Monday, November 27, 2006

A Trip to the Deep South

Report by Dave Cortesi.

Friday in Knoxville

We flew overnight from SFO, via Atlanta, to Knoxville, and in mid-afternoon, joined Dal Miranda, the FBC travel coordinator, and 14 other fans, for supper at Calhoun's on the river.

Diana and Phil Levy and their daughters are long-distance fans who live in Washington, DC. They met as Stanford grad students and follow the Cardinal whenever they can -- and follow the team through the FBC website other times.

We walked along the Tennessee riverbank in the twilight to the Arena, arriving when the doors opened, along with many of the other 13,000 attendees.

It's a very big arena and it's all creamsicle orange.

Even after it's full of fans, it's still all creamsicle orange, because they all wear their colors. Stanford fans made a little streak of red up one corner. Some game hilights: Right in front of us, in her first five minutes on the court, Jane Appel put a perfect block on Candace Parker, just stuffed the ball down on her. I sat there like a dummy, yelling, with my camera in my lap. The rest of the night I was thinking, I coulda had that picture, dang it, I coulda had that picture. Don Anderson, I'm so sorry!

So then I started keeping the camera pointed and did get one action shot. Parker got a steal and a breakaway layup. The crowd went nuts, just bonkers. They thought (and all the newspaper accounts since say) she "dunked." It was not a dunk. I saw the TV replay and maybe the end two joints of her fingers were above the rim. Any male player would call it a "finger roll." If that's what she calls a dunk, then I say no female player has dunked yet. So there. Another hilight that I didn't get a picture of: at the end of the first half, with 25 seconds on the clock, Pat called a timeout. Then her players very nicely executed and got Parker a 3 for what they (and we) assumed would be the last play of the half. Except Candice Wiggins took the ball with 3.2 seconds to go, took maybe five steps, and let fly from well short of the mid-court line. The red light came on as the ball was in the air, and it swished! That was nice. Anyway this was not an easy win for Tennessee, as indicated by the very appropriately-named "Hustle Stats" that they display. Tomorrow: How We Passed Our Free Day in Atlanta.

Saturday in Atlanta

Sculpture and Orchids at the Botanic Garden
Early Saturday morning we flew back from Knoxville to Atlanta and checked into the team hotel, the Marriott Marquis. As of Saturday nite, the only team contact we've had has been to say "Hi!" to Mr. "New" as he came out of an elevator and we got in. The Marriott has one of those amazing 40-story atrium lobbies with glass elevators and vertigo-inducing walkways. At one point, walking along on our 31st floor, we thought we heard female voices yelling "Keesh!" from 10 or 15 floors below. Or perhaps above. So, what's to do in Atlanta on a Saturday? After sniffing all the info at the concierge desk we settled on the Atlanta Botanic Garden, not so much for botany as because it is hosting an outdoor display of sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle which looked like fun and was. The best of the 20 or 30 pieces scattered around the grounds was this big skull. It was all mirror mosaic inside, and kids loved it. They could reach out through the pearly-whites and grab people. Being November and all, the outside plant life was not too spectacular. However inside the large conservatory there were a lot of striking orchids in bloom, some quite large And some very tiny Here are some more orchids: Here's some more sculpture pieces. After viewing all that we wandered back to the hotel, found a modest supper, and settled down to blog. Tomorrow: Athens, and our first view of the wild Landers in its native habitat!

Sunday in Athens

Sunday morning we started on a leisurely trek from Atlanta to Athens. First stop was to walk around the state Capitol building. We have a collection of pictures of capitols of most states, and this was a new one. We took smaller roads toward Athens and at one point realized we were passing cotton fields. Never having seen one close up, we stopped to look. Marian had scouted the web for things to do around Athens and had turned up a small craft festival, 8 miles out of Watkinsville. It featured a lady glassblower. Well, not wanting to have too much fun we headed to the UGA campus and the rather large Stegeman arena. Inside, Stegeman is decorated in a very comfortable color. We spotted Shelley Nweke visiting with the coaching staff. Here she is chatting with Brooke's parents. Andy Landers stopped by to schmooze with the coaches. Dana couldn't resist the totally cute Bulldog toys they were selling. The crowd, although loud and enthusiastic, was nowhere near as big as at Knoxville. Oh, there was also a basketball game played. I don't really want to talk about it. Well, but... the purpose of this Travel Blog is to let people know what the Fan Experience is like. So here's the truth, OK? The away-game experience isn't always pleasant. You are surrounded by thousands of people who are having a terrific time, really enjoying themselves-- at your team's expense. So half the time you want to turn to some stranger near you and grab them by the shoulders and say, "They are better than this! Really!" And half the time you want to grab a player and say "Who are you and what have you done with my Cardinal!?!" And that's how it sometimes is, for the travelling fan. So after a quiet evening at the hotel we flew home. Delta treated us to a great view of Atlanta on departure. The capitol dome and the Marriott are circled (click for more detail).