Hoyas’ School Spirit Takes a Road Trip

Ge­orge­town Fans’ Party Ends at Fi­nal Four

The Washington Post Sunday - - National News - By Susan Kinzie

AT­LANTA, March 31 — For a cou­ple of weeks now, Ge­orge­town stu­dents such as Rachael Hard­ing and her friends have all but been con­sumed by bas­ket­ball, camp­ing out for tick­ets, tak­ing road trips to games, cheer­ing un­til they’re hoarse, rent­ing a gi­ant RV and driv­ing all night to get to the Fi­nal Four.

Last night’s loss to Ohio State snapped them back to re­al­ity.

“Now I have to take a midterm,” Hard­ing’s friend Rob Sum­mers said mo­ments af­ter the game ended Satur­day night. “Con­sti­tu­tional law. That’s what I’m think­ing about now.” He didn’t even want to go to the later game be­tween Florida and UCLA. “I need a bas­ket­ball time off.”

Just hours be­fore, he had been pour­ing 100-proof al­co­hol onto their grill — propped on empty Busch Light cans — to get the char­coal go­ing for some burg­ers, jok­ingly sug­gest­ing that they use propane from their RV.

Life was one big party, an end­less camp­ing trip.

The mobs of cel­e­brat­ing stu­dents who spilled over M Street and ran to the White House af­ter beat­ing North Carolina last week to chant “Hoya Saxa” had hit At­lan- ta. They were joined by tens of thou­sands of fans from Ohio State, UCLA and Florida, known as three of the big­gest party schools in the coun­try.

And it’s not as if At­lanta is a sleepy lit­tle town.

All in all, elated stu­dents said as the week­end be­gan, the Fi­nal Four is one of the big­gest col­lege par­ties, one of the largest and best cel­e­bra­tions of school spirit — all that, and the bas­ket­ball games, too.

Ge­orge­town alums held game­watch­ing par­ties around the globe — in Cal­i­for­nia, Kansas City, New Or­leans, Honolulu, Lon­don, Sin­ga­pore and Bei­jing (at 6 a.m. — for the true fan.)

In At­lanta, bas­ket­ball had taken over.

By Satur­day morn­ing, fans had seized the lob­bies of many down­town ho­tels; some snapped beer cans open at 10 a.m. and stared at flat-screen TVs. Ge­orge­town stu­dents par­tied in cars near the Ge­or­gia Dome, at a nearby park where rap­per Lu­dacris was play­ing, at a swank down­town club — and in a camper with bad spark plugs and a miss­ing cabi­net door.

Hard­ing and her friends drove all night. They ma­neu­vered their rented RV through Ge­orge­town’s nar­row streets, sleep­ing on fold-out beds be­fore ar­riv­ing, ready to tail­gate.

“We’ll just have some friends over,” she said.

“It’s home,” said Pa­trick O’Neill, the brains be­hind the RV rental (“It’s the best worst idea I ever had”), look­ing af­fec­tion­ately at the linoleum floor and the stacks of beer cans, peanut but­ter, chips, hot dog buns and pack­ets of in­stant grits.

“This is go­ing to be the best ex­pe­ri­ence of my life,” said Hard­ing, a gov­ern­ment and so­ci­ol­ogy ma­jor with sea­son Hoyas tick­ets. “It’ll be a great thing to tell my kids — not that you’d want your kids to do it — but it’ll be a great thing to tell them about.”

O’Neill agreed. “It’s a fun­da­men­tal part of the col­lege ex­pe­ri­ence.”

And as an aside, he said, “We are all com­mit­ting aca­demic sui­cide right now.”

They met their neigh­bors (next door: an enor­mous RV with a huge Ga­tors logo on it; the own­ers pulled out Ga­tors chairs and hung up a Ga­tors flag. Hard­ing said, “I don’t even think Ge­orge­town sells that much gear.”)

They bor­rowed wire­less speak- ers and agreed on ra­dio sta­tions. They tossed foot­balls. They clam­bered onto the roof of their RV via the spare tire, wrig­gling and get­ting boosted and tugged the rest of the way, and then handed up fold­ing chairs. Some­one on the roof squirted ketchup onto a burger on the ground.

“There’s the best view,” O’Neill said about the roof. (The park­ing lot was sur­rounded by more park­ing lots. And some large build­ings.) “And the air is so much clearer.”

When Hard­ing left cam­pus, she said, she had never seen so many peo­ple so ex­cited about one thing.

And by 4 p.m. Satur­day, inside the Ge­or­gia Dome, the first fans had ar­rived — a large and ex­tremely loud group of Ge­orge­town stu­dents, some wear­ing navy blue wigs, all chant­ing “Let’s go, Hoyas!” loudly enough to drown out the mu­sic in the sta­dium.

At half­time, stu­dents were talk­ing con­fi­dently about Mon­day’s cham­pi­onship game — the Hoyas had pulled it out be­fore. But as the clock ticked down, stu­dents dropped into their seats, some wiping away tears.

“Th­ese are ar­guably the two best teams in the coun­try,” O’Neill said of the later game, “but I have no de­sire to watch this. I guess we’ll get some sleep. Go back to study­ing. And try to get rid of th­ese tick­ets.”

He and Sum­mers were swarmed by guys try­ing to haggle a bet­ter price for their block of six seats; be­hind them, Hard­ing was tak­ing a wad of cash for her ticket to Mon­day’s game.

“It was a heart­breaker,” she said. She al­most cried but held it back.

Now she’ll get home for Passover. She can study for the LSAT and get back to her nor­mal life.

Funny thing about all the sleep­ing on mat­tresses out­side and stay­ing up all night. She thought it would be aw­ful, but “I kind of got used to it,” she said wist­fully, head­ing back to the RV for the night.

Ge­orge­town stu­dents re­lax near the RV they rented to get to the Fi­nal Four in At­lanta. Af­ter a few weeks of camp­ing for Hoyas tick­ets, they de­cided on the trip on a whim: “It’s the best worst idea I ever had,” one said.

Ge­orge­town fresh­man Andrew Ru­min cheers on his team be­fore the game. For many of the faith­ful, the party started early in the day.

PHO­TOS BY TONI L. SANDYS — THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Ge­orge­town Univer­sity ju­nior Lau­ryn Bruck gets a lift from Hoya alum­nus James Michal of North Carolina as he and friend Thomas Bene­dict cruise the Ge­or­gia Dome park­ing lots be­fore the Fi­nal Four. Ge­orge­town fans tail­gated at the sta­dium be­fore the Hoyas lost to Ohio State in the NCAA semi­fi­nals.

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