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Friday, July 22, 2011

12/29/09, A Night Like None Other

I do not hide my love of college basketball. Everyone who knows me will tell you that.

Actually I also can talk about other things like current events, politics and variety of subjects, I have always been a news junkie, I guess it is important for myself to know what is going on in the world. (But I do lead a boring life as I still like the Beach Boys and the last movie I saw was a double feature, Old Yeller and 1,000 Leagues Under the Sea, or was it 10,000). Not even sure why I mentioned that, but guess I felt compelled.

With my love of college basketball and always a hot topic when I talk sports with people, an  often asked question of myself is, what is the strangest thing I have ever seen in college basketball?  Prior to 12/29/09, it would have been impossible to answer, because I did not have a good answer, but after that night/ day, I am not sure anything can top it.

Doubleheaders in basketball are great and I attend as many as I can. On 12/29/09, living an hour away from Portland State University, I headed for the school in downtown Portland really looking forward to seeing a doubleheader, which was a little different angle for most schools in the Portland State women would play the second game of the night, which was to follow the opening contest that was scheduled between the Vikings and D-3, Willamette University, from Salem, Oregon, which is an hour south of Portland.

Knowing the start time of the first game was 5:00 p.m. and also knowing Portland traffic is not good, just like other large cities, I left my house at 1:45, to give myself plenty of time. Also being a guy who likes weather, I checked the forecast right before I left and it was pretty normal for the Willamette Valley, 39 degrees and light rain showers.

As I got about 15 minutes away from my house, it started to snow very lightly. It did not worry me, as I j figured it would last about five minutes and be gone. As I got closer to Portland, I was beginning to think my amateur forecasting, was actually,  amateur. It started snowing harder and in what was normally as mentioned an hour trip, it took me about two hours to get to Portland State.

All this time driving gave me plenty of time to think about a variety of subject (not the latest movies), including the fact did Willamette leave  Salem, Oregon with plenty of time to spare. They did not and actually the direction they were coming from had even more snow than I encountered. They were not only stuck in heavy snow, they were stuck in massive traffic. When it snows even a little in the Portland area, it stops the whole city, the town is not prepared for it, nor are its drivers.

Knowing Willamette would not make the 5:00 p.m. start time, game management at Portland State started to think and develop a plan, how to make the games happen on schedule as best as they could,  as by now it was really snowing, there was about two inches on the ground and the whole Portland metro was frozen in time. With the PSU women scheduled to play Oregon State in the second game and the OSU women already it town, staying in downtown hotel which is about a ten minute bus trip to the PSU gym, an easy plan seem appropriate for PSU management, flip flop the games and get Oregon State to PSU as quickly as possible.

One problem, quick in Portland was not even close to an option on this night. As it turned out, with Willamette still no where in sight, the women's game would still go first, but getting Oregon State to Portland State from where they were staying turned out to be a nightmarish  1 1/2 trip in their bus. It was compounded by the fact the often cantankerous Oregon State coach LaVonda Wagner, despite the team bus being only a block from Portland State, would not let the players walk the block, she insisted front door service, thus delaying things even more,  claiming her highly fit athletes should never ever be expected to walk in snow, not even a block. (Just maybe with that thinking one of the many reasons she got fired at Oregon State).

As it turned out, the OSU women finally made it to Portland State, their  game with the Vikings started a little after 8:00 p.m., but it was not the end of the story.

Unlike Oregon State, the Willamette team got sick of being on their bus and stuck in traffic, they walked the final mile to Portland State. (Big plaudits for showing the courage to do so.)

The Bearcats were determined to play the Viking men and they did, the tip-off coming at 10:38 p.m., PST,  only 5 hours and 38 minutes after the scheduled 5 o'clock tip. The game ended at 12:42 a.m., December 30th, 2009, in what will go down in history as the latest ending game college basketball game ever, west coast time.

Actually in a tribute to the Portland State fans, even with the awful weather outside, traffic still bumper to bumper well after midnight, as I counted,  there were still 502 fans in stands when the game ended and it turned out to be a good college basketball game, with Portland State winning 97-90.

And in case you care, I did get home, but keeping in mind what is a late night normal 55 minute trip home for me, my three hours plus trip home gave me once again plenty of time to think, still just not about movies.

And of course despite the fact the Portland State gym holds 1,500 fans at best, 15 years from now, over 10,000 people will tell you that they were at this weirdest of weird basketball doubleheaders in downtown Portland, Oregon, 12/29/2009.

Also, a few quick final lessons from this day/night/day. 1) Never drive in Portland, Oregon when it is snowing. 2) If it is snowing and your the visiting team, please give yourself a little extra time. 3) If your a fan, live close to where you like to attend basketball games. 4) Do not be an amateur weather forecaster and maybe even a weather forecaster period. 5) If your a basketball coach, do not be a jerk. 6) D-3 athletes are not only good students, they are not afraid to have a little fun.

A night I will never forget and a night I hope you enjoyed hearing about.

emails to

1 comment:

  1. You may want to talk about the OIT hoops trip back to K-Falls in winter a few years ago. The men's players dismounted their bus many times to remove trees and debris from the roadway, with a long row of cars behind them. Not sure how long it took but it was quite the adventure I hear. I think their SID wrote about it at the time.