Video by Keith Albertson, CTV 11
AIR FORCE ACADEMY — In case you missed it, the Colorado State men’s team came out the victor of what was supposed to be a “basketball game” against Air Force on the road Saturday.
Instead, what CSU won was an embarrassing excuse for any sporting event — a game that was littered with 45 personal fouls whose legitimacy make adjectives such as “questionable” or “shaky” sound like understatements.
The officiating was flat out terrible for both teams. The game was continuously disrupted for calls that wouldn’t even fly with the guy shooting around at your local YMCA who nobody likes to play with.
As the game wore on into the final minutes, the whistles sounded exponentially more often, as if officials Eric Curry, Kelly Self and Dan Chrisman had everyone in Clune Arena on a hidden camera television show. With the exception of those three, all 3,781 in attendance had about enough of it.
Team members and fans, blue shirts and green shirts alike (even those of us on press row) started to root for the game just to be over to escape it all.
However, none of it seemed to get under anyone’s skin more than a man I now refer to as “Patriot Tom.”
Tom is a die-hard Air Force fan who spent the game carefully observing from the front row of the Falcon VIP section, eyes wide open for all 2,400 basketball seconds. Tom’s chair just so happened to be the very first seat to my left — the same spot he’s occupied every home game for the past three years he’s had season tickets.
There was no doubt about Tom’s allegiance with a now-struggling Air Force team because he looked about as American as it gets. He was sporting a buzz cut hairstyle, freshly-trimmed mustache and an American flag T-shirt that was tucked into his Wrangler blue jeans. The icing on the cake though, was his red, white and blue Sochi Olympic lanyard that proudly displayed his “Air Force season ticket holder” laminate around his neck.
With every terrible call that went in favor of the Rams, Tom would release an ear-piercing scream at each referee as if they were Barack Obama trying to take away his right to own a gun.
It made me despise Tom for the entire first half. But it was also why I wanted become his friend when the game clock hit 3:39 of the second half.
Aside from rebounds, the Falcons controlled all aspects of Saturday’s game until the final four minutes. But once CSU guard Jon Octeus hit the go-ahead 3-pointer from the corner with 3:39 left to play, it was clear it was going to be the dagger in both Air Force’s loss and Tom’s heart.
The shot that boosted Colorado State to its biggest lead of the game put a look on Tom’s face as if he was having a Vietnam flashback. This was the point I decided to check in on the mental state of the stranger to my left. After all, it was something a Broncos fan could relate with.
“I’ve seen some pretty bad calls in my time here, but never like this. This is so bad that it’s funny. Who knows what constitutes a foul anymore?” Tom replied. “As much as I want to be mad, it won’t do anybody any good or change the game.”
I have to admit: the humility of his response caught me off guard, as I was expecting to get quotes that wouldn’t be appropriate to print in a newspaper.
In the final 3:39 after I sparked up my conversation with my table partner, there were four more Air Force fouls which fueled a 16-4 CSU run that slapped the Falcons with their eighth loss over a nine-game span.
Saturday’s game is one that we’re all wishing we could erase — but nobody more than Patriot Tom. Shaking his hand gave closure to it all, and was worth the four hours I spent in a car to get it.
Collegian Sports Editor Quentin Sickafoose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @QSickafoose.