MINNEAPOLIS - They boldly went where no home run had ever gone before, all for the love of their home team.
More than 44,000 ventured into the Metrodome last night for the Final Four. Thousands would have been better off in front of a television, but they nonetheless forked over hundreds of dollars for seats that were as far away from the action as you could get and still be breathing the same air as Juan Dixon.
"We knew what we were buying," Severn resident Richard Carr said. "A guy at work won eight seats in the [NCAA] lottery, but he's a member of the Terrapin Club, so when Maryland made it, he sold these. He did say they were in the nosebleed section. The seats we bought can't be much worse, but I can live with this. You don't know if this is going to become a regular occurrence or a once-in-a-lifetime thing."
Carr and his son, Scott, were literally out in right field, in seats the Minnesota Twins rarely sell.
Carr works for the Department of Defense at Fort Meade, and a friend called him at home Monday night to alert him to the Final Four tickets that popped up on the office's online trading post. The Carrs gladly paid the list price of $125 apiece for tickets that would get them into last night's doubleheader and tomorrow's championship game. Scott is a sophomore at Glen Burnie High on a field trip he'll never forget.
"I signed him out of school Wednesday afternoon," Richard Carr said. "We drove. I've been all over the world, but never to this part of the country, and it was a pretty nice drive. Left Thursday morning, spent that night in South Bend [Ind.]. The weather forecast wasn't good, so we woke up and drove straight here. My wife [Janice] is at the Mall of America, fulfilling a lifelong dream."
The Carrs' tickets were in Row 23 of Section 204. They moved over four sections and down 12 rows to vacant seats, unsold because they are so close to being obstructed by the portable grandstand erected across from the benches.
While the Carrs rested in the shadow of Notre Dame's Golden Dome on Thursday night, Tim Mongold drew a Maryland logo and "I need a ticket" on posterboard and headed to the college slam-dunk contest at Concordia College in St. Paul, Minn. Mongold moved to the Midwest after a stint in the military, but he grew up in the Allegany County town of Barton, and decided it was worth it to spend $300, more than double the face value, for his seat in Row 19 of the upper level.
"I kind of questioned the worth," said Mongold, 39, who manages a distribution center. "If Maryland wasn't in it, I'd have a tough time paying that. I saw Cal Ripken's 3,000th hit here last April 15, bought tickets for that whole series. I saw Maryland in the Sweet 16 here last year, and had much better seats. My mom said, `I'm going to watch TV tonight, to see if I can see you.' I told her, `Don't bother.' "
Ninety minutes before Arizona and Michigan State tipped off in the first semifinal, Shane Hawes and his father, Tom, rested in the upper level's Row 24, seven rows from the bubble.
"We had a workout in the gym this morning," Tom Hawes said. "We didn't expect another. I hope there's a doctor up here to treat us for the thin air."
A 61-year-old government worker who immigrated to the United States from England in 1964, Tom possessed good cheer that wasn't disturbed by tickets that plainly read "Distant View." He lives in Silver Spring. His son went to Springbrook High with Chuck Driesell, Lefty's son. His daughter, Stacey, played for Wake Forest, and the Haweses are serious hoops fans.
This was the eighth straight year that Shane entered the annual lottery the NCAA conducts for its limited general sale of Final Four tickets. Last November, he received confirmation that he had won two sets, and the reward increased when Maryland won the West Regional.
"Fortunately," Tom Hawes said, "we were both given binoculars for Christmas."