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by Jeff Wilkin

Type A To Z

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Features reporter Jeff Wilkin on pop culture

The Passion

I was in the stands for the Siena-Canisius basketball game Monday night, and saw a rarity in college sports: A fan got kicked out of the game!

Can’t remember ever seeing this in downtown Albany. Or in downtown Allegany, for that matter, where I spent four years watching St. Bonaventure and the formidable Bonnies of the mid-1970s.

But it happened on Monday, just a few minutes into the second half.

Ref Wally Rutecki, a guy with dark, well-groomed hair, had heard enough from a vociferous, stocky fellow. He ordered Siena floor walkers to relieve the offender of his seat. “Out you go, through the door or out the window,” he could have said.

I had been at the Times Union Center for an interview with The General, Robert Lee, Siena’s personable play-by-play man. Wrapped up the interview at about 6, and ducked into the media room to start putting the piece together. You can read all about The General in this weekend’s usual excellent Sunday Gazette.

Anyway, when Rutecki made his decision to lower crowd volume by one, I still had my tape recorder in my pocket. I knew Mike MacAdam, covering the game for us, was not going to leave press row to get an explanation from this poor apple.

So I did, just in case Mike wanted a quote or two for his story “notebook.” I spotted the ejectee loitering around the front doors to the Times Union Center, the entrance from South Pearl Street, and asked him what happened.

He was madder than a crow who had been knocked out of a tree with a snowball. No — a cannonball!

“I made a comment about the guy’s hair being out of place, the ref,” said the guy, who told me he lived in Clifton Park but refused to let me name names. He kept his identity to himself.

“I said, ‘You can’t see those calls, don’t worry about your hair, worry about the game,” he continued. “No cussing, no nothing. And he threw me out of the game. I thought it was ridiculous.”

The fan, dressed in black with a shaved head, received a bit of a hero’s exit. He got cheers, and slapped palms as he was escorted out into the cold, cold world.

I’m not crazy about fans who become stars of the game. And I’m not crazy about people who show up at any game, and scream, bellow and gripe instead of cheer. Noise does not equal cheering, not for me. In Tampa Bay, baseball fans cart in cowbells. In Cleveland, the Indians have that dolt in the center field stands beating huge drums when the Tribe is batting.

Siena’s crowd really got on Canisius’ Robert Goldsberry last night, after he caused a bad collision that left Siena’s Alex Franklin on the floor for about a 30-count. Every time Goldsberry got the ball afterward, Siena fans drowned him in boos. Didn’t help the kid’s case that he seemed to be complaining to his teammates during blown plays early in the game. Maybe Robert is the type of guy you kind of hate to play against ... and kind of hate to play with, too.

Anyway, there were fish-headed fans on the job 10 or 15 rows above me last night. Bluster! Outrage! Annoyance! Had they all bet 10 grand on the game? The way these guys were calling for justice, I thought a bunch of them would be lighting torches and storming the court by the end of the game. Frankenstein, Goldsberry and the referees were all going to the windmill.

Still, the star fan made a decent point.

“You never see somebody thrown out unless you’ve thrown something on the court,” he said. “I didn’t say anything derogatory or throw anything on the court. I don’t understand why he told me I had to leave.”

The guy said he was in his 40s. He said he was a football coach. “Yeah, I’m a passionate guy,” he said. “I’m a fan, I’m passionate.”

Mike didn’t need any quotes, and I know why. We didn’t want to give this guy too much of a ride.

The story was on the court, after all. Not in the stands.

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January 12, 2010
10:04 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Jeff, thanks again for your intrepid pursuit of the ejected fan's side of things. The guy wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary - loud, yes, obnoxious, yes - but not violating any stricture printed on the back of his ticket. It was a weird, unique experience, watching a ref stop a game just to kick out a loudmouth. Lighten up, Francis.

January 12, 2010
10:11 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Oh, by the way, not a Fran McCaffery reference, OK? (See: Stripes, Bill Murray, Warren Oates, Sgt. Hulka, etc.)

January 13, 2010
10:27 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Mike, I got the Stripes reference right away ....

January 13, 2010
3 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

That wasn't directed toward you.

January 14, 2010
5:49 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

I know. Next time, try to be a little clearer ... and try to use a "Godfather" reference. Something like, "That fan looked about as happy as Sonny did, when he was getting riddled by bullets at the causeway." Or, "Tessio looked happier at the end of The Godfather than that fan did at the beginning of the second half." Probably figure out a Willy Cicci line too ....

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