Monday, March 23, 2009

Journal: The Cherry Crusade to Miami

After the announcement that the Temple's men's basketball team was to play in Miami on Friday, die-hard Temple fans everywhere hopped on their computers to look up plane tickets and hotel rooms with dreams of going down to see the game. One such fan was Luke Butler, President of the Cherry Crusade, the Temple student org responsible for the student section and festivities at all of the sporting events. You know them as the crazy dudes in the front row with their bodies painted and heads capped with Santa hats.

However, Butler went above and beyond any other Temple fan and immediately set off on what was a 70 hour roller coaster ride of calling alumni, administrators, hotels, bus companies, media, students, and any other person you could think of that would be a component of making a trip to Miami. Finally his efforts paid off and with the help of nearly $10,000 in alumni contributions, created a trip that included a bus ride to and from Miami, a hotel room, and tickets to the game for $200 dollars a student.

Butler then set off to work recruiting students for the trip, with a minimum number of 7 to make it happen. He and other members of the Cherry Crusade handed out fliers to frat parties and slid them under every freshman dorm door, and also made Facebook advertisements. In the end, their efforts paid off and at 12 pm Thursday, a Miami-bound bus containing 30 Temple students departed from the Liacouras Center. I was one of them, and this is the story.

Departing, 12 pm, Thursday
The bus is nice as hell. Leather seats, TV screens every 3 rows, counter and mini fridge in the back, blinds to pull over the windows, and a pretty good amount of leg room. It's also only about 2/3 full, so that leaves room for plenty of people to stretch out or store their stuff comfortably. Everyone cheered as the bus rolled out of the Liacouras Center, excited to go to Miami.

Waffle House in Brunswick, Georgia. 2 am, Friday.
The trip is going on its 14th hour and 900th mile, both about the 2/3 mark. We never really stopped for dinner so this is kind of a dinner/breakfast, a binner? The trip down has actually been pretty easy. Lots of movies, PB & J's, and people checking basketball scores on their phones. The South is kinda scary, one gas station we stopped at was selling "Drill, Baby, Drill" t-shirts next to ones that said "Urban Hunting" with guys sticking rifled scopes out of port-a-potties. I don't know if I want to know.

Our waitresses at the Waffle House are nice enough to rub their eyes and cook up 19 breakfast meals, while exclaiming "ya'll talk funny." Someone starts playing a shitty song on the juke box and I return to the bus groggy and greasy, stopping for a picture on the way.

Gametime. 2:30 pm, Friday.
Most of the bus woke up at about 10 am on Friday. I don't care how comfortable a bus is, it's damn near impossible to fall asleep on one and not feel like you've been through a grinder. However, general excitement filled the bus as we saw signs for well known Florida cities and Miami mile markers. We stopped at the team's hotel to drop off some tubas for the band and people cheered as they saw some of the Temple basketball players walking outside the hotel. We rolled into downtown Miami at about noon and got off the bus outside our hotel. The weather was gorgeous, about 75 degrees and sunny, such a relief from the chill of PA, especially because we heard it had snowed the night before(suckers). Mind you nobody had showered in over a day, but we decided we all wanted to paint up and make it to see Syracuse play Stephen F. Austin before our game instead of worrying about hygiene. About half the people painted their upper bodies, while the rest at least had some kind of face paint. We walked the three blocks towards the arena, rolling deep and signing fight songs along the way. One guy had an Arizona shirt on. "Fuck you!" some of us yelled. One guy had a Syracuse shirt on and said let's go Owls. "Fuck you!" we yelled again. "Let'sss- gooo Tem-ple!" It was time to get rowdy. Once inside the arena we realized how good our seats were; even with the basket and in the second row. We watched Syracuse whoop up on Stephen F. Austin, and got increasingly rowdy towards the end of their game. Mascot notes: the Syracuse Orange, while entertaining and quirky, did the St. Hoe's Hawk flap in our direction, prompting several raised middle fingers. The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack was just some gigantic, 7 foot muscled dude in a flannel shirt, and did nothing but shoulder a double bladed axe.

Game time, and it was what we expected. We were loud and noisy, easily the best(only?) student section there, making noise on every possession. I'm assuming most of you saw the game, so I won't cover the details, but needless to say our hopes, fears, and energy level went with the Owls as the game cycled from close to near blowout. However, I think most of us just had that feeling that Temple was going to pull this one out. When Dionte hit a 3 to make it a 3 point game with about 5 minutes to go, we almost knew we were going to win. When he missed the next 3 to tie it and Arizona State scored on the next possession, that's when the big gulp hit. As the final minute wound down and it became evident that Temple would fall, the tears started to roll. Dionte's father, Mr. Christmas, as well as several fans and media members came over to console what was a quiet and heartbroken student section, and we were the last ones in the arena, prompting a security guard to come over and politely ask us to leave. Once outside, the skies had become cloudy and the temperature had dropped several degrees, ironically mirroring our own sentiments. We soaked in the moment for a bit longer, and then made the walk back to the hotel.

The night after. 9 pm, Friday.
Oh yea, we're in Miami. Temple may have lost, but we're still in one of the most desirable locations in the country. Immediately after the game we checked into the hotel, which by the way was despicable. You can read the 1 starred reviews here. My personal favorite: somebody once found a bloody child's hand print on their wall. Our rooms weren't too bad, save for ridiculously hard mattresses, the smell of smoke, 14 TV channels, half of which were in Spanish, and a toilet that overflowed, bringing shit with it. Oh wait, our rooms were actually terrible.

Anyways, some of us headed straight to the beach, including myself. It was just before sundown, but the water was still warm enough to go in. Oh and other thing, girls and cars. Lambos were frequent, Ferraris common, Porshes everywhere, and Audis laughed at. Same scale for the women.

Other people on the trip got a bite to eat first and hit the beach a bit later, and most everyone pregamed and then ventured out to the local 18 to enter, 21 to drink clubs. It was 10 for girls and 20 for guys, with a 10 dollar fee for anyone wearing shorts. Suddenly, frat parties didn't sound too bad.

A day in Miami. 10 am to 10 pm, Saturday.
This made the $200 worth it. By noon, I was putting back a 6 pack of Miller Genuine Draft on sunny south beach, playing sublime from my cell. Every once in a while I would make the effort to go in the water, which was as warm as the air. Hey! I can see my feet in the water, this ain't no Jersey shore. Most everyone on the trip was doing the same, and taking turns venturing around the area, shopping in stores or grabbing a bite to eat. Around 4 pm, scattered rains came, dropping the temperature a few degrees and sending people running for cover. Still, we worked our way around the shops and let the atmosphere and culture of Miami sink in, until we finally settled down to an award winning Italian place for dinner. And man, was it Italian. Our waiters spoke with such a thick accent that you just kind of nodded your head and assumed they were going to take care of you and bring you something delicious. And that they did. Everyone agreed the food was great, and the atmosphere and service perfecto. After dinner about half the group, or the half that was of age, loaded up on beer and liquor in anticipation of the bus ride home. We boarded the bus at about 10 pm, and set our course for Philadelphia.

The party bus and journey home, 10 pm Saturday- 7 pm, Sunday
Man this bus thing is easier with a few drinks in your system. My friend and I picked up a 6 pack to add to a few stragglers from our case the night before, and by 1 am a number of us were getting pretty goofy towards the back of the bus. Kind of reminded you of those days shooting spitballs at 3rd graders from the "cool seats" at the back. It also made falling asleep a hell of a lot easier. Next thing you know it was 10 am and we're shambling off the bus, shielding our eyes from the morning sun as we made our way over to a Cracker Barrel. Now this was the South, everyone in the place looked like Hank Hill's extended family. However, the food was pretty greasy and good. At least everyone is super polite down there. We loaded back on the bus and made our way back to Philly, watching movies and checking scores, much like the trip down. Oh, we also hadn't showered since before going in the ocean the day before. Yea, gross. And sunburn. Yea, ow. When we finally arrived back on Broad street at about 7 pm, everyone was tired, hungry, gross, and smelly. But when you looked at the faces and heard the goodbyes, the success of the trip became obvious. One person stood up and thanked Luke Butler for setting up the trip, initiating a round of applause. Temple had lost, and we had spent 40 of the past 76 hours on a bus, but if this trip wasn't what college is all about, then nothing is.

Movies watched: Old School, Super Bad, the Dark Night, Bad Boys II, Dumb and Dumber, Ace Ventura, It's Always Sunny, and about 15 minutes of The Sweetest Thing(booo!)

Food: Roasted Chicken foot long from Subway, an apple from the scary gas station, chocolate chip waffle from Waffle house at 2 am, $6 hotdog and soft pretzel at the Arena, 2 slices of pizza from some joint on South beach, Subway again, a full pizza at the Italian restaurant, french toast and sausage at the cracker barrel, and a shitload of pretzels on the bus.

Sources: Temple to Miami by Luke Butler, Cherry Crusaders Embark To Miami byMatthew Petrillo.

Photo Credits: Nicole Melfi, Sergei Blair/TTN, Nicole Burry

1 comment:

Nicole Burry said...

haha...found this article from googling my name. fun trip!