Thursday, 9 a.m. - A season's worth of dedication gets put to the test today
By Brendan O'Hallarn
Game day. Our tournament debut is a few hours away.
I'm sitting in the upstairs lobby of our New Orleans Hotel. The players, hair still askew from the early wakeup call, have just walked by, going back to their rooms for the final moments before their bus leaves for New Orleans Arena. A handful of Athletics officials and fans have drifted through the lobby, making small talk about everything EXCEPT our big game with Notre Dame in a couple of hours.
There's a spirit party for fans starting in an hour or so. In the moments before, when I'm just pecking my thoughts, I look for signs that today will be our day. I found a big one last night.
After a great dinner hosted the folks from Athletics last night, I stopped back at the hotel and changed into one of the handful of ODU basketball t-shirts I own. In this case, it was my lucky "Slam the Rams" shirt from the VCU game. VCU sucks.
I grabbed a little video camera and headed to Bourbon Street. I was looking for large groups of Notre Dame fans. I wanted to talk a little friendly trash in advance of the big game.
Instead, here's what happened: A guy in a Michigan sweatshirt, unsolicited: "You guys have to BEAT the Irish for us." A few yards further down the street, a big group of fans in Kentucky gear (there were thousands out last night) started an "O!-D!-U!" chant as I walked by. A bunch of older dudes in Missouri kit, whose team isn't even playing here, told me they'd adopted ODU as their team for the week. One of the team managers walked by and told me "this is the best night of my life," and it appeared to be.
There were a kajillion people in green for St. Patrick's Day, but they didn't appear to be Notre Dame fans. And other than Irish fans, I think everyone in the arena today will be rooting for us.
Getting ready to play Notre Dame this week has been nostalgic for me. When I was a little guy, my dad and I watched a basketball game that I was told was a "big game." Up in Canada back in the 1970s, we rarely got college basketball on television. One of my memories of the game was that one team had green shamrocks on their shorts. Being of Irish descent, I rooted for them.
Years later, I realized that three-year-old Brendan had watched Adrian Dantley and Notre Dame end UCLA's 88-game winning streak. From that day forward, I was a Notre Dame fan. In high school, I used my paper route money to purchase a No. 4 Notre Dame jersey, the number worn by my favorite player, smooth point guard David Rivers.
Before moving to the area, if you'd asked me for my favorite team, I would have said the Irish. But now, after "Living Like a Monarch" this season, getting to know the passion our guys bring to everything they do, I couldn't be less conflicted.
I may be of Irish heritage, but my blood bleeds Blue now. Go Monarchs.
Brendan O'Hallarn works in public relations for Old Dominion University
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