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Storming the Court

A Florida State fan recalls the Seminoles' upset of Duke

Posted: Friday March 3, 2006 12:17PM; Updated: Friday March 3, 2006 10:14PM
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The Walk-On
Jenn Sterger is a student at Florida State and has appeared in Maxim.She is a favorite of not only Brent Musberger, but also college sports fans everywhere.

The trusty author, a fan favorite everywhere, leads the FSU band.
The trusty author, a fan favorite everywhere, leads the FSU band.
Photo Courtesy of Jenn Sterger.
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By Jenn Sterger

With 1.7 seconds remaining and Florida State on the verge of knocking off  Duke on Wednesday night, I was reminded why they call this March Madness. Forgive us for being a little overanxious and running onto the court early, but it's not every day that you see an unranked upset the No. 1 team in the country on national television.

And while one loss might barely faze a Duke team that is almost assured of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, the dramatic win breathed new life into my Seminoles. It was the biggest victory our program has had in years and it might just catapult FSU to its first Big Dance since 1998.

I was there to witness it all while hanging out with Al's Pals, a group of rowdy kids whose heckling skills are a budding version of the notorious "Section B" -- otherwise known as "The Animals" at FSU baseball games.

Al's Pals are diehard FSU hoops fans who sit courtside at every game, rooting on their 'Noles. They showed me that heckling isn't just about screaming useless obscenities. It's more tactful than that. It's an art form. To adequately arouse a response from your opponents, you have to know them inside and out. Al's Pals do their research. They not only have the other team's official roster, they take it to the next level with photo-shopped pictures, dry erase boards, and fresh produce (don't ask).

The targets on Wednesday included two of the most talented players in the country: Sheldon Williams and, of course, J.J. Redick. Say what you want about Redick, Coach K, and the Blue Devils in general (they're the most hated team in college sports history, they're overrated, or whatever helps you sleep at night), but the bottom line is that talent is talent, plain and simple.

I didn't partake in the mocking of Duke, because I respect the program and all it has accomplished, but it wasn't hard to figure out the other fans' position on the topic. Besides, if someone talked the kind of crap that these fans did about my mama, there would be a serious ass-whooping of the cowboy boot variety coming their way.

As the clock wound down after our night of trading leads and insults, we finally secured the win (after Duke had cleared the court for the first time). Coach K and all but five of his players retreated to the locker room. I can't say I blame them, given the intensity of the crowd, but I did notice Duke players, specifically Redick, shaking hands with our coaching staff and the 'Nole players on the bench. Genuine or not, Redick showed class and proved that he isn't a sore loser.

Tallahassee has always been a football town -- the home of the Bowden dynasty -- so forgive us for misreading the clock. You see, with 1.7 seconds left in a football game, the coaches are already meeting on the 50-yard line as the students climb over the walls -- provided there isn't a second wall of police decked out in full riot gear and bean bag guns waiting to stop them.

So our celebration began a little early. We got called off the court, and we -- the crowd -- received a technical foul. Then we went out and did the exact same thing 1.7 seconds later. I apologize to Dickie V. and his crew for the desecration of their desks. That was a little over the top, but the rest of it was all in good fun. While many sandals, hats, shirts, and other personal belongings perished in the mosh pit that consumed center court, no one was seriously injured.

The ACC may implement new rules regarding rushing the court, and FSU may face some form of punishment, but this game will always be remembered as the night the underdog took down the big bad Blue Devils, and of course, for the infamous running of the 'Noles.

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