D.C. fan takes a wild March to Final Four NCAA: Gary Fedorochko, a patent attorney with a passion for basketball, is driving and flying 15,000 miles to see 21 tournament games.

March 21, 1997|By KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Gary Fedorochko isn't a fan who paints his body in team colors, wears zany wigs or cheers while shirtless in freezing weather.

He's way beyond that.

This from a guy who calls March a holy month, gives up dating, and drives and flies 15,000 miles cross country just to catch nearly two dozen college tournament basketball games in person.

Last week Fedorochko went back and forth in North Carolina for the NCAA championships. This week he is bouncing from coast to coast for more. By the time it's over, he will have logged more miles than even the winning team. He calls his 21-game trip "Black Jack," named for the game in which cards equaling 21 is a winning hand.

"He is absolutely crazy about college basketball. This is his favorite time of year," said longtime friend Paul Ziebert of Milwaukee. "He will travel anywhere, any time. I mean, for basketball? I love the game, but he's totally nuts."

Fedorochko's most ambitious pilgrimage led him yesterday from the East Coast to the San Francisco Bay area -- just long enough to grab a meal, haggle with scalpers and witness the Stanford vs. Utah and Kentucky vs. St. Joseph showdown at the San Jose Arena. By the time the weekend is over, he will have visited California twice for about 20 hours total.

"San Jose is the only venue I don't have have tickets for," Fedorochko, 32, said Wednesday from his Washington office, just hours before he was to board a plane for the West Coast.

"It's going to be a struggle to get a single ticket, which I'll have to buy in the parking lot. I mean, it'll happen. I'm desperate for a ticket, but I won't let them, the scalpers, know how desperate."

Fedorochko, a patent attorney in Washington and self-described stinker on the basketball court, said he's obsessed with college basketball.

Obsession means he flew into San Jose International Airport yesterday at 2: 29 p.m. Pacific Time, where a friend of a friend was to pick him up. By 11 p.m, he was to be back at the airport fly home to Virginia for a quick shower, shave and change of clothes before driving to Baltimore, then flying to Syracuse, N.Y., for two tournament games tonight. By 7 a.m. tomorrow he is to fly out of Syracuse to San Jose for two games before heading back to the East Coast.

Last week was simpler, just Virginia to Winston-Salem, N.C., to ,, Charlotte, N.C., for first-round games. Then back to Winston-Salem and Charlotte for second-round games and finally back to Virginia.

Sure, Fedorochko says he loves professional sports and holds season tickets for the Washington Bullets and the Orioles, but he considers college basketball to be the holy ground when it comes to organized sports. That's because, he says, any competitor can win the NCAA championship. Everyone is equal. And Fedorochko is a sucker for an old-fashioned upset.

"It's not so much the teams I follow as it is the game," he said.

That's why yesterday he was "rooting for Stanford," the underdog against second-ranked Utah, and today, California, a team whose every game he will see in the tournament.

Fedorochko said he spends between $3,000 and $5,000 a year to attend sporting events, favorite dating spots of his. This total does not include money spent on playing golf, ice hockey and softball.

He arranges vacation time around March Madness. Last year he broke a personal record by attending 13 tournament games (he has seen 80 games in his lifetime), a precursor to this year's mission.

But, the sacrifices do not nearly end there.

In 1989, when Fedorochko's sister Lisa was planning her marriage, she knew better than to interfere with her brother's basketball duties.

"We knew March was out, there was no point to even consider it," said Lisa's husband, John Danahy, of Roswell, Ga. "We would have ended up sitting in front of the TV set, the whole reception, looking for Gary."

For Gary Fedorochko, marriage can be managed.

"I will never get married in the month of March," Fedorochko said. "And if I ever have to, through abstaining, avoid doing something that means me having a child born in March, I will do it.

"I'm telling you, college basketball is my calling. March is my holy month."

Pub Date: 3/21/97

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