem to have, and move on. Who knows, maybe I'll get a chance to lose a million dollars.
Either way, I don't see how it could match that day for my boy and me.
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