Saturday, January 28, 2012

#BIAHRoadTrip The Diary Part XV - Final Destination

4:45PM Day 22
Somewhere on I-80
Somewhere in Nebraska
Total Miles; 4,781

Road Trip Part-I
Road Trip Part-II
Road Trip Part-III
Road Trip Part-IV
Road Trip Part-V
Road Trip Part-VI
Road Trip Part-VII
Road Trip Part-VIII
Road Trip Part-IX
Road Trip Part-X
Road Trip Part-XI
Road Trip Part-XII
Road Trip Part-XIII
Road Trip Part-XIV

There's a reason we didn't end our road trip in Lawrence, KS. There's a reason we didn't call it quits after 2,500 miles, 20 days and 12 games.

The Utah State student section. That's what was the driving force behind the creation of this trip.

After 20 grueling days and 3,500 miles, we finally made it to Logan, UT.

And I can honestly say that the entire experience met and exceeded every single expectation I had.

After a treacherous 11-hour drive from Denver, which featured some of the most beautiful landscape I've ever seen, we arrived in Logan, UT, a tiny mountain town in the most northeastern part of state, about two hours from Salt Lake City.

After getting caught up with work on Thursday morning, we set out to find ourselves some lunch. We stumbled upon "Logan's Heroes", a tiny, nondescript deli located at the corner of Main Street and 1st Street.

Listen, Rob is from the NYC-metro area and I'm from the DC-metro area, so we know a good deli when we see it. This didn't look like a good deli. But after 15 minutes, some good chatter with the owner, who told us what to get, we were sold.

By the time I was done eating, I was thoroughly convinced that if I lived in Logan, this would be my go-to spot for lunch every day.

Next to the Yellow Sub in Lawrence, KS this was the best sandwich I've had all trip. Friendly people, and fantastic food in a quaint environment. Check, check and check.

After getting more work done in our hotel room, we met up with our host-for-the-day, Kraig Williams of the Deseret News, at "Mo' Bettah Steaks", a Hawaiian steakhouse. Yeah, I know, Hawaiian food in Utah probably doesn't sound too appetizing, but the Steak-n-Pork combo was off-the-charts good.

Rob can attest to this. "I feel like I could drink an entire bottle of the terayaki sauce."

We hadn't even stepped foot on Utah State's campus, and our expectations of Logan had already been exceeded.

If you know anything about Utah State and their student section, then you know about "Wild" Bill Sproat. He's the larger-than-life super-fan who ESPN has gone ga-ga over because of his innovative costumes and creative free-throw distractions.

We figured that by the end of the night, maybe we'd get the chance to say hello to him and take a picture with him.

That's it, that's all.

But when we walked through the front door to the D. Glenn Smith Spectrum, I bet you can guess who the first person we ran into was.

Donning his custom #22 "Wild Bill" Utah State jersey, Sproat greeted us and talked to us for a good 20 minutes about his background, the school, the team, and well, just about everything in between.

Rob profiled Sproat, so I'll let him go into detail about it, but let me just tell you that even Bill exceeded my expectations.

He's just an all-around awesome guy. He's one helluva story-teller, hilarious as all get out, and is as friendly and as welcoming as anybody we've encountered on our trip.

But Sproat warned us that the turnout may not be great.

Utah State is in a "down year", having graduated six seniors after last season, and the students had just come back from Winter Break. He wasn't sure we'd be viewing the best atmosphere.

But if you've watched a Utah State game on TV, then you know that even a marginal effort by the student section is bigger and louder than most full capacity BCS-conference student sections.

Sure, the arena wasn't packed to the brim. There were a decent amount of seats, colored in 70s-themed orange and yellow, that were still empty. The student section, which can fill up to about 4,000 students, was only about 80% filled.

Regardless, it was pandemonium. There was a buzz circulating throughout the Spectrum prior to tip-off. The students piled in, sprinting in order to get the best seats behind the basket. For 45 minutes prior to tip-off, the students hung out in their seats, like they were seats at the best bar in town. There were hi-fives, slow-claps, costumes, cheers, boos, everything you could imagine.

While we took in the scene, we were met by numerous different students and staff members who had heard about our trip and were surprised to see we were making a stop in Logan. We told them, much to their surprise, that we were there to see them.

"This is why we decided to make the road trip. We are here to see you guys in action."

I talked to the head of The Hurd, the organization that handles all the student section planning and preparations. I talked to him about their coordination, planning new chants, and the reputation of their student section.

I have to say, I was sorta taken back at everybody's, well, hesitation to admit that they had the best student section in the country. Because, it's a well-known fact amongst us media-type that no school does it quite like Utah State.

"The casual fan thinks Duke or Kansas has the best students. But any knowledgeable hoops-head should know that you guys do it the best" I said.

I was met with a half-puzzled, half-pleased reaction.

Maybe they weren't aware that ESPN broadcasts to states outside of Utah, or maybe they just didn't realize that most colleges don't have a student section nearly as passionate, coordinated and rowdy as them. After all, you wouldn't expect it from a tiny WAC school in northeast Utah.

Before we settled in to our seats on press row, we made sure to get involved in the "I Believe We Will Win" chant. It's legendary.

Sure, a lot of different schools do it, but theirs is the best. It's so good in fact, it was sampled for a hip-hop music video.

"Wild Bill" pulled Rob into the front row, and well, we were off.

This was why we drove 2,500 miles. Why we left our jobs and families for 22 days.

The game was riddled with fouls, but featured the ebbs and flows that cause a student section to erupt several times.

That's one of my favorite parts of the college game.

That momentum-swinging three-pointer, followed by a timeout. There aren't many moments in hoops that are better than that. The whole place goes crazy, and at Utah State they don't go crazy, they go bonkers, berserk, and border on clinical insanity.

I need to once again point out how stunned I was with the quality of the dance team/cheerleaders. At this point, we'd been to Kentucky, Missouri and Kansas. Schools with big student bodies and extremely-attractive co-eds.

My expectations for the USU cheerleaders were not very high.

I mean, come on, what should I have expected? It's a well-known fact that the cheerleading squads at smaller/private/religious schools just aren't at the same level of say, Pac-12 or SEC squads.

I can firmly say that they exceeded expectations. And for what seems like the bajillionth time on this trip, I cursed myself for attending a small liberal arts college on the East Coast.

When the game finished up, we tried to get from press row to the locker room in order to interview some players. But to our amazement, we were greeted by several different waves of students, thanking us for making the trip to Logan and apologizing about the quality of game and student support.

"Are you kidding me?" I said to one fan. "If this was a 'down game', I don't know if my ear-drums could handle a game against BYU or Utah. You guys are the best."

It seemed like wave after wave of fans came over to greet us. It was amazing. I legitimately felt like a celebrity. But it didn't end with the students. Other writers and reporters knew who we were.

"Oh, you must be the travelling bloggers." said one writer. "Are you one of the guys doing the road trip? I recognized you from the videos. Great stuff." Said another.

Like before, my expectations were not only met but completely exceeded.

But once again, it didn't end there.
Right before we were about to head up the ramp into the locker room, we ran in to "Wild" Bill again, who invited us to attend a post-game meal at "Angie's Diner: Where The Locals Eat". He said that most of the players and fans meet up there to get some grub following a home game.

I was sold.

I didn't want any of this to end.

Angie's is your standard-issue college-town diner. Lots of booths, lots of fatty foods.

When we walked in, the place was packed. I saw a booth-full of fans turn and look to see who was entering. One of of them turned to their friends and said "Those are the guys from Ballin' is a Habit" right when we walked in.

If you know anything about me, you know I have, or at least pretend to have a fairly large ego. I played goalie in high school and college, the only individual position in a team sport. I don't like sharing fame or attention. I don't want to be one of seven midfielders. I want to be one of one goalies. Hell, I practically got a degree in Narcissism. I am the youngest of three in my family. I want all eyes on me.

But as much as I want it, it rarely ever happens. So for those four hours on a Thursday night 4,500 miles away from my hometown, I felt like a rock-star.

When we joined Sproat and his crew of eight guys at the back table, we were welcomed with open-arms. For 45 minutes we heard stories, told stories, ate triple cheese-burgers, drank artery-clogging milkshakes, and watched Sproat interact with everybody that walked past us.

When a group of girls walked by, Sproat stopped them and tried to introduce them to us, but apparently they already knew who we were.

"You are the guys from Ballin' is a Habit, right? the road trip guys right?"

And there I am, once again dumbfounded that these people know who I am, starring at a pack of college girls like I'm a 18-year-old freshman.....with vanilla milkshake dribbling down my lip.

Nice, Troy. Nice.

After we finished our food, and discussed including "Wild" Bill in Season-II of the #BIAHRoadTrip, along with Drew Franklin of Kentucky Sports Radio (We are going to make this happen), we said our goodbyes and went back to our hotel.

But not before Sproat filled us in on the two new costumes he is going to unveil later in the season. I've been sworn to secrecy, but honestly, it's better if you just wait.

It's going to border on legendary-status.

So that's it. That's why we traveled damn-near across the country.

Was it worth it?

Well let's see.

I don't know how I'm going to pay rent next month, In fact, I currently have less than $200 to my name. I haven't talked to my boss in 20 days, haven't done laundry in 15 days, and don't know if my apartment is still standing. My family probably thinks I'm dead, I'm not sure if anybody has fed my dog in three weeks and I will probably have to replace my car in the near future.

So, what it worth it?

Absolutely. 1000% I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

A few news and notes:

- "Wild" Bill needs your help.

See, he's ran into a bit of a social networking problem. He had a solid Twitter account, but over time he forgot what his password was.

Unfortunately, he also forgot what the password was for the email account connected to the Twitter account. He needs the help of somebody with the computer skills to hack in to Twitter and get his account information.

Bill would do it for you, so please, do it for him

Contact us at so we can help him out.

- This isn't our last Diary entry. We are grinding out a 34-hour drive back to Washington, D.C. and will update you on our long road home. We already have one EPIC early morning story to recant to you.

So stay tuned.


Jake Christofferson said...

Thanks again guys for coming, it was great being able to have dinner with yall and share and listen to some stories. Hope you can make a trip back out sometime!

LCRasmus said...

Its fantastic to have you guys come in with an outside perspective on things. We know that we've got something special here, but validation is always great. You're welcome back at any time!

Joe said...

Yeah, if you thought that was great, you should really come on an "up" year against a big rival (UNR, BYU, NMSU, Utah, a bracketbuster game, etc). Don't worry, you'll have plenty of chances. That was a VERY quiet night by Spectrum standards. It's not loud until you can't make yourself intelligible to the person next to you on the 20th row.

Thanks for the press, just the same. Glad you enjoyed your experience. Next time you come you'll have to try The Factory Pizzeria.

Jordan Carl Hunt said...

Glad you had a good time! I have lived here for 3 years and I am still amazed to walk down the street and have strangers smile and say "hello". It's not just a couple people-- it's everyone.

Go Aggies!

treesap32 said...

Glad to see you guys made it out to see a game in The Spectrum. A couple weeks before you made your pilgrimage I made the opposite one driving from DC down to Durham, North Carolina to see a game at Cameron Indoor. Check out my article comparing The Spectrum to Cameron Indoor Stadium: