HARTFORD, Conn. – Whoever said last night's match-up pitted uptight, stuffy Ivy League bookworms against carefree, wild Las Vegas gamblers certainly was not watching our fans.
Shedding sleeping bags and tents in favor of orange face paint and fuzzy wigs, the entire town of Carmodyville, plus several dozen students who obtained tickets through other means, moved their brand of "March Madness" inside the Hartford Civic Center for yesterday's NCAA basketball game against UNLV.
With the Tigers' student section chanting "Caesar's Palace," "sit down, you suck," and "Coach Bayno, why don't you put your showgirls in?" the UNLV players and coaching staff were constantly barraged. Princeton backers were taking the game personally.
"Playing UNLV, my pride is on the line, because this is everything I love versus everything I hate," said Todd Helfrich '00, referring to the "good versus evil drama" portrayed in the national media.
"Seriously, what are they rebelling against – the law?" asked Gabe Bevilacqua '98 about the UNLV mascot name, "Runnin' Rebels."
Even homemade signs bordered on offensive. The Civic Center security officials confiscated one sign that read "Carmody's Backdoor Spectacular," with CBS emboldened to attract TV cameras.
"We are basically trying shameless attempts to get on TV," said Helen Marrow '00, who founded Carmodyville last Friday. "But we love our Tigers, don't get us wrong."
Princeton alumni and UNLV supporters also went to great lengths to get tickets. Eric Stein '94 said he and some friends from around the country established a "network" to unearth tickets for last night's game.
"I made 71 phone calls in three days," Stein said.
Chet Cox, a UNLV alumnus, boarded an airplane from Las Vegas with his entire family yesterday. "If you're not confident, you shouldn't be here," Cox said, smirking about his Runnin' Rebels' chances against the Tigers.
Before the game, UNLV fans, Princeton faithful and those following other teams seeded in Hartford had a chance to interact with one another – and some North Carolina players – in the Civic Center mall.
While shopping for headphones in Radio Shack, Tarheel forward Antawn Jamison, the favorite to win the tournament's Most Valuable Player award, contemplated a possible rematch against Princeton.
"It would be nice, but we're not even looking that far," Jamison said.
Princeton fans were definitely looking beyond Hartford.
"If we make it to the Sweet Sixteen and play Carolina, we'll have to play the best game we've played in 10 years," said Dan Sarles '98.
Some students, however, had more immediate concerns on their mind at the game.
Amy Vassalotti '00 admitted, "I have to write a paper tonight and I'm faxing it in to my professor." Attending the tournament was worth the sacrifice, she added.