Gulf news sends Navy spectators home

January 17, 1991|By Kelly Gilbert | Kelly Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

Two missed free throws with time expired cost Navy an 83-82 basketball game in Annapolis against Richmond, but the game quickly lost importance when the team and the fans learned the U.S. was at war in the Persian Gulf.

Nearly half the fans went home after a halftime announcement last night that U.S. fighters had launched air strikes on targets in Iraq, but the teams were in the locker rooms and didn't hear it.

Tom and Barbara Rees of Ellicott City, parents of former team captain Cliff Rees, a Marine stationed in Saudi Arabia, heard the announcement in the stands. Barbara Rees leaned on her husband's shoulder and cried.

Moments later, Navy player Mel Davis went four rows into the stands, wrapped his arms around Barbara Rees and said, "Don't worry. He's going to be all right. I love you."

"I just had this funny sensation all day," Barbara Rees said later. "It was in the pit of my stomach that this would happen tonight."

After the game, Navy coach Peter Herrmann herded his players into the locker room to watch President Bush address the nation.

Herrmann learned of the attack 40 seconds before the game started. "I thought the best thing at that point was to just go out and play the game and go from there," he said later. "It's been a very sober, somber day for us."

Athletic director Jack Lengyel said the rest of the team's season would be canceled only if a crisis situation puts the academy or midshipmen in jeopardy.

Elsewhere, the game between No. 5 North Carolina and North Carolina State was postponed in Chapel Hill, Wayne Gretzky urged the NHL to cancel its all-star game and NBA players and fans held hands after war broke out.

All pro sports events went on as scheduled, but the NBA said it would "seek additional guidance from the White House and State Department" today.

The NHL also is standing by. But Gretzky said he thought the league should call off Saturday's all-star game in Chicago.

"If I had any say, I'd cancel the game. I'd tell everybody to go home and evaluate what is going on," said Gretzky. His cousin, a Marine pilot, was sent to the Middle East this week.

"We could win a thousand basketball games in a row. That isn'worth one American," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said after his No. 8 team beat Connecticut 81-79 in overtime.

In Milwaukee, Bucks players held hands in a circle before their game against Indiana. Fans at the Bradley Center also held hands and sang the national anthem. "It's real now. We're committed," Bucks center Jack Sikma said. "They [American troops] have our respect, our support and our prayers."

Nervous, solemn fans watched TV reports and listened to radios as Australian Open tennis matches began at the same time American bombers struck Baghdad.

"No more war. Give peace a chance," a small group chanted at the start of a match between defending champion Ivan Lendl and American Scott Davis.

"I'll be singing with a great deal of emotion," said Andi Henig, moments before she performed the national anthem at the Meadowlands. "I'm already beginning to get choked up. In a situation like this you begin to think about the words that you are singing."

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