NASHVILLE -- In most of Hoops Nation, halftime at a small-conference basketball game is when you grab a snack from the concession stand, get in line for the toilet, or chat with folks. Maybe even all of the above.
That's certainly not the case in the Mid-South. In Tennessee and the Carolinas, along the straight state line that extends from Jonesboro, Arkansas to the Atlantic Ocean, halftime is most definitely included in the price of admission. This area of the country is serious about filling that 15-minute break in the action. When the first half is over, if you dare to stand up on press row to make light chatter with a colleague, you'll get shushed and given a "down in front" as loud as any at Yankee Stadium. There's entertainment coming, and you're in the way.
Most halftime shows that I've seen down here have something to do with cheerleading -- it's mostly pre-teen girls in leotards bouncing around the floor, while headsplitting megamixes with "laser" sounds come blasting out of the P.A. systems. All the while, middle-aged ladies clap enthusiastically for their daughters. Go get it, Heather! That's it, Emileigh, that's it!
The celebrities of the circuit are well-known around here, acts like Zooperstars
and Quick Change
. On Monday night at Belmont University, it was a local crew of kick-ass chicks, the Nashville Rollergirls
, who put on an eight-minute clinic of classic old-school roller derby
These girls were awesome, tough, and the real, honest kind of punk -- DIY, not Hot Topic. This was a display of full-contact, fingernails-out bloodsport. Each of the participants had nicknames
applied to the backs of their shirts (my favorites were Slammylou Harris and Naughty Nugget, whose jersey number was "6pc.") They were divided into a blue team and a white team, and they whirled around a course on the court marked by cones. The score was kept with a small whiteboard, but that was mostly for informational purposes. A girl in a black/pink leather ensemble with fishnets acted as emcee, explaining the game to those too young to have grown up watching the Bay City Bombers or Ann Cavello on Saturday afternoons.
The only problem with the exhibition was that 10 minutes of skating and colliding left long smeary streaks all over the Curb Center court. After the girls smiled and waved to the Belmont student section, members of the arena staff spent a few minutes walking the floor wielding broomhandles with tennis balls on the ends, trying to erase the marks off the hardwood. As the Bruins and the crosstown Tennessee State Tigers of the OVC came back onto the floor to start the second half, they pawed curiously at the streaks with their sneakers.
As for the actual basketball game, the homestanding Belmont Bruins proved to be less recognizable to non-Nashvillians than, say, Olive Turmoyl and Jersey Jackhammer. A core group that won three straight Atlantic Sun titles and fell short of the goal as complacent seniors is all gone, and Rick Byrd had to replace no fewer than four starters over the summer. The rotation is made up mostly of underclassmen who have yet to make names for themselves.
Belmont opened the game with a 15-0 run, but quickly gave up 11 points right back to an offensively and defensively challenged Tiger squad that entered the game 1-5. The young, rebuilding Bruins have a lot to learn about playing with a lead, and withstanding opponents' bursts of desperation. But when there were five minutes to go in the game, with the home team up by 15, the student section was so sure of victory that it unleashed a "Is that not the winning team? Is that not the losing team?" chant. Belmont ended up losing just over a third of that lead when its 69-60 victory
was finally sealed, but the boys int he stands still got to jingle their keys in that grand old tradition. The Nashville-based Tigers wouldn't have to travel far.
Once the game was won, the final buzzer was drowned out by a rousing chorus of "Belmont 'til I die, I'm Belmont 'til I die/I know I am, I'm sure I am, I'm Belmont 'til I die!"
Their Bruins had a fourth victory of the season -- a resource that might be in short supply this season -- and the guys in the student section got to learn a little bit about roller derby too.Choice Bally Pic of the Moment:
Any time you can have dubl Bally, it means five times the fun! That's what we call "new math" around here.
Pierce Greenberg is a longtime friend of the site, a former Atlantic Sun Baller of the Week (he throws shot put
), and our esteemed Footbally Menace
winner. And because part of his trade for the one and only stuffed Footbally in existence was a Belmont t-shirt, it's no surprise that we ran into him at a Bruins game. (I forgot to tell him that I have the t-shirt in my luggage, but I was wearing my standard dress-up stuff. I also haven't used the hand warmer yet.)
Pierce noted that Bally No. 1 (right) is "more orange" than his. That's only because my Bally spends a lot of time in my overcoat pocket, and he takes on a ton of road dust. As such, Bally No. 1 needs baths on a bi-weekly basis. Remember: cold water, light suds.Kyle's Basketball Travel Tip:
We've had a real love-hate relationship with the Bread Restaurant over the course of the site's history. For years, it was a place where we could spend days off (or days with short drives, like today's Nashville to Cookeville run) and get some work done. Originally, the Bread Restaurant was one of the few national chains where you could get a table and free WiFi, where you could buy a little food in the morning and then count on not being bothered until closing.
There are still some good points about the Bread Restaurant. Unlike Starbucks, they don't hammer you with Christmas music in December -- here, it's still the standard lite jazz played at 40 decibels over premium-quality Bose speakers (and who among us can't experience expanded productivity with Boney James in the background?). Some things have even improved in some respects; in the past, the coffee was like roadside puddle water. Now, it's got a fancy name and they put out a card telling you when each three-gallon tank was brewed. It's never out there for more than two hours.
But nowadays, it's clear that the Bread Restaurant is declaring a silent war on people like me. The new coffee is part of a new breakfast menu, which includes things like the "power sandwich" and lots of marketing bullshit like "hand-cracked eggs." Kicky, fun sans-serif fonts are being replaced by the kind of wide serifs that indicate high class. There are new IKEA-style sculpted-plastic trays. The tables near the wall plugs seem to be new, and they're all just a little taller than they should be. That means that if you spend more than a few hours typing at a keyboard, carpal tunnel will find you. My wrists have been killing me all weekend.
Who knows why this is all happening? My guess is that they're trying to make their bread-and-butter customers feel better about themselves. Most Bread Restaurant locations are in suburban areas (where there is no mid-major college basketball), anchoring the parking lots of strip malls and resting in the shadows of Old Navies and Targets. As such, they're a leading indicator of the suburban pulse of America's bedroom communities. Spend a few hours here, and you'll overhear whispered tales of debt, foreclosure, unfaithfulness, and quiet desperation. It's depressing. Even two years ago, I could sense the despair and the suffering in places like Chesterfield, Mo., and Matthews, N.C. and Carmel, Ind.. I maintain that the great Econopalypse of 2008 started as a suburban issue. I didn't see the signs out at the truck stops until this season.
Anyway, there was supposed to be a tip here. The golden age of the Bread Restaurant is over, and it's time to move on. We're looking for a good and familiar American chain at which to spend our days off, so we're fishing for the tips this time.