Where the Players Play: The Arrival
The 2002 NCAA Tournament came to a close in Atlanta, Georgia. Three games in three days with an amazing run of bars in between. We arrived Firday and after a lengthy stay at the Atlanta airport, we embarked to our hotel in Buckhead, a burb-like area of Atlanta filled with bars, restaurants, tournament spectators, and locals. We spent our first night on the town at Moondogs, an open-'til-4am dance club and bar packed with Georgia's finest. Being the savvy seat-seaker that I am, the boys and I found a booth at the center of attention and gawked at the passing scenery which included well-dressed co-eds from the college mecca in the area: Georgia, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, and Georgia Tech were well represented.
Saturday, Game On
Saurday the town began to buzz. We slept late and headed downtown. The CNN Center, adjacent to Phillips Arena and just blocks from the Georgia Dome, had a mall-like food court serving $5 32-ounce beers and was packed with college basketball fans. Indiana and Kansas were the most represented of the final four schools. We conned our way into NCAA "Hoop City" a massive display of games, activities and a replica of the actual court and took a bunch of "goodie" bags and other free stuff. We settled into a bar that opened up into the Hawks basketball court in Phillips Arena and knocked down a few before heading to the semi-final games. The crowd of 50,000 plus were electric as Indiana knocked out #2 seed Oklahoma, and Maryland defeated Kansas.
The late ending of the second game stopped no-one, Buckhead's streets were filled that night. Crowds of people lined up for a chance to get inside the Buckhead ESPN Zone, and even more just partied in masses inside and outside of bars.
Easter Sunday, A Day of Rest?
Sunday was a food-filled day as I made up for lost time with my favorite friend, MEAT. Our Easter Sunday dinner was at Mortan's where I had a couple of Belvedere Martinis in honor of the Godfather to go with my double filet.
JJ and I headed to Turner Field for opening day, but the scalpers were relentless and we never made it into the game. We then took a walking tour of Atlanta's not-so-friendly parts, hiking all the way back to the CNN Center and seeing the congregation of fans beginning to come together. We grabbed a $5 beer before cabbing it back to Buckhead.
We rounded up the other two group members and made our way back to the CNN Center, which was now completely filled with Indiana fans, Maryland fans, and shrewd businessmen looking to make a buck scalping their tickets. Suddenly, the tap beer was gone, and 16 ounce cans were on sale for $40 per six-pack. The laws of supply and demand were in full effect. A sea of red, 5 to 1 in favor of Indiana, congregated outside Jocks and Jills, a CNN Center bar that opens to the outside towards the Georgia Dome. Mellamcamp songs rang through the air as we made our way through the crowd and to the game.
Indiana fought hard, but came up short, as Maryland won its first NCAA Basketball National Championship. Following the game and the cutting down of the nets, CBS piped in "One Shining Moment" to the remaining crowd as the Terrapins stood on a podium at center court...definitely a moment to remember.
Despite fighting complete exhaustion, we made our way out in Buckhead following the game, and returned to our hotel just in time for me to get 1.5 hours of sleep before catching a cab to the airport.
It was a spectacular weekend worthy of UMTailgate.com. Special thanks to JJ, Marcel, and Steve for making the weekend the alcoholic haze that it was...and to Bill for coming through once again.
The money stays in the family this year as Bubba came through picking 68% of the tournament correctly. Runner up was our tailgating neighbor Gar. Stephen Hernandez came in third by winning the tiebreaker with his buddy Dave Callaham. Special thanks to all of the participants and congratulations to the winners.
The Frozen Four and the Spring Game are right around the corner...stay tuned.
Where the Players Play: The Arrival