Game #9-146: Newberry at Campbell Fighting CamelsNovember 29, 2012 7:00 pm
A week after Thanksgiving, I would head back to North Carolina for another basketball game. This would be my 36th basketball game attended of the season at all levels, and my 24th mid-major basketball game of the season. And this was all before the month of November came to a close. It's a great activity to stay busy with, and I know from this website that I am not the only person into it. I enjoyed Matt Cayuela's recap from having traveled to Campbell
a few weeks ago, where he tried to explain to others why he went to a game at Campbell. It was definitely something I could relate to, as I get the same looks from others from having mentioned how many games I have been to recently. I particularly enjoy trying to get different stadiums and arenas mixed in as well. Prior to this game, I had been to Campbell only once before, back during the Camels' final go-around in the Atlantic Sun when they played Jacksonville in January 2011. I wanted to see Pope Convocation Center when Campbell had its students there for the full Campbell basketball experience. But when you split your games up between different stadiums, you become an outsider wherever you go.
To some extent, I am also well-known at several places as well. I have created a list of how many games I have been to at each stadium since I started tracking games I have attended on May 30, 2007. I have been to 319 stadiums on that list
at levels ranging from high school to pro across seven different team sports. And at the seven stadiums I have seen over 50 sporting events at, I am seen as a regular and the stadium/arena staff generally know me. But at the other 300+ stadiums, people do not recognize me. I may not always quite visually stand out as an outsider like at a HBCU
, but I am clearly different from everybody else there. I always take a pencil and notebook to record different stats on the game, and I also periodically take my camera out for pictures as well. I have had people sitting next to me rather than watch the game look over at my writing. They obviously do not know what a possession graph is, with the exception of Ross Lancaster
who contributed to last year's 800 Games Project. My interest in documenting each sports experience is a nerdy activity that I do not find easy to explain. Most view what I am doing as either scouting (far from the truth) or journalism (not far from the truth, but not quite accurate either).
But while not many people do what I do, I am not the only person either. Both Matt
as well as Gary Moore
contributed more recaps to the 800 Games Project than I did last year. Raymond Curren
has so far contributed more to TMM9 than I have as well. And obviously Kyle did 100 games here before he got stints with ESPN and Basketball Times. My favorite website dedicated to stadiums is this one created by Charlie O'Reilly of New Jersey. Charlie has attended over 1,000 professional baseball games in his lifetime at various levels, and has made a continuous effort to document his effort to visit every professional baseball stadium ever used in North America. He has pictures from all 364 pro baseball stadiums he has been to on his site, along with the box scores of all 1,249 games he has been at. And across the Atlantic in England, there are groups of people dedicated to soccer (real football) games in a manner very similar to how we view basketball at TMM. These people who try to go to as many games at as many different stadiums as possible are known as groundhoppers. A ground is the British term for a sports facility, and the etymology for groundhopper is the same as barhopper; one who hops from ground to ground like one would hop from one bar to the next. And one thing most English groundhoppers take note of is how much accessible, friendly, and cheaper the lower levels of English football are than the top leagues. There is a group known as the 92 Club that tries to visit all 92 teams in both the Premier League and the three tiered Football League that feeds into the Premier League. But many groundhoppers also follow what is called non-league football, the 20 tiers below the Football League that can still potentially tie into the bigger leagues as well. Non-league football seems to be England's equivalent of mid-major basketball. Most of these teams have major financial disadvantages, but can still dream of winning major English football titles just like Hoops Nation members can dream of potentially still winning the Division I national championship. Non-league clubs with success in their own leagues can get promoted a tier where they can continue to climb and challenge top teams. Then there is also the FA Cup, the major national tournament of English football. The teams from the top six non-league tiers can potentially play the role in the tournament as a giant killer, and get the English equivalent of a Red Line Upset by knocking out a team from the Premier or Football Leagues. It's too bad we cannot have anything similar to this in our professional sports in the U.S., but our college sports have a similar appeal. Non-league fans have their own TMM-like website, along with a message board section for groundhoppers to post their recaps of game experiences. It's great to see that there are people in other parts of the world that enjoy a very similar activity to ours at TMM.
One thing we have in common with the English groundhoppers is being outsiders at sporting events, which makes games either below the Red Line or below League status more accessible and cheaper. We are not going to get our choices in parking, or our choices in seats like a season ticket holder would. We have to pay for each of our numerous games separately for the most part. And as a result, we are not going to always get the best treatment either at our games. At most places, other fans have some interest and respect for what I do, and I have no problems. But if you go to as many games as I do, you are going to every now and the run into unfriendly people. One of the most bizarre of these experiences was a football game a few months ago at Newberry College, whose basketball team would be playing in this game at Campbell.
Newberry is located about 40 miles northwest of Columbia and about 60 miles south of Spartanburg. It is 25 miles southeast of Clinton, where Presbyterian College is (Presbyterian and Newberry was a big rivalry until the Blue Hose joined Division I five years ago). Newberry is where I pulled off the interstate and into a truck stop to participate in the TMM9 opening chat when coming back from Clemson where I had completed my project of visiting all Division I soccer stadiums in South Carolina. Newberry College is a small school of about 900 students, yet has a moderately competitive Division II athletic program. Newberry is a 90 minute drive for me, closer than every Division I school except for South Carolina and SC State and about the same as Charleston Southern. But I had a rather weird experience as an outsider at a Newberry College football game.
I attended a Newberry football game against Catawba College, the closest football game to me that September Saturday except for an expensive game at South Carolina. The home Wolves got off to a bad start as a result of fumbles that led to easy Catawba points. Then early in the second quarter, I heard someone from the season ticket holder section to my right say to me "Is it allowed to scout with a camera?" The question caught me off guard, since I am not an insider in NCAA protocol. "I don't know, probably not" was my reply. "But that's what you're doing!" he snapped. I tried to explain what I was doing, but as I have said that is not easy to explain to somebody who does not enjoy sports the same way I do. Several minutes passed, and Newberry's football team continued to struggle. I had begun to forget about it when a different season ticket holder further down from the first one who spoke to me stood up and shouted at me, "Are you with Carson-Newman (Newberry's opponent the next week) or somebody else?" I again made the same explanation, and further stated that I had no affiliation with anybody in the South Atlantic Conference. "Then show me your driver's license!" he snapped back. I was not going to give my identification away to a 60-something bully. I then stated that I really did not know what was permissible by the NCAA, for all I know you could scout with a camera. But it did not matter to me, since that was not what I was doing. "All we care about is that what you are doing is legal", said the season ticket holder who spoke to me the previous time, "if what you are doing is allowed we are fine with you". I then watched the final minutes of the first half nervously, trying to decide what to do next. Would I try to move into the Catawba seating section and try my luck with them? Would I have to find a policeman or campus security to keep these two guys away from me? Given that they were in the season ticket holder section, they were likely well-connected boosters, and definitely not outsiders at Newberry. That had me worried even more.
Then a minute before the first half ended, the second booster came back to speak to me again, standing next to me in aggressive posture. "I just talked to the head official", he said. "It is NOT legal to be scouting with a camera. Now you are going to tell me who you are, what you are doing, and where you are from, or I am going to follow you back to your car after the game". I did not show him my driver's license, but I did tell him that I was from Sumter and had no connection to any Division II school, and what I was doing could not be interpreted in anyway as scouting. My voice began to raise as I got increasingly frustrated by this individual and his partner who was trying to interfere with my enjoyment of the football game. And to my relief, the crowd was taking my side in seeing that I was being cornered by an older bully. He then apologized, but then said, "Can't I ask what you are doing?" I was floored by that, since I had tried to tell him politely two times earlier what I was doing. He left at halftime, and I still was slightly concerned that he was going to try to organize more people to come and get me. When he returned to his seat early in the third quarter, I explained that nothing I was doing would be useful to an opposing school since my notes were only on yardage gained, as well as time of possession, things that could found on the official box score posted on the school and conference websites after the game. And other people (including the woman sitting to my left) also had a camera, so my pictures would not be of any use either for scouting purposes. He then backed off as if he had said nothing to me the previous quarter. The home fans started to feel happier in the second half, particularly as Newberry was able to come from behind to win. When I go to games, I try not to bother others in anyway hoping to get the same in return. But that had not happened in this game at Newberry.
I do not blame Newberry College for the incident, as I have attended several other sporting events there and generally have not had a problem. The incident was started by two rogue booster types, which I attribute to two factors that targeted me as an outsider. One factor I thought might contribute to the unfriendliness I received was that outsiders are looked unfavorably in small towns like Newberry, which are too often defined by fierce provincialism. I also thought a large contributing factor was the general nastiness you often get with American-style football fans, and a reason I cut back on the number of football games I went to versus games in other sports this year. These guys wanted a Division II Spygate-like scandal, and college football has lately become all about saddling your opponents with NCAA sanctions. But as I said, I rarely get this kind of reception. But I have had other similar incidents happen to me, because if you go to hundreds of sporting events every year something weird is going to happen to you at some point. That is just an interesting fact of life in whatever you may do.
But we have to keep on doing what we are doing, and being made uncomfortable is going to happen at times as a result. So I headed to see Newberry's basketball team play at Campbell, which for me like it is for Matt is a drive that takes nearly three hours depending on traffic conditions in the towns of Dunn and Erwin that you go through between I-95 and Buies Creek where Campbell is. Buies Creek is located in a smaller town than Newberry (although Harnett County on the whole has more people than Newberry County). And I have been to Campbell even less than Newberry, so I was definitely an outsider here as well. When I got to Campbell, it was pretty much the same as it was in its Atlantic Sun days with a few differences. All tickets were in assigned seats, where two years ago all seats outside of the season ticket sections were general admission. My seat was five rows behind the Newberry bench. While it was not in the Campbell student section, it was right next to it and a lot of Campbell students filled in the empty seats in my section. My section ended up getting taken over Campbell students who were there to socialize, but I wasn't going to complain as I really do not want to bother anybody like those who bothered me at that Newberry football game. The atmosphere was still definitely better with the students than it was in the previous early January game I was at before the students had returned.
And like the game Matt was at where the Camels played Northwestern State, the game was not that good. Not because it was not competitive. Newberry is not Toccoa Falls, they have a legitimate basketball program below the Black Line and is a respectable Division II school. Like VMI, the Wolves run an offense that is fast-paced and an aggressive defense that is focused on the full-court press. So I thought this could be an interesting early tune up for the Camels as a result. Newberry does not have anybody like Okoye, but what they do to keep pressing all game long is to rotate players in and out like hockey line changes. It is somewhat similar to the legendary system used at Division III Grinnell, but Newberry uses only ten guys in their normal rotation as opposed to about 20 at Grinnell. Initially things did not start well for Newberry, as the Camels raced out to a 12-3 start. The crowd seemed to expect now that this would be your average game against a sub-Black Line team. But the full court press and line changes kept the Wolves going when Campbell slowed down. Over the course of the first half, Newberry took advantage of the poor shooting Camels to gradually make it a close game again. With about two minutes left in the half, Newberry closed their deficit to two points before Campbell finished the half with a 5-1 run to lead by six at halftime.
Yet while this was unusually competitive for a D1 vs. D2 basketball game, it was still not a great basketball game to watch. Newberry's full court press led to major foul problems. Newberry's line changes were affected by that each line had players who were in danger of fouling out early. The Wolves kept pushing a high tempo game, but a faster tempo usually means more whistles which do not often go the benefit of the visiting underdog in college basketball. Yet despite these problems, Campbell could not take advantage and pull away. The Camels shot poorly and did not do a good job of holding on to the ball. Campbell could not get on a big run after the one at the start to gain separation. But on the flipside, Newberry's foul struggles and the numerous Camel free throws meant that they could not get the push they needed to go ahead. Newberry did not play well enough to make a serious push at a Black Line Upset, but Campbell also did not play well to get a lopsided win. And that is what made the game hard to watch. A total of five players from the two teams combined would foul out, with more in danger of doing so. Campbell committed 29 fouls and allowed 37 free throws to be attempted by Newberry. But the Wolves topped that by committing 35 fouls and allowing a whopping 44 Camel free throw attempts. And in order to make the game last even longer, we had three monitor reviews. That's right, THREE monitor reviews! I have noticed an epidemic this season of officials more than ever going to the monitor every time a player hits the deck hard to check and see if they should have issued a flagrant. In this game, the officials were mostly checking to see which player to credit the foul with, important considering that everyone was close to fouling out. But it seems that college basketball is starting to become like the NFL with referees spending as much time looking at the TV screen as they do officiating the game as it is played. I understand why they have monitor reviews. In a game I was not at but read about when I was at HPU, High Point lost a game at Coastal Carolina when the officials initially awarded HPU two potentially game winning free throws to its best shooter Mike Jefferson. But without a monitor, the officials after a discussion with the Kimbel Arena scorer decided that the foul should have occurred after the buzzer and ended the game with Coastal winning. A monitor review then could have decided the dispute. But reviewing routine fouls just takes too much time, and one of the appeals of college basketball is its short length. Monitor reviews should ideally only be used in the final minute when time remaining is a critical factor, and preferably only used in determining shots at the buzzer.
But amazingly, the game would actually end. Campbell slowly built their lead back up in the second half, and once they made their numerous free throws Newberry's BLU hopes went away. Newberry would still fight to the finish, and ended with a respectable 91-78 loss to Campbell. The time from tip-off to the final buzzer was 17 minutes over two hours, the longest college basketball game I have seen that did not go to overtime or was in the NCAA Tournament.
Yet despite the game being sloppy, it was still a worthwhile experience. Being able to travel to any game is exciting in of itself, regardless of the game's actual quality. Being at the same arenas over and over again would be kind of boring, and you get a better sense of Our Game when watching it in multiple places. And each game has a story that is unique. Once it was clear the game would take a long time, I kind of hoped that this story would continue to build on itself and both teams would struggle to field enough players to finish the game with the foul outs. That did not quite happen, but it still had an interesting component to it. And we should all not be afraid to be an outsider and go outside our comfort zone to seek our passions. Like the groundhoppers in England, those of us who love college basketball just need to keep hopping along to the next gym.
at CAMPBELL 91, NEWBERRY 78
CAMPBELL 3-5 (0-0) -- R. McCarter 5-6 7-8 17; T. Freeman 7-13 7-8 21; M. Harris 4-8 1-2 9; D. Hooker 4-12 7-8 18; L. Leek 2-5 0-0 4; A. Ryan 2-4 4-6 8; D. Mason 2-6 8-10 12; D. Leonard 0-3 0-0 0; J. Faciane 0-2 0-0 0; A. Kalpic 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 26-59 36-44 91.
Three-point goals: - , CAMP 3-13 (R. McCarter 0-1; A. Ryan 0-2; J. Faciane 0-1; D. Hooker 3-8; L. Leek 0-1); Rebounds: , CAMP 39 (M. Harris 15); Assists: , CAMP 16 (T. Freeman 7); Total Fouls -- , CAMP 29; Fouled Out: -; CAMP-D. Hooker.
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