Pittsburg State and Northwest Missouri State in Battle of Champions VIII, which took place this past weekend, is terrific for everyone. However, there are a few problems if you are a basketball coach.
I have been at all eight games. I have to admit, my favorite one was the first. It was one of the last games of the season and it was on a Thursday. Snow had hit earlier in the week and it was the perfect weather for a football game. Because it was a night game, the crowd seemed more electric than during any other game. A long day of tailgating could have something to do with all the excitement.
The atmosphere of a big game attended by more than 20,000 fans is addictive even to a basketball coach. There are a few things that cause basketball coaches some grief. Probably the biggest is that you don’t want to run into your players. Any coach that believes their players wear halos 24 hours a day is getting ready for a big letdown. Here are my rules: don’t ask where they will tailgate; when you see them, avoid eye contact and act like you don’t see them; if all else fails, send your 9-year old son to check out the tailgate.
The same rules can apply to Bearcat Boosters who’s names you just can’t remember. However, the best way to deal with it is to have your wife close by. Michele, my wife, learned a long time ago if I don’t remember someone important, interrupt and introduce yourself by saying, “High, I’m Michele, Stein’s wife. Who are you?” That’s a life saver unless Michele is mad at me and lets me hang out to dry.
Something really important to rehearse before the Arrowhead game is the answer to, “How’s your team going to be this year?” In truth, these boosters are just being polite. The quicker they can get rid of a women’s basketball coach, the sooner they can resume their tailgate activities. So my answer is always, “Great! I heard one of them is dating your son” (or grandson, the neighbor’s step-son, etc.). That will get the subject changed quickly.
Every other year, Northwest has the Chief’s Pavilion for their pre-game festivities. Now, here’s a place for basketball coaches to avoid. One year Morris White, the man in charge of athletic promotions, asked Steve Tappmeyer and I to address the standing room only crowd in the pavilion. I know for sure that I could have told an off-color joke about Bearcat Boosters and the only person listening that would have heard was Sam. I didn’t do it, but I know Sam would have said, “Why did you say a bad word, Daddy?”
The game itself is great. We have beaten up on the Gorillas much more than they have stopped the Bearcats. The athletic department always provides coaches and their families with a spectator box loaded with concessions. However, the last problem I face comes after the celebration for another Northwest win.
You now have to make it back to your car. There’s nothing like a bunch of winning college football fans harassing a bunch of losing college football fans. Now Sam always says to me, “Why are they saying all those bad words, Daddy?” I know if the truth be told, Sam now has a bunch of new words to tell his fourth grade friends. Sam will be the most popular kid at Horace Mann School on Monday. But teachers will ask, “where was his father?”