On our epic pilgrimage to Evansville IN in 1971 for the NCAA Division II hoop Elite 8 tournament, after learning what it meant to have the bridge freeze before the highway (see my post of April 2009), we did get to see some great basketball. In the first round, Assumption College and Southwest Louisiana State, despite both being ranked either No.1 or No.2 depending upon which national poll you read, played against each other. Of course, the tournament was held on the home court of the University of Evansville (they competed in Division II in those days) and as hosts of the tourney, Evansville, apparently, had some say in the pairings. In the second round, they got to play the winner of the AC / SWL bloodbath.
The AC / SWL game was a superb run and gun battle, with the Ragin’ Cajuns winning the slugfest 110-99 (if my memory serves me well). The next night, the Evansville Aces easily defeated the weary and spent Cajuns. Luck of the draw or canny scheduling?
But this is about the party after the Hounds’ defeat by the Cajuns!
The party was held in the hotel where some of the teams and many of the fans were staying (that hotel was converted later to some sort of residency – Ken Szymanski would know about this from his days as a city planner in Evansville). People and players were everywhere; bathtubs were full of beer and wine coolers. Cheerleaders were pouring beer down players’ throats (other teams’ players, of course). Someone had brought a mechanical hockey game and guys were sitting on the floor playing the game.
As I wandered about the hotel, it became apparent that I had run out of my beverage of choice that evening (scotch). I met some of the good folks from Old Dominion University (VA) who offered me some of the “punch” that they were drinking. I had a taste. Pretty sweet-tasting stuff without much kick, I thought to myself. “Have some more of the Moose Juice, y’all,” they said, “but be careful – it sneaks up on you!” “What’s in it,” I asked. “Fruit cocktail and grain alcohol,” they replied. Within the hour I was virtually blind.
At some point approaching midnight, it was decided that we had to head back to our motel. Jim could drive, but he did not know the way. Lou could not drive and also did not know the way, but he could (barely) read the signs. I could not drive and could not see, but I knew the way. So, Lou navigated, read the signs and I barked orders. Jim followed my directions and drove while John moaned “we’re all gonna die!”
We made it back to the motel. We did not die. But later that early morning as we attempted to sober up, we listened to Radio Havana (heard very clearly on the AM dial) break news of a wholesale retreat of US and South Vietnamese forces in the face of a furious Viet Cong and North Vietnamese attack. CBS, NBC, ABC and the Pentagon all spoke of a strategic withdrawal. History later informed us that Radio Havana was correct.
Yeah, we drank too much and maybe Jim was a little too “tired” to be driving, but it was 1971 and, damn it, we were in Evansville! Ken, did they really convert that hotel to a residence after that party?