The last time I made a trip to Burr Gymnasium, I pointed out how much of a spartan experience taking in a Howard basketball game was. No tickets, no in-game entertainment, no frills. Fast-forward almost exactly two months later, and the experience could not have been any more different.
The key difference, it appears, is how Howard treats their non-conference games as opposed to their conference games. December's matchup featured a game against St. Francis College, a foe from the Northeast Conference. Tonight's game, however, was against the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, a member of the MEAC, of which Howard is also a member. When Howard brings in a team to fill out its non-conference schedule, it's almost as if the school is reluctantly hosting the game. Bring in a MEAC opponent, though, and it becomes more of a traditional event -- yes, including a ticket price of $15 for general admission, much more that the nothing it cost me the first go-round.
Well, not entirely traditional. After the playing of the national anthem (Whitney Houston's rendition from Super Bowl XXV, paying tribute to the late singer), the crowd was asked to stay standing for the playing of the Black National Anthem.
I've been to plenty of events where two national anthems were played, but that second songs was almost always "O Canada" in honor of a Canadian sports team when facing an American one. Maybe it was my own ignorance, but I was unaware that there WAS a Black National Anthem, and had certainly never heard it performed at a sporting event. Then again, this was my first experience seeing two HBCUs play against each other, so if I was ever going to hear it performed at a game, it would make sense that this would be the time.
The other obvious difference between my two trips was the presence of the Howard band, which was tragically absent on my first visit to The Burr. Much has been written about the spectacle of the HBCU band, and it's all true. Howard's band could easily make up for a lot of bad basketball.
Luckily for me and everyone else in attendance, there wasn't much bad basketball to cover up for. Unfortunately for everybody in attendance rooting for Howard, it wasn't the most competitive game. Bethune-Cookman actually led even before the tip, thanks to an administrative technical foul issued for malfunctioning LED lights on the backboard. From there, the Wildcats would never give up the advantage. Howard would come as close as three late in the game, but unreliable free-throw shooting kept the Bison from seriously challenging, and B-CU came away with a 73-67 victory.
Two different games, two very different atmospheres. The purity of the first trip was refreshing, but the energy around the second trip was definitely a more easily enjoyable experience. There's a good chance I'm back at Burr next week -- maybe it'll be an entirely new experience yet again.
BETHUNE-COOKMAN 73, at HOWARD 67 02/13/2012
BETHUNE-COOKMAN 12-14 (8-3) -- A. Breeze 6-9 0-3 12; S. Elliott Jr. 1-4 3-4 5; K. Dukes 5-8 6-8 19; J. Bryant 4-6 3-4 11; A. Coleman 3-8 5-6 11; R. Johnson 0-3 6-6 6; G. Holloman 2-2 0-0 4; M. Trapp 2-2 0-0 5; A. Smith 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-42 23-31 73. HOWARD 7-19 (4-9) -- S. Frazier 4-5 5-6 14; P. Okoroh 3-8 3-4 11; A. Leary 1-5 0-0 2; C. Thompson 3-8 3-6 9; B. Ford 1-3 0-0 2; M. Phillips 0-1 2-2 2; O. Ellison 0-0 0-0 0; T. Lee 1-2 4-6 6; G. Andrews 5-9 0-0 15; B. Bailey 3-4 0-0 6; T. Boyomo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-45 17-24 67.
Three-point goals: BETH 4-9 (S. Elliott Jr. 0-2; A. Coleman 0-1; K. Dukes 3-4; M. Trapp 1-1; R. Johnson 0-1), HOW 8-16 (G. Andrews 5-8; C. Thompson 0-2; T. Lee 0-1; B. Ford 0-1; S. Frazier 1-1; P. Okoroh 2-3); Rebounds: BETH 20 (A. Coleman 4), HOW 24 (B. Bailey 6); Assists: BETH 12 (K. Dukes 5), HOW 7 (S. Frazier 4); Total Fouls -- BETH 20, HOW 23; Fouled Out: BETH-None; HOW-None.