Going behind enemy lines
In sports, battle lines between fans are clearly drawn up as you root for your team and despise the opponent with every fiber of your being. This past Thursday myself and about 44 other UConn fans ventured behind enemy lines to see the UConn men's basketball team take on Providence at the Dunkin Donut Center in Rhode Island. I have been to numerous UConn basketball games before but until last Thursday I had never seen one on the road.
This was the second time in recent memory that a group of UConn students invaded the Dunk to see the Huskies take on the Friars. Last year I was unable to attend and I jumped at the opportunity to go this year. The trip from Storrs to Providence is not too bad as long as you don't mind dimly lit state roads, but nonetheless getting there and parking was not an issue. Upon entering the arena you are greeted by the Friars mascot, which in my opinion would terrify any small child.
The concourse level was not that bad, as there were plenty of places to grab a beer or a hot dog before finding your seat. The strangest part was receiving all the dirty looks from those decked out in Providence black, which was not that many, even though Providence athletics dubbed this game a "black out." The arena could have had more lighting which made the players' names and numbers hard to see at times. Say what you want about the XL Center, at least illumination is not a problem. Other than that I thought it was a fine venue to watch a basketball game.
As it got closer to game time, more and more white t-shirts filled section 117 of the Dunkin Donuts Center. There were a couple Providence fans around us, but they quickly moved their seats, which in retrospect was a good decision on their part, as they were deep in the heart of what was now an outpost for UConn Country. After the ball was tipped, I knew we were about to be a part of something special. It felt just like home for a few moments as the UConn student section began to cycle through our normal chants like we were back in the front row at Gampel Pavilion.
The Huskies got off to a pretty good start which only added fuel to the fire in section 117. Providence fans began to take notice and started to hurl insults our way. This was something that I expected but I couldn't help but feel weird as one "gentleman" a few rows ahead of us began to make obscene gestures and proceeded to tell us that we were all high school dropouts. Nonetheless his insults were more amusing than hurtful.
Not all of the Friars' fans were as low class as the groups around us. Quite frankly I think some of them were more entertained by our actions than offended. I noticed many fans snapping photos of our section throughout the game and Providence fans even began to cheer louder for their team to try to outdo us.
As most of you know by now UConn had a difficult time on the boards to say the least and in the waning minutes of the second half it looked like the game could go either way. I had asked my roommate what happened last year when the Huskies were defeated on the road and he replied, "We grabbed our jackets and got the hell out of there." I began to think about what the Friars' fans would do to us if we lost this game, after we were some of the loudest folks in the building, I can assure you there would have been nothing holy about it.
That fear quickly went away in the last couple of minutes of the overtime period, thanks in part to a great performance by UConn's bench after Tyler Olander, Enosh wolf and DeAndre Daniels all fouled out. When the final buzzer sounded the Huskies were victorious as jubilation poured over the student section. It was a great feeling singing the UConn fight song loudly and proudly as long faced Providence fans quickly exited the arena. The celebration did not end here, as the UConn faithful steamed into the concourse as chants of "Let's Go Huskies," filled the air in the crowded space. Providence fans could only look on as we filled into the parking garage to head back to campus.
One might wonder why a group of UConn students would ever leave the friendly confines of Gampel Pavilion to cheer on the Huskies when they can watch the games among the home crowd. While watching games in Storrs is always a great way to support the team, it doesn't compare to taking a road trip to show others how much school spirit UConn actually has.
When you see a game on the road, anybody wearing your team's colors is a friend and everybody else is a foe. Going to away games can build camaraderie with the people around you, more than if you saw a game in your home arena. Sports are one of the few things in life today that divide us and unite us at the same time. I have one more year left on this campus and I am already looking forward to next year's road trip, wherever it may be. I hope to see you all there.
Follow Tyler on Twitter @TylerRMorrissey
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