Hoyas’ School Spirit Takes a Road Trip
Georgetown Fans’ Party Ends at Final Four
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.
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.