Moby Arena, I hardly knew ya

grabowskiMugStanding up usually isn’t difficult for me. But after the CSU men’s basketball team finished off Nevada and held its senior night festivities, I couldn’t get out of my chair.

On press row, reporters around me packed up their laptops and dashed to the media room. Fans headed for the exits. Players and coaches jogged to the locker room.

I remained seated on a black plastic folding chair that I couldn’t scoot back without running into the stairs leading up into the stands, because Saturday was my last game in Moby Arena as a student journalist.

The thought had occurred to me during the week leading up to the game and many times throughout the contest, but it didn’t become real until I tried to get out of that chair.

I sat there remembering the first game I ever covered in Moby Arena –– a women’s basketball exhibition against Adams State. Then-sophomore Kim Mestdagh scored 30 points because the team didn’t have enough depth to put in any backups.

It started something beautiful.

It gave me a second home that I watched evolve from a shell of concrete and glass into one of the most intimidating arenas in the country.

I first witnessed the phenomenon they call “Moby Magic” when No. 5 Nebraska came to town with their legion of red-clad supporters for a volleyball game on an early September evening in 2011.

Sitting on that same press row, I watched a white-out crowd rise to their feet as one when the team ran out of their locker room to the opening violin beats of Fort Minor’s “Remember the Name.” My arm hair stood on edge and I felt my stomach jump. The electricity in that building was unlike anything I’d ever felt and propelled CSU to come back from a 2-0 hole to win in the most dramatic fifth set I’ve ever seen.

Those days are gone. And now, I’m looking around the arena, taking in the brown walled corners and plastic green seats for the final time. The band packed their instruments and began to file out.

I can’t separate that band loft from my memories of Joe Spina, the legendary “Dancing Band Man.”

He directed the band for my freshman and sophomore years, and whenever they played Green Day’s “Holiday” would bust out the craziest dance moves and kicks. When the song reached its climax, he’d rip off his jacket and tie, swinging them both around driving the whole crowd nuts.
The energy he brought to the crowd, and by extension the players, probably won a handful of games.

I was blessed enough to see the Dancing Band Man’s final performance in Moby Arena at a women’s basketball game against San Diego State and a reprisal against Wyoming last year.

His performances were the loudest I’d ever heard Moby until this year.

The stars aligned for my senior year to produce the greatest season in CSU basketball history.

Moby became a fortress. Fans stood in the freezing cold for hours for tickets to New Mexico. The student section playfully harassed everyone from Anthony Bennett to Leonard Washington.

Giant heads made their first appearances and turned into a staple.

Eventually though, I knew that I couldn’t stay there anymore and I stood up. It caused my legs physical pain to perform the motion.

I walked across the arena floor with measured, deliberate slowness, uniquely aware that it would be the last time I took those steps.

When I moved past the seats and almost into the tunnel, I looked down and saw a metal line on the floor separating the hardwood of the arena and the tunnel’s concrete.

It was a physical as well as a psychological boundary. One more step and my last night as a student journalist in Moby Arena would be over. I wanted to stay there forever, in the place that defined my college experience.

But life doesn’t work like that.

I took that step onto the concrete and haven’t looked back.

Sports Editor Kyle Grabowski can be reached at sports@collegian.com.