Final Four: Game day pregame/name droppings

By Jerry Palm - March 31, 2007

I had breakfast this morning with Dave Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News, who doubles as my agent. A family of UCLA fans sat down a table near us as we were getting ready to leave and one of the young ladies, who turned out to be a UCLA student, had on a shirt with a funny drawing of Lorenzo Mata and said "Lorenzo Mata Superfan Club."

Her mom was a dead ringer for Mary Steenburgen, the actress who is married to Ted Danson. Since Danson wasn't there, we figured it probably wasn't her.

I walked over to the Florida team hotel to see if anything was going on there. On my way, I passed Steve McClain, who was fired from the Wyoming job, bending another coach's ear. Everywhere I go, I see him. I beginning to feel stalked.

I also came across Kansas coach Bill Self, who was telling a group of women that "I screwed up a lot of people's brackets."

After quickly discovering that nothing was happening at the team hotel, I headed back to the coaches' hotel to do some radio. On my way, I passed Southern Illinois AD Mario Moccia talking with current Purdue and former SIU assistant coach Paul Lusk. I didn't eavesdrop, so I can't say if it was just old friends chatting or Moccia screening a potential replacement for Chris Lowery if he leaves.

When my radio gig was over, I ran into Jones again in the lobby of the coaches' hotel. He introduced me to former Penn St three-point bomber Shareef Chambliss, who is now an assistant at UW-Milwaukee. Nice kid.

There really wasn't much going on there though, so I decided to head for the dome, find our seats, and catch some of the action at Hoop City and Centennial Park. The media shuttle was delayed because traffic was blocked by police and fire units outside the hotel. Apparently, a window was shot out of the building across the street from the hotel.

We did get here eventually, but the seat assignments weren't available yet (they were up the day before at the previous sites), so I headed for Hoop City.

There's quite a bit going on there. They have all kinds of basketball exhibitions, as well as oppotunities to test your own shooting skills. You can also kick soccer goals and see how fast you can throw a baseball. When I walked by, there was an 8 or 9-year old really bringing the heat, and with accuracy.

DiGiorno Pizza had an area where you could try their pizza (my slice of pepperoni was tasty enough, but a little overdone). You could also try to shoot baskets from a comfy chair, which I didn't try because the line was too long.

I happened across the CSTV setup and talked to PR honcho Dan Sabreen. We left and walked over to the CSTV set at Centennial Park, where Greg Amsinger, Steve Lappas, Pete Gillen and Seth Greenberg were working hard to do a show with Ludacris performing in the background. I'll say this about Ludacris - he lives up to his name.

I also talked for a while with Jason Horowitz of CBS Sportsline, who was there to do a segment with the guys. Among the many things I found out about him is that, while he likes stuff like Ludacris, his favorite band is Queen. That's my favorite band also, but considering Freddy Mercury died when he was still in diapers, it's pretty surprising that someone his age would even know Queen, let alone consider them a favorite.

The last stop before getting back here to the dome was at the Florida Alumni Association pep rally in the building next to the dome. There wasn't a whole lot of pepping going on, but Gator fans (and three Ohio St fans) got in long lines for freebies like shirts, hats, signs, pom pons, buttons and ticket holders. The signs they gave out had Geico ads on them, which makes sense, since Gators are nothing more than overgrown geckos.

A couple of fans were looking for tickets, but the only ones being offered were down low seats that brokers are trying to get $1500 for. They just want to get in the gym, not take out a mortgage.

There was one guy there in what looked like a plastic, white Elvis-style outfit. You will undoubtedly see that on TV.

You probably won't see us on TV though. Our seats (two for the six of us who are here) are up in the football press box. The blimp is here to provide an aerial view of the action. We'll be looking down on the blimp from our perch.

Posted by Jerry Palm at 04:40 PM on March 31, 2007

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