Believe it or not, but my first experience attending a Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament game went.... great! And the Illini even won!
I thought for sure it was going to be a disaster though. It started on Thursday night. I thought I would get some of those little binoculars to take - since our seats were kinda high up. This is a pic from our seats in section 210, row 8, 25 & 26. So I went to the Walmart by Jefferson Pointe. Of course the binoculars are behind a counter in the Sporting Goods department, and there was no one around. So I stood there for a loooong time and looked them over. Finally the guy who is going through a sex change to become a lady comes over (you know who I'm talking about if you've ever been to this Walmart). You know, I really don't care if this dude wants to look like a lady (or even Steven Tyler for that matter), but... he saunters up to the counter, says, "Do you need somethin'", and I say, "Yes, I was looking at the binoculars. Do you happen to know if those ten dollar ones are any good?" And he/she just STOOD THERE. Didn't say a word. Just stood and looked at the floor. So I decided I was just going to stand there and see how long he/she would stand there. It was probably at least a minute before he/she finally shrugged their shoulders. Never once changed expression or moved or said anything. So I finally said, "Hey, sorry to bother you," and walked away. I was pissed, but I was laughing at the hilarity of it all. So I bought some tall kitchen garbage bags, and decided we didn't really need any cheap binoculars.
THEN... I get up Friday morning, and the first thing I did was check out the Peoria Journal Star sports page (first thing every day), and there is an article about Chester Frazier hurting his hand and not being able to play. Granted, he isn't the Illini's top scorer or anything, but he is undoubtedly the heart and soul of their team. And come to find out, he had surgery on it Thursday. I was crushed. The only thing I could find out was that he hurt it in practice Wednesday. [Maybe there is a U of I employee who reads here who might have some inside information?]. So I went all day thinking we were not only going to see a loss, and without binoculars, but it was probably going to be a blowout.
But we went anyway. It was my first Big Ten game, my first Illini game, and the tournament is in the air.
We left about 1:45 in the afternoon. Stopped in Anderson and had a 99 cent latte with son Isaac, since everything on campus was closed for Spring break (which started today). We left Anderson at 4, and arrived with little fanfare at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis about 4:40 pm. I thought there would be more traffic, but it was pretty slick. There was actually NO traffic on McCarty and Delaware streets - right past Lilly. So we snatched a $3 parking spot next to the Lilly lot, and went to CF to see how soon gates opened. The Wisconsin/Ohio State game had just ended, and people were flowing out. We couldn't get in until 5:30. So we headed a couple blocks over to try to find The Ram (the Illini meet-up spot) on Illinois Street.
There were a lot of people selling and wanting to buy tickets. And just lots of people in general. It was fun. The streets were full, the sun was shining, and it was about 48 degrees F. I soon worked up a sweat in my big winter coat, with my Illini t-shirt under that, and my 'live life' long sleeve t under that. We found The Ram, and it was P-A-C-K-E-D. Jane went in and used the restroom, and I stood out in the sun and waited. A guy tried to trade me a White Castle coupon for a couple bucks. I wondered to myself if he used to eat pizza with Isaac. Finally Jane came out and we decided to grab a bite to eat at the Circle Center food court. We waited in line at Subway for about a half hour, and finally got a sandwich. I had turkey with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, and mayo. Then we headed back to Conseco.
We got there plenty early. First we walked in on a lower level and watched them warm up for a bit. Then we went up to our seats. We were just about even with the one basket. They weren't bad at all. And Conseco is much nicer than the Coliseum in Fort Wayne as far as seats, and the slant isn't near as bad up at the top. Here is a pic of the Illini warming up.
Our seats were right above an entry tunnel, and at first we thought it would be great because no one would be sitting in front of us. The only problem was all the stupid fans of other teams coming and going throughout the whole game, and I couldn't see when they walked past. It was better for the second half. We had a bunch of Michigan State people in our area. Hardly no one was there at the start of the game, but eventually it filled up pretty full, so we just stayed in our seats, instead of trying to move lower.
The game was great. It was 1 point at halftime. At one point in the second half we had a 20 point lead. But then in like a minute it was down to 7 again. We ended up winning 60-50. Very exciting. And I got to see Erin Andrews from ESPN after the game too! We didn't stick around for Purdue/Penn State though. Jane had to work in the morning, and I have a breakfast thing.
All in all, a really, really good day (other than feeling bad for Chester). Traffic was great both there and back. We only spent $3 to park, $17.50 for two nacho's and diet pepsi's, and we stopped at Steak and Shake on the way home for shooters and shakes. Well, and the $150 tickets. But it was well worth it. And downtown Indy is pretty cool to roam around. Someday it would be nice to get tickets for the whole weekend. I suppose that's what dreams are for.
Peace out; and in.