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Sports & Fitness // Hot Air
Steve Murray

The Madness Of Midnight Hoops

It seems any time someone of note runs foul of acceptable late-night behavior, it is inevitably pointed out that nothing good happens after midnight.

For the first time I understand the sentiment. Strange things happen after the sun retires.

Weird creatures emerge, images get distorted, the typically calm demeanor of the average masses turns aggressive to the point where even their appearance changes. Last Monday it became clear, nothing good comes from attending a college basketball game after midnight.

For the last six years, the University of Hawaii has taken part in ESPN’s College Hoops Tip-off Marathon. The event was created in 2008 to better sell late-night programming and to give college students a place outside of their 8 a.m. classes to wear pajamas.

Because of its comfortable mid-Pacific time slot, UH was a natural choice to be included and is the only school to take part in all six marathons.

For those young enough to live on three hours sleep or capable of ignoring the early Tuesday alarm, it’s an event worthy of participation. If you can’t satisfy either of these conditions, you’d better rethink your options – or take the necessary precautions.

The plan laid out was pretty simple – finish work, take a short nap, dinner, then another nap and basketball. Easy in theory, hard in practice.

The first mistake was turning on the TV.

Mad Men on Netflix and Top Gear U.S. featuring the Tesla S P85 take precedence, So unless you’re Don Draper and are able to draw energy from a pack of Lucky Strikes and single malt scotch, get some rest. If you can channel your inner Don, go for it.

Be forewarned, state health laws don’t allow chain smoking in Stan Sheriff Center, and recent court decisions have ruined the chivalrous practice complimenting a young lady with a friendly pat on the back side.

Lacking both a 416-horsepower electric-performance sedan and the necessary amount of sleep, I stocked up on caffeine and hit the road in a 148-horsepower gas-sipping compact for the eight-minute drive to the arena.

Pumped with anticipation, Mountain Dew and Victim of Changes courtesy of Judas Priest, I launched on to mighty Wilder Avenue. (Those paying attention to the Priest catalog may decide that Victim of Changes, with its varying tempos, didn’t make it the perfect adrenaline pumping soundtrack, but one can always err on the side of caution when choosing the falsetto metal of Rob Halford.)

A good 40 minutes before tip-off, I pulled into the closest parking stall of the season. With an expected finish of around 2:30 a.m., positioning was important.

Taking a seat in front of the band, it was easy to determine who failed to prepare.

Head coach Gib Arnold was beaming, associate athletic director of too many titles John McNamara, buoyed by Red Bull, was holding his own, while athletic director Ben Jay was blurry – that may have been because of my own lack of sleep rather than Jay’s ability to change shapes.

(A form-changing alien director of athletics? It’s not so crazy. The continuous political micromanagement of Manoa requires flexibility. The ability to change from liberal to conservative to an insect smooth enough to sleep with Turanga Leela* could be a useful skill.)

Many feel the band’s volume makes the ewa end line a bad place to be. Nothing could be further from the truth. When 2 a.m. rolls around you’ll appreciate the volume and the nearly obnoxious nature of the students. Plus, you get to sit near the Rainbow Dancers, which is never a bad thing.

The high-pitched wail charting everything both good and bad makes it nearly impossible to doze off. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of having a 20-year-old scream in your ear, you know what I mean. One was nice enough to apologize. That was sweet.

The announced attendance of 5,495 was, of course, tickets issued with the actual number being perhaps half that number.

No matter.

The game is typically the loudest of the season, fueled by a mostly young audience and a bar that stays open longer than any retail outlet. Alcohol sales may even explain the large severed heads of Herman Frazier, The Fonz and center Davis Rozitis floating above the courtside seats.

(That might have been a sleep-deprived mirage – much like seeing a suddenly small Isaac Fotu bodying up a 7-foot-6, 355-pound Canadian post player. As I said early, strange things happen after midnight.)

At opening tip I felt great. I was worn at the half, and a complete wreck at the end.

Crawling into bed at 3 a.m. with a pool of pillow puddle juice hanging from my lip, the truth hit hard. I was beat, loopy and would be virtually worthless to my coworkers for the next two days. But I would definitely do it again.

* Futurama reference

smurray@midweek.com
Twitter @SteveMurray84

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