Game #85 out of 353 24% complete
My wife and I made the 2-hour track between Ft. Myers and Tampa. I am amazed at the amount of shopping malls, housing developments and country clubs along the way. The area along Route 40 was fully developed for miles and miles. Aware of the number of Connecticut folks moving to Florida, I can see how this commerce can be supported. All the highways are designed to handle the amount of traffic unlike the choke infested interstates of New England.
We had an off day between games so we took advantage of the sunshine and 80-degree weather. First was an early morning trip to Sanibel Island to enjoy the Gulfside City Park public beach. Arriving by 9:30AM, we beat the traffic and found a great parking spot. The beach was a welcome respite from the cold Connecticut weather we left a couple of days ago.
I recommend visiting the Edison and Ford Winter Estates if you are in the Ft. Myers area. This was our afternoon destination. The mansions were interesting to look at although small compared to the Newport mansions. I was truly amazed at the number of inventions that Edison had invented. He was considered almost a God in his times. Many of his original inventions are there with lots of reading material.
You may wonder at this point why isn’t he talking about the game. I have made it a habit to do a UCONN away game as part of Operation 351. It is cool sitting there in my blue UConn shirt with some others cheering on the Huskys while the home crowd stares us down with dagger eyes. The tables were turned this time as the home crowd relished the thorough beating given by South Florida to my boys. All you can do is sit there and take it. The fans especially loved giving it to coach Hurley as he earned a technical foul for complaining about the calls. As I say to my fellow UConn fans, better days are coming.
Once again, we were treated to palm trees as we entered the Yuengling Center. It may or not have been a coincidence but many UConn fans were hanging around the Yuengling Beer Center at half time trying to down their sorrows. It was long game to endure for a Husky fan but nevertheless at a minimum, it represented one more notch in Operation 351.
South Florida was trounced by SMU the last game and was looking to come out with a vengeance. UConn was trounced by Cincy last game and was looking to do the same. One team was successful. One team was not. Considering the fact that UConn was 3.5-point favorites and that the Bulls were missing the best player Alexis Yenta with a season ending injury, the loss was unexpected and disheartening. The Bulls guards Laquincy Rideau and David Collins were overpowering for our defense leading the way with 17 points and 15 points respectively.
I will be back in Florida next year somewhere for Operation 351. Beaches and sunshine are hard to resist.
Next Game: Siena at Canisius 01/17/2020
Game #84 of 353 23% complete
My wife accompanied me on this two game Florida run. Since she is not a fan of sports, I must include activities on this trip that are fun and non-sports related for her. This typically includes trips to TJMAXX, Marshalls and Home Goods. It is no problem for me since I get my steps in circling the store till she accomplishes her mission.
The trip to the arena started off badly with FGCU instituting a new clear bag policy which encompasses many regulations. One in particular limited the size of a women’s purse or hand bag or whatever it is called these days. The security guard had a wooden template of the allowable size which of course which was smaller than my wife’s bag. Mumbling that this game is not off to a good start, she walked the offending bag back to the car while I waited outside the entrance. You may assume that a true gentleman would have made the long walk for his wife but I will not be seen carrying a purse in public.
This was my second trip to Florida for Operation 351 visiting UCF last year. It is always a pleasant break from the Connecticut winter weather to be greeted by palm trees in front of a Florida arena. This was definitely an older crowd with many walkers and canes in sight. There were many times during the game where the announcer encouraged the fans to stand up and do a cheer but I am convinced that many did not bother because it was too much effort to stand. But as a 62-year-old seeing that great arena in the sky approaching closer and closer, I hope to someday adopt a D1 team like them and become a fixture at all the home games.
I try very hard to stay apolitical but it is worth mentioning that Liberty has drawn protests throughout the sports word for its association with its founder Jerry Falwell. I will only say this that I hope that the hard working kids I saw on the floor today for Liberty are insulated from the diversity and partisan politics (on both sides) spewing from social media. I did expect to see some protesters outside the arena but all was quiet.
FGCU earned the moniker “Dunk City” back in 2013 with an incredible run as the 15th seed in the 2013 tournament with upset wins over Georgetown and San Diego State. I saw only one dunk today by a FGCU player but the miracle lives on with the word “Dunk” displayed prominently in the arena.
Liberty came in with a 14-1 record and looked very strong throughout the game. I was very impressed with senior guard Caleb Homesly who scored 24 points from all over the floor. Liberty had four starters back from the team that beat Mississippi State as a No. 12 seed in the NCAA tournament last year. They are currently No. 2 defensive team in the country (at 53.1 points allowed per game). Interesting to note that the start time was pushed back to 5PM for a nationally televised appearance on ESPNU. I have learned over the years to always double check the start times for last minute changes.
My wife is amused that I love catching thrown t-shirts from the cheerleaders. I have more t-shirts in the closet than I need but it is the thrill of the catch that makes it worthwhile. While I did snatch a FGCU t-shirt headed towards the women next to me (no shame at all), I was glad to see that she caught one the next time around.
Next game : UCONN at South Florida 01/04/2020
Game #79 of 353 22%
I escaped the brutally cold temperatures in Connecticut to take in a road game for my beloved UConn Huskies. I have developed some strategies for planning my journey in the future years. The first is to hit the cold weather states early in November or in early March before the league tournaments start. Navigating blizzards and polar vortexes is not on my fun list of things to do. Next year, I plan to visit the last four schools in upper state New York to complete the entire state. Beyond that in later years, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan and other north border states will be done early or late to minimize weather problems. Secondly as my old bones age, I will save the southern warm states for my later years. If I continue my current pace and continue to breathe, I will be hitting the last school in my late seventies. Florida, California and Texas shall wait for me! Thirdly, I hope to do one UCONN road game a year to add to my quest and get to see UCONN play.
I probably need to do a better job of checking distances to the arenas before heading out. My wife Linda accompanied me on this trip for her one obligatory game a year. As always, her attendance is predicated on extra curricular tourists trips as in Disneyworld this year. Before the game, we met up with an ex coworker who was retired and enjoying the Florida weather and cross country trips in a RV. I set dinner time at 6:30PM in a Disney Springs restaurant thinking I had plenty of time to see a 9PM game in Orlando. How big could Orlando be? As we sat down for dinner, one of us checked Google maps and saw that the arena was a freaking 45 minutes away much to my surprise. We made it with 10 minutes to spare but lesson learned!
To be greeted by palm trees entering the arena was a treat. The CFE arena is new and pretty spiffy inside. The overall effect is gold and black. There were many empty seats around me in the end section. Although the crowd was enthusiastic, I was surprised by the many open seats. I wonder if the tourist setting of Orlando contributes to a lack of fan interest from a transitory population. Pyscho babble at its best!
I have seen quite of few AAC games this year. I nominate B.J. Taylor of UCF as the player of the year. He has done the most to improve his club this year. Best known as a slasher, he has developed a sweet outside shot. He continually made the big shot tonight when needed. Conversely, I have seen little improvement of Tacko Fall over his career. A man of that size should dominate every night. The man is 7’6″ and weighs 310 pounds. It will be interesting to see if an NBA club will take a chance on him in the draft.
Now it is three days of fun in Disneyworld! Yeah I can still have fun there at my age.
Next game: Grambling State at Jackson State 2/23/19