Archive for Thursday, February 27, 2003

Woodling: KU looked just fine from rafters

February 27, 2003

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It's definitely not lonely at the top. At the top of Allen Fieldhouse, that is.

I made a couple of new friends up there in Row 25 of Section 21, where you have a better view of the adjacent parking garage than you do of the basketball floor.







Instead of sitting on press row Wednesday night, I opted to check out the nosebleed, eye-strain seats, all the while wondering what my perspective would be sitting so far away and amongst fans instead of the usual bunch of hardened scribes and gilded throats.

First of all, let me tell you the view isn't really as bad as I thought it would be up there in the northwest corner of the venerable fieldhouse. I could recognize the KU players and could actually see the scoreboard without breaking my neck.

I plunked myself next to a guy named Don McCoy Jr. He's from Bonner Springs, and he loves it up there.

"I know it's not close," said McCoy, 33, "but it's an unobstructed view, and I don't have to fight the crowds as much."

Yes, but isn't it better to watch the game on television?

"That's the truth," McCoy said, smiling. "You get only one view here, but you can't cheer them on at home and make a difference."

On this night -- a night when the Aggies looked more like Texas Awful & Miserable than Texas Agricultural & Mechanical -- the Jayhawks didn't need any difference-makers, but McCoy was there, if needed. He was hooting and hollering with the rest of the throng as the Jayhawks' boosted their lead to an incredible 50 points in the late going.

On my other side was a Prairie Village architect named Robert Fenn who was the anti-McCoy. Fenn might as well have been on press row because he never uttered a single cheer, although he clearly enjoyed the game.

Why was Fenn sitting on the top row?

"I went to Kansas State," he told me, "and I don't want that many KU people around me."

Relax. Fenn was kidding. This is quite likely the first and last year the 58-year-old Johnson County resident will be able to watch the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse. He and a couple of relatives bought tickets from some friends who couldn't use them this year, but will want them back next season.

"It's a completely different game on television," Fenn said. "You can watch the same play 47 times on TV, but this is the first chance I had to come so I'm here."

Momentarily, a familiar face sat down in front of us. It was Zach Dyer, the Kansas University quarterback-turned-defensive-back-turned-quarterback last season. Dyer was on hand for a halftime ceremony honoring KU scholar-athletes.

Then he pointed to quarterback Bill Whittemore across the way. Whittemore, as you know, missed the last three games of the 2002 season with a knee injury. How, I queried Whittemore, were you able to climb all the way up here with that bad knee?

"It's not bad anymore," Whittemore replied.

That's good news, KU football fans, because Whittemore was a pleasure to watch last season when he was healthy.

Meanwhile, the score continued to grow more and more lopsided as the Aggies fired so many bricks you had to wonder if the rim had been damaged. Few saw what happened to Wayne Simien when he reinjured his shoulder, so it was natural to suspect Simien's crowd-quieting moment must have been caused when he was struck by an errant A&M; shot.

Then, with the score completely out of control, I happened to notice No. 10 was wearing an Aggie uniform. Had Roy Williams attempted to even things out by giving Kirk Hinrich to Aggie coach Melvin Watkins? Boy, the guy -- at least from the crows nest -- looked a lot like Hinrich.

Nope, the Aggies' No. 10 was actually Leandro Garcia-Morales, a guard from, of all places, Montevideo, Uruguay, who in fact did look a lot like Hinrich in the last 2:27 when he scored nine points to -- believe it or not -- lead the Aggies in scoring.

Thus I can say without reservation that Garcia-Morales is the best player I've ever seen with a hyphenated name who plays for an ampersand school.

That's the report from the rafters, folks. I'll be back on press row for Saturday's weepy home finale against Oklahoma State.

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