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Rated: 18+ · Novella · Biographical · #2174396
Chapter 4 - Barnhill
The joint was jumpin' like a cat on hot tin.
Lord, I thought the floor was gonna give in.
Soundin' a lot like a House Congressional
'cause we're experimental and professional. ~ Gibbons / Beard / Hill


In less than a month, from that game against Houston to a date with the #1 UNLV Ruunin’ Rebels, I had become a fixture in what would become known as the trough. By this time I had found another job working for an engineer, so there was no longer a problem going to games. A few of us had read about the Mad Hatters, a group that used to inhabit Barnhill and make it a miserable place for opponents to play. We set out, or more appropriately, I joined in with a group already set out… to restore that tradition. Maybe just because I was old, or maybe because I could write a proclamation, I was given the title of mayor. The game was such a big deal, and student seating was first come first served, we camped out for a week. The line of tents stretched from the doors around the sidewalk and up Stadium Drive. We got there early, so we were by the doors, and set up some nice digs. Coach had thrown down some extension cords from his office so we could watch television and play video games. We all figured they least we could do was name the camp after him and give him a key to the city.

One of those days I wasn’t feeling well and called in sick. The next day I went by the tent, and with several people we took shifts, just to check in and see what was going on. There was a reporter there, and he asked me a few questions. It came up that I wasn’t feeling well, but I told him I’d be at the game if they had to take me on a stretcher. Unfortunately, he quoted me in the local paper, my boss read it, and he was furious. In the end I set up a drafting board by the tent to get some work done. It was kind of cold, but we loved it.

What no one had realized a few years back when UNLV and Arkansas set up a home and home series was how big the game would become. The year before they’d beaten us in Las Vegas 101-93 when we were #11 and they were #12, and we thought that would be the big one. No, one year later it would be the number one team in the nation, them, versus us, sitting at number two. It was the toughest ticket to get in Fayettteville since 1969. I came up with a great payback gag. There were two upperclassmen in my school who had really ticked me off. SO that week, when I knew they had a looming deadline and would be in the studio for hours, I posted signs around campus:

For Sale
Two AR / UNLV Student Tix
Face Value
Call 555 - 5555
Funniest Message on the Machine Gets Them

I heard them talking about it later, and it was glorious. They had no idea why their machine was full of people wanting tickets and doing the strangest things! I still laugh about that one.

They ended up winning by only seven, but it was much worse than the final score. They held a twenty plus lead at one point, and our “forty minutes of hell” strategy didn’t work. There are plenty of articles that recount the game, but there was nothing like being there. The place was just deflated. As if the air had just been sucked out of the arena. What doesn’t show up in most of the recounts of the game is was Larry Johnson may have said to Nolan Richardson. After one of his dunks, he ran by out bench’

“You need to get you some men, Coach.” Were his supposed words according to rumor..

Well, if he said it or not. That's exactly what he would set out to do, and of course, accomplish.


The time we spent at Barnhill Arena was great, it was a relatively small compared to what was coming, so we knew our way around quite well. We also knew how to get in. Since we were camped out for the week for the Kentucky game anyway, we decided to play some basketball at about 2:00 a.m. We had all the lights on, and if someone could see them, they didn't care. It was our last year before moving a block south to the new arena, and perhaps that played a role it that. So there we were, running full court, having a grand old time. We didn't even notice him come it, and why he was up at that hour was a mystery. The game came to a sudden halt when he spoke, a bit loudly.

"What the hell are you guys doing?!" He demanded.
"Holy crap... it's Roger Crawford." One of the young guys whispered.
"Is that a trick question?" I replied to the Razorback guard. I simply couldn't help myself. "We're runnin' ball, want to play?"
"Right." He responded. "What would the teams be?"
"Well," I pondered. He was 6' 4", but he was a good college player, and most of us wouldn't have made our high school squad. "You and me, man!"
"Just you and me?"
"Yeah, don't think we can take 'em?" I grinned.
"We?" He laughed.
"Well, yeah." I chucked, too. "Mostly you, but who would get the assists?"

So it was decided, the game would be eight on two, and the star had to have me as a handicap. We had some fun. Most of the time, they put a young quick guy on me, and the other nine would cover Roger. About half of the time he would catch the inbound pass, and I'd try to catch up with the play as he was going around all the other guys. Sometimes he'd just go up and slam one home, but on occasion I'd be open, he'd pass it to me, the young fast guy would run back to get me, and once RC was in the clear I'd try and hit him with a bounce pass feed or an alley-oop slam. I still had passing ability. They other team stayed close, just because of their sheer numbers, but ultimately athletic talent would win out. The final score of the game is a forgotten memory, but if my recall is any good, it was Roger that scored all but two of our points. They were memorable points, though. On this trip down the floor, all eight members of the other team just descended on my teammate, who picked up his dribble and held the ball high over his head. I chugged down the court as best I could, being out of shape and tired already. Finally passing the tree point line, he flipped a perfect pass that bounced once and land right in my hands, and I laid it up and in. He waited for me to come up court, jogging slowly.

"Why didn't you dunk that?!" He asked.
"Are you serious?!" He was grinning and I was wheezing. "In case it escaped your attention... I'm old, fat, and horribly out of shape."

He laughed in earnest. I was so out of breath I couldn't join him. Over a few years, if you're around a team enough, you get to know the players. After all, they are students, so you'd see them around campus. But if you come watch practice, camp out for games, and become a big fan... well, you get to know the players better than most. This was the first time, however, that we had crossed paths, and he turned out to be one heck of a guy. Some of the players tended to be aloof or even snooty, but not Crawford. He was genuine, humble, and very likable. You just have to enjoy a person like that.


In 1993, we were ninth in the nation when Alabama came to town. Even though they weren’t ranked, they had three players who would go on to the NBA. Of course we were ready for them. The shoot arounds were so open at Barnhill, I walked right up to one of the players while he was coming off the court.

“Are you Robert Horry?” I asked,with fake awe in my voice.
“Yeah, man.”
“Can I have your autograph?” I held out a pen and a pad.
“Sure.” He took it. I waited just a second then turned and walked away.
“You really think someone wants that?” I laughed.

He called me a very rude name, but I know I deserved it. The last laugh might have been on me as he won multiple NBA Championships and it might have been worth something! They also had Roy Rogers on the team, and if you want to get an idea of how we were honing our skills, I’m not sure who thought it up, but I yelled, “Hey Roy? You know what you and the other Roy Rodgers have in common?” I paused for effect. “You’re both in love with someone named Dale!” Was it on the edge? Oh yeah, it was. But it was funny, and when he hung his head, because he heard it loud and clear, the fans just roared with laughter. Alabama was one of those schools we just loved to hate from the start.

I remember going over it with some guest I had on Hog Call-In, a local program I had about that time. One of the guys at the engineering office turned me on to the channel, and they had no sports, so I did it for fun. I had former athletes, coaches, and players come on, and viewers could call in and ask questions. A few of my more famous guests were John Luedtke, pitching coach, who went over some very interesting tips. John McDonnell, the track coaching legend, who has a great sense of humor. Nate Allen the sportswriter even stopped by. One of my favorite shows was with the football coach from Fayetteville High. All these junior high kids kept calling in to ask if he’d heard of them. He hadn’t. It got tougher to do later on when we joined the SEC. They had a rule that athletes could not be on live call in shows. It was fun while it lasted!


We were #13 when Tennessee came to town in 1993. They were ten and twelve by then, and had just lost four straight. We were sixteen and five, and coming off a loss to ‘Bama, we figured on an easy win. It wasn’t a long line, we were probably only a couple hours early, but we thought up an interesting idea. I wrote the lyrics, with some help from Roy and the gang, and as people filtered down, we handed out the words. Yes, we had someone run to a copier in the athletic department and run copies. By the time the doors opened, everyone was on board, and the student section was full. We waited. When he came out of the tunnel and could see the student section, I stood up on my chair. I rapped a baton someone had procured on the backrest of the chair. The I lifted my arms, and the crowd all stood as one. Then we sang, to the tune of Davy Crockett, this song:

Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee,
Dwellin’ in the cellar of the SEC.
He went to school with his dear ‘ol dad,
And now the Volunteers are really suckin’ bad.

Allan… Allll-lan Houston, should have turned pro last year.
Allan… Allll-lan Houston, should have turned pro last year.

We held the last note. I dipped the baton, they stopped and sat. The other team was dumbfounded but amused. Hell, it was funny! That night, some guard we’d never heard of named Wiseman or something, well, he lit us up. Just drained threes like he was tossing a beach ball in the ocean. We lost by ten, and learned a valuable lesson. Never make your opponent feel too comfortable.


In the same year, it was #2 Kentucky versus #14 Arkansas. We had been out there for a couple days, and they arrived early to have a “closed practice.” We did not approve. So we infiltrated and got up somewhere and watched. They sent someone to run us out, and we’d pop up at some other spot. They called the police, who had better things to do, and once their staff was worn out, we just watched. Didn’t make a sound. We figured it was better to spook ‘em. Like i’m going to go to Coach and report what I saw. He put up with a key to the city, but he’d laugh in my face if I tried.

Tony Delk had opened his mouth before the game and basically aid the crowd wouldn’t be a factor. I’m translating from gibberish, of course. So we decided to really bring it, and we did. So did the Hogs, and we beat them 101 - 94. I remember it being a close and wild game, and at one point it was so loud, the building was shaking, and dust was falling from the rafters like snow.

When the game was no longer in doubt, I raced over to the visiting team exit, and waited for Delk. Want to talk? Fine, now you get to listen. I saw him coming.

“How you like us now, baby!” I yelled. “We love your two for five night!”

He reared back and got ready to swing, I figured I take one on the face paint and pay my college off. But at the last second an usher grabbed him and moved him up the tunnel. I got back just in time to see Darrell Hawkins up on the media table with his arms up and out.

Haaaaawk!” Everyone was yelling, and I joined in. He’d hung a dozen on them.

That was a good night. Later I saw coach and asked him, “Did we make a difference tonight?” His reply was, “Y’all damns sure did." Like I said, it was a good night.


Louisiana State was always fun to play. I always liked that Shaq never beat us, even though he was a decent guy. It was kind of apropos that they would be the last game in Barnhill. Earlier that year, it was ‘93, their coach Dale Brown was quoted as saying the hand checking was so bad he thought he should call 911. That gave us an excellent theme. We were even interviewed by some channel wearing stocking on our head. It might have been funnier than it sounds.

So just as they came out to warm up, a student who did his work study in the arena delivered an old red phone from some flea market with a sticker on it saying, “Dale! Call 9-1-1!” We were laughing hysterically on the other side of the court, and he just held it up and nodded at us. Preacher Man was a pretty good sport, but many of us were set aback when they allowed him to speak, because he asked, at our closing ceremony. Then he stepped to the microphone.

“Dale! Call 9-1-1!” I yelled at the top of my lungs.

“Now see that?” He said into the mic. “Call 911, I just love that.”

He went on to talk about the student, our team, and the “atmosphere.” I figured he was full of it. But that’s how we closed it down. The band director tried to “capture” the essence of Barnhill to shift it to Bud Walton. We all know the only way that would happen is if we did it.

Then one night we played them in Bud Walton, the new stadium. The one opened after he closed down the other one. It could have been the very next year, but at the most two, when they came back. During the first half, they had a player go down with a knee injury. We had some people who were dialed in, and knew as soon as anyone he’d split his kneecap in half. He was done. When we saw the team coming out I homed in on the coach.

“All of our thoughts are with your injured man, coach.” I said. It took him a second to register what I’d said.
“You have the best fans a team could hope for.” He’d come back to shake my hand. “Real class” Then he was off.

Later, I had a reporter come asked me about it. I explained what happened, but it didn’t make the paper. It didn’t bleed, so it didn’t lead. But just like that, they shut off the lights. We hoped the magic really did come with us, and we would soon know.

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