March 4, 2007
Millersville 79, Cheyney 68!!
Once again, you’re going to have to go elsewhere for the sports story, all that technical stuff about assists and steals and who ranks where and all. This is the fiction writer’s account of a long but ultimately exciting day.
I could say that I travel well, but then, I almost always travel alone and with ample preparation. Ron and I have been together for a long time, but we are essentially two introverts with very specific needs for solitude and silence to alternate with periods of activity. (Okay, I’m the more persnickety, and the one more likely to have trouble adapting if her needs are not met.) We manage to keep out of each other’s way, usually, because we share a large house where each has his or her own space. Thrown together in a single hotel room, we can easily keep rubbing up against each other’s prickly spots. The relationship survived a house remodeling. There were moments yesterday when I thought a weekend in California, Pennsylvania was going to do us in.
I did go gallivanting by myself in the morning. No visit to a new town is complete for me without seeing two things — a library and a cemetery. The Smithton Public Library is a collection of about 5000 volumes housed in a corner of the borough building. Like many such libraries, it was staffed yesterday by two people, both of whom might have been volunteers. I like going to such places. They remind me of the city library branch where I would hang out after school as a way of putting off going home for another hour or two. The books have a worn and comfortable look, and the odor of acid-laced paper takes me back to a particular time in my life that, despite my unhappiness in some areas, holds beloved memories.
I’d passed the cemetery on the way into Smithton, my attention caught by the historical marker noting the Darr Mine Disaster of 1907. It stands at the edge of the Olive Branch Cemetery where 71 of the 239 miners killed are buried in a common grave. It was cold but not windy, and I was able to tramp around the cemetery despite my having brought only my fashionable fur-lined leather clogs and not my mud-proof cemetery hikers. I took pictures, made notes, and got back to the Holiday Inn in time to send Ron out to the lobby to have lunch and watch CNN while I took a nap.
By 2:00, however, we’d run out of interest in CNN, USA Today, and the Mon Valley Sports Museum, four glass cases in the lobby that showcase memorabilia of the area’s famous athletes such as Stan Musial. And I was too wound up to nap.
From 3:00 until 6:00 we ate a very long dinner at an Eat’n'Park. With absolutely nothing left to do and the doors to the gym building not open until 6:00, we went to the Natali Student Center (almost entirely deserted) and saw about 30 minutes of Rocky Balboa (Rocky VI). I think that almost everyone else watching the movie was headed to the game.
We were in our seats by 6:00, and for a while I thought there were going to be more Millersville representatives on the court than in the stands. While we were walking in from the parking lot we had to stop for three busloads of fans from our opponent, Cheyney University, and every time I looked up there seemed to be another parade of Cheyney fans walking along the upper deck and descending into the stands, including a small band, spangle-clad dancers, and a flag team.
Cheyney is known as America’s oldest historically black institution of higher education. Founded in 1837 as the Institute for Colored Youth, it served the teacher training needs of Pennsylvania’s black students through the years of unspoken de facto segregation. While diversity has increased at other Pennsylvania state system schools, Cheyney remains historically black.
Cheyney is outside Philadelphia, less than an hour east of Millersville. As it happens, the two schools have some recent unhappy history. At the end of a regular season game on February 5, a disturbance broke out on the court between Millersville fans and Cheyney fans. Some described the event as a “brawl,” others used “melee,” “fight,” and even “riot.” There were some minor injuries, as well as some arrests and citations. These events followed a similar but less tumultuous confrontation at a January game.
Coming out of the bathroom (which opened onto the hallway Cheyney fans were using to get to their seats), I did run right into several dozen very excited young men, one of whom pointed at my bright yellow ‘Ville Hoops t-shirt and shouted something, um, spirited, coming very close to jabbing me in the shoulder. Everyone seemed to be laughing, so I decided to just smile and press myself up against the wall while they passed through the double doors.
By game time a good many more Millersville fans had arrived, including about two dozen of the Posse, the informal student cheering section so visible at home games. The game did get off to a slow start, with Millersville behind 0 to 5 before finally taking the lead and staying there. The action was more exciting than the final score would suggest. (Again, you want to know the technical stuff, read the sports story. I’m all about human interest.)
After the presentation of awards, people began milling about. The Millersville coach climbed into the stands and started thanking people individually for coming. Down on the floor, the players were doing the same thing. One young man, whom I know only as # Something, grabbed my hand and said, “Thank you for coming, Mrs. DeAngelis.”
And it’s one of the reasons I’ll make every effort to be there (where, I’m not sure yet) when they play in the opening round of the NCAA tournament next weekend.
UPDATE MARCH 5: The Marauders will face Mt. Olive College on March 10 at Barton College in North Carolina. That is a (mere) six-hour drive. Ron will absolutely not go. As for me, well, if I could find one or two sedate young women Posse members who would go if they had transportation and somebody to pay the hotel bill, I’d consider it.