Valparaiso (66) vs. Missouri State (84) 02/12/2022

Game #105 of 358 29% complete

So why is he in Missouri now? My daughter and husband along with my grandson moved from Manhattan to Joplin for a career move. What better way to visit than to go to an Operation351 game on my visits to see the family!

As I walked up to the stadium, I saw a statue of a woman basketball player which a first for me. Jackie Stiles was the darling of college basketball in 2001. She led Southwest Missouri State (the old name) to a 5 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Bears made it to the final four eventually succumbing to Purdue in the semifinal game. Unfortunately, her pro career fizzled after numerous injuries including 13 surgeries. In her brief time in Camelot, she was a superstar bringing big time notoriety to a small school in the Midwest.

I was very impressed with the JQH arena. Spacious and modern looking, I was surprised to see such a sleek place for a small school like MSU. One feature that I liked and have not seen before was a digital scoreboard at the scorer’s table thus saving the old necks from continuously looking up at the scoreboard.

Isiaih Mosley finished the game with 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting. I was looking up on my phone to see if he was related to Mosley brothers from UCLA. A man in front overheard me mumbling and stated that they were not related. He did say that Mosely will wear an NBA uniform in the future. He was smooth and an excellent shooter. It could happen.

I am all for free swag tossed into the audience by the cheerleaders. Free shirts with a team logo are cool in my book. During this game, the cheerleaders tossed capes into the crowd. Capes? Where are you going to wear a cape?

The ride from Joplin to Jefferson took about an hour. Beforehand, my son in law, John, took me on a brief tour of the city. As you may know, the city of Joplin was pulverized by a tornado in 2011. 158 people were killed and some 1,150 were injured. I asked to see where the tornado had landed in the city. The path today can be determined by the path of new buildings and the absence of trees in a mile wide path through the busy downtown area as you can see below. Their new house has a safe room surrounded by steel should this ever happen again.

I am closing this season out for Operation 351. Due to family obligations and a new kitchen occupying my time, I am unable to take any more trip this season although I will be attending a couple of UConn home games.

Best of health to all! See you next season!

Iowa (86) vs. Penn State (90) 2OT 01/30/2022

Game #104 of 358 29% complete

After waiting years so that I could get Bucknell and neighbor Penn State playing back-to-back, I am finally here. I spent a little time walking the impressive campus and looking like an old professor among the bustle of college kids heading to classes on this Monday afternoon.

I had a difficult time finding a sports bar and restaurant open along the College Ave. The recommendations from my cousin Brian who is a Penn State alumnus were for closed businesses unbeknownst to him. I ended up downing a burger and fries at Mr. Bistro. I was not sure if the dearth of restaurants open was due to COVID or because it was Monday night.

What write up about Penn state would not be complete unless it had a picture of the famous Nittany Lions football stadium which was right next to the basketball arena.

So on to what has been the most exciting game so far in my journey. A double OT win by the underdog Penn State team was a major B10 battle to say the least. Iowa’s Keegan Murray’s miracle tip in sent the game into the first overtime. Penn State’s Myles Dread hit a 3 pointer with nine seconds left to send it into the second over time.

The many empty seats shows that Penn State basketball is a stepchild to the football team. However, the student section was very active and vocal throughout the game.

I was especially looking forward to seeing Keegan Murray play for Iowa. As one of the leading scorers in college basketball season this year, he is a future NBA player. Penn State held him in check tonight with Murray showing outward signs of frustrations at times. He has a smooth jump shot but I don’t see the aggressiveness and leadership displayed tonight that would make my Knicks want to draft him. His passivity out there tonight would raise a red flag in my opinion.

So here is a first for me. Iowa has two brothers Patrick and Connor McCaffery playing for their father Fran McCaffery who is a coach. The team also has two other brothers Keegan and Kris Murray. I can’t imagine as a father coaching your own kids in a high pressure Big 10 league barnburner. When they make a mistake, does the coach feels bad for his son or does he want to wring his neck?

Connor McCaffery had 4 three pointers in the first half but had to leave late in the game because of a separated shoulder incurred from a scramble of a loose ball. He came back to watch the overtimes with an ice pack and harness around his shoulder.

The Bryce Jordan arena also serves as home for musical acts. They have a wall set up where each performer leaves a personal message along with their picture. The above is just a small section of the hundreds displayed in the arena hallway.

In all my excitement about the amazing ending to the game, I neglected to take my traditional picture of the final score on the scoreboard.

I must comment on a couple of side trips before the game.

I visited the Little League World Series stadium in Williamsport. Having watched the series since I was a youngster, curiosity got the best of me. Unfortunately, the museum was closed but I took a picture of the snow-covered iconic field. I can picture the kids sliding down the hill behind the outfield during the game.

I also visited Reptile World in Lewisburg to look at snakes, alligators, frogs and birds. I captured this reaction from these owls when I told them about my Journey to 351 mission.

On to Missouri State!

Loyola MD (80) vs. Bucknell (82) 01/30/2022

Game #103 of 358 29% complete

This was my first game back after a long layoff from my last game on December 12th. I had trips to Michigan and Wisconsin planned for the month of January. The news of canceled games was happening so frequently, it caused me to put a temporary hiatus to my journey. As it turned out, the majority of the planned games in January did get canceled. I cannot imagine flying somewhere, getting a hotel room and waking up to find the game is canceled. Because the two PA schools were within driving distance, I was able to do a 4-hour drive to Pennsylvania from Connecticut after waiting ’til the last minute to ensure that the games would be held.

The Loyola players (men and woman) stayed at my hotel, but they were checking out just as I was checking in. The trip was extra special because my cousin Brian who lives near Philadelphia joined me for this game after a 2-hour ride from his home. It was great to catch up with him after two years when we went to a game together at Delaware State. Brian is my official backup to Operation 351 should I meet the great basketball god in the sky before the mission is accomplished.

The arena was mostly empty which is a shame because it turned out to be a thriller right to the end. A girl’s dance school performed at half time. Once that was over, half the arena emptied out because the parents who only cared about the dance went home.

I have seen many contests during time outs over the years. Here was a first for me. The woman is sling shotting a rubber chicken across the court to her partner who is trying to catch the chicken in a bucket. They did get 3 out of four so kudos to them. The other stupid contest was a trivia contest between two teen age girls. They were asked very difficult trivia questions about Bucknell basketball that only a sports information director may know. They looked at each other after every question with ” How the hell would I know that” look. Fortunately, it was a multiple choice (A, B, or C) answer so they did get some correct with a little luck.

My only recollection of Bucknell basketball is their stunning upset of Kansas on March 18th, 2005. The 14th seeded Bisons won with Chris Mc Naughton’s jump-hook in the lane with 10.5 seconds over Kansas’s Wayne Simien winning 64-63. The arena was filled with many memorabilia and hopefully this attractive place gets more fans in the future.

Kudos to Bucknell player Andrew Funk who was unstoppable most of the evening as he scored 34 points from all areas of the floor. For a final note of trivia, my cousin Brian noted that a successful foul shot by a Bison player elicited a note resembling Mario popping a coin out of a box. I will have to take his word on this one.

If you are looking for a good burger, visit Matty’s Sporthouse in Lewisburg.

On to Penn State tomorrow!

Fairfield (70) vs. William & Mary (47) 12/12/2021

Game #102 of 358 29% complete

This was the third game on this trip interrupted by a peaceful sleep Saturday night following 2 Saturday afternoon and night games 2 hours apart. I was hoping to visit the Civil War Museum in Richmond Sunday morning. Despite the web site stating that it would be open 9AM, I was greeted by an empty parking lot and a closed visitor center. COVID has struck again. I decided to head over to Colonial Williamsburg and stroll the tourist area. There were a few folks walking the grounds many with dogs on a leash. I was glad that I did not buy a ticket for the privilege of entering some important buildings with tour guides dressed up as a colonist because many of the buildings were closed. Anyway, it was a nice day to walk on this uncharacteristicly sunny December day.

I was lazy and did not do a Google map of the arena ahead of time. I simply looked at the address on the digital ticket which pointed to an address on Prince George Street. I saw this street on the tourist map and proceeded to walk over to it just to see where Kaplan Arena is. Much to my surprise, the address was for a bookstore which may be the source of tickets to the basketball game. In a sense of panic, I googled the arena to find it about 15 minutes away. I scurried back to the visitor’s parking lot and headed over to the arena stopping for lunch on the way.

Kaplan Arena checks off one of the boxes for the perfect arena to visit. The parking lot is free and next to the arena.

WIlliam & Mary has never made the NCAA tournament and has a very unattractive win/loss record over the years. These small schools who have not much success have always drawn two types of folks to the game:

  1. Senior citizen couples who can barely make it to their seats adorned in school colors.
  2. Mom and Dad with the kids looking for a cheap afternoon out.

Both of these group’s cheered for the Tribe no matter what the score which is great to see.

Speaking of the Tribe team name, I present to you the mascot for William & Mary. Is this what a “Tribe” looks like? The Tribe mascot is actually representing a Griffin – a mythical creature with the head of an eagle and the body of a lion. You guessed it.  In 2010, the National Collegiate Athletic Association determined that William & Mary could keep its Tribe nickname but had to do away with its logo because it could be offensive to native Americans.

This game was quickly over with Fairfield dominating throughout. One can see the difference in physicality between the Fairfield men and the Willaim & Mary boys. I give the Tribe much credit for fighting all the way and never giving up. The crowd cheered for them right to the end.

I enjoy getting my steps in at half time walking around the perimeter of the arena. One bad check mark for this arena is that you cannot walk all the way around. One end is populated by a members only club with cushy seats, food and refreshments blocking the way.

My walk did include a look at the Hall of Fame wall. My eye caught one individual named Melville Bryant a football player from 1937. He had that look about him that probably made women swoon and men wanting to be him. His sly smile held many secrets.

I could find no history of him, but I was wondering if he died in WWII, became a successful businessman and raised a family or perhaps became a drunk living on the street. Here is a toast to you Melville!

Toledo (69) vs. Richmond (72) 12/11/2021

Game #101 of 358 29% complete

This was the second game today preceded by a 2-hour trip from the west at VMI back to Richmond. This 2-game approach saves money but does not allow for getting a bite to eat between games in most cases. You are at the mercy of the concessions at the arena. Having arrived about a half hour before game time, I got quickly in line and saw that the Papa John pizzas were ready to go. I ordered a cheese pizza and headed to my seat. I kid you not that if I had eaten the cardboard box the pizza came in, I would not be able to tell the difference between that and the pizza. Holy dry mouth!

Jacob Gilyard was honored before the game as the all-time NCAA Division I career steals leader. A banner was unfurled in his honor. As I watched him during the game, I can see how his quickness and fast hands contributed to that title. His key steal at the end of the game from a Toledo player driving the lane was icing on the cake. He also sunk the game winning shot with 34 seconds left to win the game.

Toledo was down 19 points in the second half but came back to win spurned on by a loud crowd. I was told that there was an impressive pre-game show involving a spider which I missed waiting in line for cardboard pizza.

I always have difficulty always with parking on campus. Most lots are not clearly marked if they are free for peons like me or for donors who have parking privileges. It is not always easy with cars behind you to stop and ask where I can park. Give me the small schools with free lots next to the arena (see next post for William Mary).

The gun above was shooting out t shirts to the crowd in rapid fire and shooting flames. This was the most awesome way to deliver t shirts to the crowd vs. cheerleaders who length of throws usually leaves much to be desired.

I have decided to replenish my t shirts back home with one new t shirt per trip. I was not a fan of the bright red Richmond colors, so I passed till next game.

Richmond is the only school with a spider as a mascot. The mascot walking around with dangling legs was fun to watch.

I neglected in my fatigue to take a camera shot of the final score. Mea Culpa!

Gardner Webb (61) vs. Virginia Military Institute (64) 12/11/2021

Game #100 of 358 29% complete

Six years ago, I began this journey not quite sure if it was the best way to spend my retirement time. The goal seemed so far away yet after the first few games, it became my passion. The joy of traveling and seeing this great country of ours combined with my love of ANY college basketball game has never receded despite pitfalls and curves along the way. This mission has taught me patience and the ability to pivot when plans go awry especially in this COVID era. Today is my 100th game! Many others on this same journey have far exceeded that number, so I am in good company.

I have been trying to get three schools on one trip to minimize travel and hotel costs as I venture further and further away from Connecticut. On this Virgina trip, I saw VMI, Richmond and William & Mary. Since I flew into Richmond and stayed there, the first game at VMI was a 2-hour trip by car in the opposite direction, in the western part of the state. Putting on my podcasts and enjoying the rolling hillsides, I pulled in about 11AM, a couple of hours before game time.

Finding a parking spot in a public area after driving around for a few minutes, I ended up near my tourist visit to Stonewall Jackson’s house. The house was small, and the self-guided tour was done in about 45 minutes, but it was cool to see many of Jackson’s personal artifacts. The poor guy was accidently (or maybe not) shot and killed by one of his own soldiers during the civil war.

Walking around the downtown area, the small town of Lexington VA (about 7,000 folks) reminded me of an historic neighborhood in Boston with cobblestone streets and old buildings dating back to the 1700’s.

After grabbing a brew and steak sandwich at The Palms, I took the 10-minute walk over to Cameron Hall. Outside was a line of impeccably dressed cadets waiting to get in.

Known as the “West Point of the South” by honest Abe, half of the graduates last year received a commission in the armed forces.

From Wiki: Prospective cadets must be between 16 and 22 years of age. They must be unmarried, and have no legal dependents, be physically fit for enrollment in the ROTC, and be graduates of an accredited secondary school or have completed an approved homeschool curriculum. The Class of 2022 at VMI had an average high school GPA of 3.70 and a mean SAT score of 1210.[73]

That being said, I have never seen such a rowdy and loud output from a student section yet (I have not done Duke yet). I was out of earshot of their verbal onslaughts but reading lips occasionally brought to mind a dichotomy of the upright and proud image of a cadet vs. the unruly loud student fan.

Many schools are using virtual programs these days. One scans the OCR code to bring up the program in a browser. I get it with idea of saving paper and eliminating the pitfalls of COVID transmission, but I miss holding a paper in my hand giving the relatively small size of my IPHONE.

Gardner Webb put up a valiant battle this game only succumbing in the end. A game-tying 3-pointer from D’Maurian WIlliams rimmed out at the final buzzer. Jake Stephens, the Cadets huge 6’10” center was too overpowering underneath for the smaller Bulldogs. His foot work in the paint was impressive. The senior is a pre-season second team SoConn league pick.

VMI had won its previous two games on a west coast trip. The cadets earned John Rothstein’s “epitome of brutality” label by beating Portland. Like similar armed forces teams, you can tell that the VMI boys put in a lot of work at the gym.

The cadets are headed back to their dorms after the game.

That’s a wrap. Back to Richmond for a two-hour ride hoping to get there for a 6PM start!

Colgate (74) vs. North Carolina State (77) 11/13/2021

Game #99 of 358 28% complete

I visited the Quail Ridge bookstore in Durham on Saturday morning. I always try to visit an independent bookstore on my trips and buy a book to support them. This store however did not need my help as I waited in line behind customers holding baskets of books. I recommend this bookstore with its well organized shelves and friendly help ready to serve. At the risk of inflicting guffaws from my readers, I admit to purchasing an autographed copy of Nicholas Sparks book The Wish. Yeah I like his books so think what you want. :).

I recommend lunch at the Italian restaurant Amedeo’s before any NC State game. Right down the road from the PNC Center, the walls are adorned with NC State memorabilia from all sports. The pasta deluxe dish filled me to the brim along with a bottle of Peroni.

As had happened in the past, my perceived time of the game taken in the past from the NC Sate web site was an hour earlier than the actual game time (1PM vs. 2PM). Not sure if the time was changed or I messed up. So when I drive up to the PNC at about 12:30, the parking lots are almost empty. I did see some ushers gathering on the outside so I figured I was in the right place. The usher kindly informed me that the game time was 2PM so the gates will not open till 1PM. So what does one do after eating a heavy pasta lunch? You walk several times around the arena to kill time getting your steps in till the gates opened.

I will give the PNC two Operation 351 awards.

Award 1 – Best Bar in an Arena

This bar was way too high class for a basketball/ hockey arena but definitely a pretty slick site at a college basketball game.

Award 2 – Most Humungous TV Screen

The TV screen on the scoreboard was like watching a 100 ft TV in your living room. The image was sharp and enticing to watch vs. the live game itself.

I do want to say that the PNC did lose some points by not providing a program. No excuses for a D1 school to not provide a program, free or otherwise.

So now for some basketball. After almost witnessing an upset yesterday by Brown at North Carolina, my hopes for another upset today almost came to fruition. Colgate, like Brown yesterday, gave the ACC powerhouses fits. It was not prudent of me to cheer out loud for the underdogs at these two games but I gave under the seat fist pumps when Colgate continued to hang on right to the end..

The crowd was somewhat muted throughout the game perhaps in shock at the thought of losing. It came down to the last play when a NC State player Manny Seaborn was fouled on a very questionable call. The two foul shots put them up by two. After Colgate threw a long pass down the other end of the court, a Colgate player fouled, sending the Wolfpack back to the line. A replay review confirmed that the foul occurred before time had ended. The NC State player missed the foul shot. Colgate then attempted a three quarter court shot to win the game but was not even close. I was hoping to see a replay of UC Riverside’s upset over Arizona State.

Since this was an afternoon game, I had Saturday night free. My name on the Duke waiting list proved fruitless as tickets to Coach K’s last go around make tickets tough to find. I also considered going to the Carolina Hurricanes hockey game but tickets were over a $100. Not too much of a hockey fan to justify the cost. So perusing the web for Saturday night events in the Raleigh/Durham area, I came across the perfect scenario for a Jimmy Buffet parrothead like myself. The play Escape to Margaritaville was playing at the DPAC. Having seeing it once before made no difference. I ended siting in the upper balcony next to the president of the local parrot head club so I unabashedly sang all the lyrics out load with the rest of her crew. Till next time!

FINS UP!

Brown (87) vs North Carolina (94) 11/12/2021

Game #98 of 358 27% complete

Operation 351 is back on the road. Absence does make the heart grow fonder as the sound of sneakers squeaking in the gym, the sound of the pep band warming up and the sight of those bright lights when I enter an arena for the first time bring forth a deeper appreciation and gratitude for the chance to reconnect with my journey.

My life like many of yours was filled with changes and curves this past year, I am now a proud grandfather of a cute kid named Jack. Our family was fortunately unscathed by the ravages of COVID. My travel plans are made more difficult with canceled airlines, COVID restrictions and an apprehension of catching COVID even though I am triple vaccinated. There is a new normal out there undefined and ever changing. What will college basketball look like in 10 years? How will the United States with its increasing polarity and angst survive as we march forward with an uncertain future facing climate change and dangers to our democratic society? I vow never to bring politics into this blog but I am very nervous for my children and grandson.

I have vented enough.

During the last summer, I developed an application on the my desktop using Microsoft EXCEL and ACCESS to facilitate finding games near each other on consecutive days or the same day. I built a database of my remaining arenas to visit along with their longitude and latitude. I built a spreadsheet matching each arena with all the other arenas to calculate the distance. I input the home schedule of each team and run an SQL query to find games to visit find teams within 120 miles of each games playing within 3 days. It is probably not the most technological way to do it but it works for me. I relied on my IT skills from the nineties to accomplish this. Here is an example of one page of the report:

The home team and away team are the two teams playing the games. HOME and AWAY are not the best names. Just consider them team 1 and team 2. Game Date is the date team 1 is playing. Game date 2 is the date team 2 is playing. Both dates will be the same if they are playing on the same day. The distance is in miles between the two arenas for the two teams. By sorting the report by date, I match my open dates to dates where I can take advantage of multiple games on one trip. I have a more detailed write up on the construction and implementation of this application if anyone is interested.

As many of you who have started traveling again, air traveling now is a hit or miss affair where you are at the mercy of the airlines. I was due to arrive in Raleigh around 9:30AM on Friday 11/12. Given that the UNC game was not until 9PM, I had the whole day planed to visit the UNC and Duke basketball museums and partake of some local breweries. However, my connecting flight from DC to Raleigh was rescheduled to 9:45 PM which would not work. I saw a bunch of us trying to get standby for the next flight a few hours later. I wanted to be certain of making the game. I canceled the rescheduled flight from United and booked an early afternoon flight from Delta. (I need to speak about this to United!) All was well as I arrived in Raleigh around 4PM. My day was short circuited but my main goal for seeing the UNC game was accomplished.

I decided to head over to the Franklin Street area on campus and visit the TOPO or the Top of the Hill restaurant. About 12 years ago, my daughter and I ate here after a campus visit. She decided to go to Wake Forest but it was a fun trip. Many fans in the place were adorned in the UNC blue colors. I will say this about the UNC fans. You take first place in most fans who wear the team colors to a game.

I purchased pre paid parking after look at all the options. I have two rules of the road concerning parking:

  1. Never park in a campus parking garage. You will take forever single streaming out of the exit.
  2. Never use the campus shuttle system to get back to your parking spot. There were hordes of folks that night after the game waiting for the buses.

I prefer an open parking lot that may be not too convenient to the arena but close enough so I do not get a coronary waking to the game. I chose the 700 Hibbard Drive lot. I had no trouble getting in or getting out.

Ahh the Dean Dome! A classic on anyone’s list who is into college basketball. The first step inside gave me the impressions of a arena much bigger than I thought and a wave of Carolina blue on all the seats. Sitting up in section 213, I had plenty of room with open seats around me to spread out and take it all in.

Brown gave the Tar Heels all it could handle this game. Their disciplined offense gave UNC fits but talent and size usually wins the day with the Tar Heels coming out with a seven point victory. Kudos to Tar Heel point guard RJ Davis whose three pointer kept the Brownies at bay. He has a deadly pure jump shot which is a joy to watch.

That’s a wrap for now. I close by presenting a cool beer bottle consumed at the Atlanta airport. I wonder if every NFL city has the equivalent.

UConn (80) vs. Tulane (76) 03/08/2020

Game #97 of 353 27% complete

I was not in the mood to write this. I could say that the elimination of March Madness and other sports events is a necessary precaution in the best interests of the public. I could say that the health of our citizens takes precedence over basketball games and golf tournaments. That is all true. But for my fellow college basketball and golf fans, it is a dark hole in our lives. Prayers to those afflicted with the virus and to our healthcare workers who are on the front line.

A pre-game walk through the campus on a beautiful day set the mood for the game.

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The ride to Tulane took us to the outskirts of New Orleans away from the crazy folks down on Bourbon St. A lunch at the High Hat Café was too die for. The BBQ shrimp in a beer sauce was New Orleans food at its best.

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The arena was small but modern. We got there early and were able to get close to the court watching the UConn players warm up. I never get this opportunity at other UConn games to get that close to the court!  Little did I know that this would be the last time to see UConn play this season. I was hopeful at a minimum for an NIT berth and possible trip to Madison Square Garden.

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I was happy to see many other UConn fans sitting in our section. Since this was Tulane’s last home game, the seniors were celebrated before the game. The last senior introduced was Christion Thompson. As the pictures were taken with Christion and his family, Dan Hurley the UConn coach joins the group and congratulates everyone. He even had his picture taken with the group. I thought this was a little strange and filed it under the “to be researched later” category. As it turns out, Hurley had recruited Thompson at Rhode Island and coached him for two years before Thompson transferred to Tulane. A nice gesture on Coach Hurley’s part!

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Tulane dominated the first half with Thompson’s unstoppable drives to the basket. UConn was down by 8 at the half but fought back to a 4-point victory led by Christian Vital. I argue that Vital was the best player in the AAC this year but he was beat out by Precious Anchiuwa of Memphis. Little did I know at the time how meaningless the game would end up being in light of the canceled NCAA tournaments.

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If you are a dog lover and plan on visiting New Orleans, please stop by the Villalobos Rescue Center featured on the Pit Bull and Parolees TV show to volunteer to walk dogs. Just show up and have some fun. There are set times noted on the web site but you can go on any day of the week. https://vrcpitbull.com/how-you-can-help/in-person/

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I would also suggest a ride on the Natchez Steamboat for a leisurely cruise up the Mississippi River. A self-guided tour of the engine room was interesting because the engine was taken off another steamboat in the early 1900’s. You can see the pistons going back and forth powered by hydraulics and diesel fuel. The paddle wheel turning on the back of the boat actually powers the boat.

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That completes season 6 of Operation 351. Hope to see you all next season!

 

Georgia (64) vs. LSU (94) 03/07/2020

Game #96 of 353 27% complete

This five-day trip to the Big Easy included my friends Chelsea and Tony along with my wife Linda. The trip to LSU was about an hour out from New Orleans to the PMAC Arena. Pete Maravich was my idol growing up with his magic playmaking and floppy socks. It was a thrill to see memories of him interspersed throughout the arena. I have never been to a big-time college football game but I was in awe of the LSU football stadium across the street from the basketball arena. The climb to the last row would surely challenge the best conditioned fan.

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Near the arena, there was a zoo exhibit holding the LSU mascot tiger named “Mike the Tiger”. They had information about tigers in general on the outside of the cage. The $3 million habitat was created in 2005 and looks like a luxury suite for a tiger. The habitat ranks among the largest and finest Tiger preserves in the country. Mike was sitting there being very photogenic. This tiger is the seventh tiger in succession since the Mike 1 first appeared in 1936.

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As a big country music fan, I loved the standard pre game highlight video with Garth Brooks singing “Calling Baton Rouge”.  Scenes from the city with player highlights made for an entertaining show. It was a welcome alternative to the loud rap music playing to the background of dunks by the home team. However, I was impressed with the two towers of flames during the player introductions.

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Looking at the Georgia sideline, I saw an old familiar face stalking in front of the Georgia bench. Tom Crean is the coach of the Georgia Bulldogs. Love him or hate him, he does make an entertaining scene prowling the sidelines and projecting an over exuberance of distress against the referees. He has had success at Marquette and Indiana but he will have his hands full at Georgia playing second fiddle to the football team.

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LSU basketball is doing very well this year and is currently ranked a ninth seed in Lunardi’s projections. They easily handled Georgia today and will do a great job representing the SEC in March Madness.

No trip to New Orleans is complete without taking a swamp ride through the bayou. The alligators were out in full force munching on marshmallows thrown by our homegrown boat operator. It was a blast when the air propelled boat was going full speed through the swamp riding corners at a tilt.

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Next Game : UConn at Tulane 03/08/2020