The names and faces are etched in my memory: Donald Smith, Johnny Davis, Mike Sylvester, Allen Elijah.
So is the night.
It was 1974, I was 10 and it was a school night. So as upstart Dayton played mighty UCLA and Bill Walton in the NCAA Sweet 16 in Tucson, I was in bed. But I wasn’t asleep. I could hear the TV. The Flyers were giving the Bruins a fight, and I was wide awake.
At some point in the second half, Dad came to my room to see if I was asleep. In about two seconds, I was in front of the TV. I didn’t return to bed happy. Dayton lost 111-100 in triple overtime, but that was a seminal moment in my fandom. The Flyers won me over for good that night.
Ten years later the Flyers were at it again with Roosevelt Chapman, one of the most entertaining players in college basketball history. Chapman, with the help of Sedric Toney, Ed Young, Damon Goodwin and Larry Schellenberg, made the tournament as a No. 10 seed. They beat LSU for a shot against second-seeded Oklahoma and All-American Wayman Tisdale. Chapman scored 41 points and the Flyers pulled off the upset of the tournament. Then they took down Washington. But Georgetown and Patrick Ewing were next in the Elite Eight. The eventual champion Hoyas were too much for the Flyers.
In between these two tournament runs, was the Jim Paxson era. That’s when I started going to a few UD games every year. Not as many games were on TV then, but Channel 7 showed a lot of games and we always watched.
In those early days of becoming a Flyer fan, Ohio State was weak. Not until Eldon Miller rebuilt the Buckeyes with Kelvin Ransey, Herb Williams and Clark Kellogg did I really get interested in the Buckeyes. Dad went to OSU and followed the great Lucas and Havlicek teams of the early 1960s. He even went to one of the final fours in Louisville when they lost to Cincinnati in the title game. I think it was the ’62 game.
So it was easy to become a fan of both. OSU has certainly had more success since, but deep down the Flyers remain my favorite team.
When I saw OSU and UD go up on the screen Sunday night as first-round combatants I couldn’t believe it. I had come to expect that the Flyers would get in the tournament, but I never saw this coming.
I immediately tweeted:
Then an old friend asked the question I didn’t want to answer.
I thought about it, but I really didn’t have to.
Then I started to think about Thursday. What time will they play? Where will I be? I have a class at 12:30.
One of my former students and a member of the Flyer Faithful voted.
Tempting. But unless somebody hands me a ticket to whatever arena it is in Buffalo where this collision of my favorite teams will happen, I will be in class teaching my students about feature writing.
The DVR will be set and I will be on a media blackout until I head home at 1:45. I will find a bag of chips (the munchies get real bad when there is this much anxiety), a big glass of water, go upstairs to the big HD set and start watching. Fortunately, I will be able to skip commercials and halftime so that this conflicted two hours really won’t be two hours.
I will be home alone, free to pace as much as I want and make all the noise I want. If it’s close, I’ll be 10 again. Overtime? Please, no.
I want the Flyers to win, and I think they can. They have more to gain from this as a program. And it would mean so much to all of the faithful.
I never set out to be a fan of two teams in the same sport. I don’t have this problem in any other sport. And I don’t recommend it. But it’s March. And madness can’t be helped.