Saturday, November 05, 2005

A mess of toilet paper

Last night I got to witness what has to be one of the coolest traditions in college basketball, anywhere in the country. First of all, there's something to be said for things that small schools can get away with in regards to tradition. After working for sports information at a big-time SEC school, I can testify to the high security and control that comes along with top-notch big program athletics.

Anyway, last night I went to John Brown University (NAIA) in Siloam Springs for their first men's basketball game of the year. At some point in the 1980's, a tradition started that continues to this day. After JBU scores their first field goal of the year, students and everyone throws rolls of toilet paper out on the court, literally covering the floor with toilet paper, stopping the game for about 5 minutes and getting JBU their first technical foul of the season.

I saw pictures of it last year, but didn't get to go. Last night I got to go and watch the first game of the year. I was standing along the endline in the corner nearest to the student section (which fills one side of the small arena). JBU had about 3 or 4 opportunities to score that they missed to start the game. Everytime they would get close, you could look up into the student section and see the stands full of arms cocked back holding rolls of toilet paper, ready to throw. When Alex Terry finally scored for JBU, my entire field of vision turned white as the air and then the court was filled with flying toilet paper.

The game stops, JBU gets a techical, and then everyone, including ballboys, players and coaches, begins to clean up the massive quantities of toilet paper that would probably stretch from Siloam Springs to the moon and back. After about five minutes, the court got back to normal and the game got underway once again. I've been to some big-time college basketball games (UGA vs Kentucky, SEC tournament in Atlanta), and I don't think any 20,000 seat arena full of Duke fans or Kentucky fans could compare to the atmosphere at this game.

I don't know if the fans stay this loud all season, but JBU basketball is a big deal in Siloam. JBU managed to win the national championship last year after qualifiying for the NAIA tournament in the middle of the pack last year. Most games are usually packed in an arena that probably holds less than Bentonville's gymnasium. And that place was LOUD.

Anyway, if you're ever around Northwest Arkansas around the first week of November, be sure to stop by John Brown University in Siloam and watch the toilet paper game. Lots of fun.

And if you need to know where it is, just follow the signs from the interstate that point you to "God's Country". I'm serious. There's a huge sign when you enter Siloam Springs that says "Welcome to Siloam Springs, Where Jesus is Lord. Welcome to God's Country." It's one of those ultra-christian fundamentalist-type towns where everyone supposedly goes to church. (yet somehow poverty, racism, gambling still exist. And nobody in Siloam drinks, but the Okla/Ark border liquor stores just five minutes west are always full of Arkansas license plates.)

As far as being "God's Country", I don't know if that's what Bono had in mind when he wrote the song, and I'm definitely going to be depressed if it really is the promised land.

I mean, do you really think that God's promised land wouldn't have at least one place where you can get a pint of Guinness or Newcastle?

(TP game photo from the JBU Athletics website)