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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The game was originally devised 69 years ago as a relaxing frolic for teen-age boys and some of the younger tired businessmen of Springfield, Mass. But on the eve of the big tournaments and the lesser ones that inflame the populations of small towns up and down the country, there was mounting evidence to suggest that the excitements of basketball are becoming too much for some American nervous systems to bear. Crowds were beginning to act and sound like the pro-lion rooting section in the Colosseum of ancient Rome. Coaches, traditionally the cool heads that prevail over youthful exuberance, were blowing their tops, clutching at their ulcers, pulling their teams off the floor, writing out their resignations.
Coach Joe Stampf of the University of Chicago (longtime champion of deemphasized athletics) refused to let his team go on the floor for the second half of a game with Washington University in St. Louis. He charged that he had detected in the referee "a predetermined feeling as to what should happen." The score, tied at 29-29, was thereupon posted as a 2-0 forfeit in favor of Washington. This did nothing to appease the crowd, which had been enjoying what it believed to be a good game, nor did it comfort the five Washington seniors who were playing the last game of their college careers. Later, athletic directors of both universities deplored the action of the supersensitive coach who, it is to be presumed, will be invited to look for less distressing work.
Earlier, in Bowling Green, Ky. Coach Paul McBrayer of Eastern Kentucky had taken his team off the floor, forfeiting the game. He said he had observed Coach Ed Diddle of Western Kentucky lay a hand in anger on an Eastern Kentucky player. An excited radio sportscaster reported how "a jeering mob...with hatred-filled faces...threw snowballs with venomous fury" as the Eastern Kentucky players ran for their bus.
UCLA and Southern California climaxed their seasons with a five-minute riot which resulted in three players from Southern Cal and two from UCLA being banished from the game before UCLA won out 72-70. The melee in this game (see above) followed the pattern of a brawl that marked a recent Manhattan-New York University game at New York's Madison Square Garden which moved one spectator to observe, "Best fight I've ever seen in the Garden."
Elsewhere, basketball crowds were inventing more and more techniques for agitating players and coaches. In the North Carolina-North Carolina State game at Raleigh, a fan released a bat with a small pennant reading "Beat Carolina!" In Mississippi State's games at Starksville, Miss. the thing is to create a monumental din with cowbells or on occasion to bang a plowshare with a hammer. At St. Louis University trumpeters regularly blast away when a visiting player tries for a free throw.
Coaches were dropping off like flies. Phil Woolpert quit the University of San Francisco on doctor's orders. Ross Giudice, his successor, hinted broadly that he would resign at the end of the season to go into the furniture business. Pete Newell, a notorious towel chewer, announced that he was giving up coaching to become athletic director at California. San Jose State's Walt McPherson said that this would be his final season in basketball. He will take over as coach of the golf team. In New York, Joe Lapchick, coach of St. John's, announced that he had found a potion that seemed to be helping the dizzy spells that plague him during the season. It's a tall glass of vermouth and bitters.
Nobody, it seems, quite appreciates the anguish and travail of a coach—except another coach. When Vic Bubas' Duke University team beat Bones McKinney's Wake Forest team in the final of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament the other evening, Bubas ran out on the floor, put his head on McKinney's shoulder and cried (see above).