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Mason and American Factizzles

Mason fans probably do this too. (By Preston Keres - TWP).

Local upstarts American and George Mason are obviously fellow travelers this month. Both have coaches with strong ties to the University of Virginia. Both have pep bands that, independently, have adopted Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" as their anthems. (And UMBC has "I'm a Believer." Go figure.) And both have been shipped to the East Region, which means two Saturdays from now in Charlotte, the pride of Fairfax could be facing the pride of upper Northwest for a berth in the Final Four. Where the winner would presumably face either top-seeded Kansas out of the Midwest, or a team of mutant seven-eyed third graders from Saskatoon, but work with me here. Anyhow, presenting yet more similarities.

1) George Mason forward Chris Fleming screams a lot on the court. Bellows, maybe.

"Because he's a lumberjack," teammate Isaiah Tate said.

"It's a Manassas thing, I guess," Mason guard John Vaughan said.

"Look at him, he lifts weights for fun and he wore a red and black plaid shirt one day," Tate continued, pointing at Fleming.

"And he drives a pickup truck," someone else shouted out.

"He wears Wranglers and boots and cowboy hats on weekends," Tate concluded.

2) American Coach Jeff Jones has also been known to yell, and yet he has a softer side, as evidenced by his nationally televised crying jag after the Patriot League final.

"I've gotten a little bit of feedback on that," he said today. "Kind of taking the Tom Hanks line 'there's no crying in baseball,' they've transferred that over to 'there's no crying in basketball.' "

His players said they weren't surprised by Jones's display of emotions--"I don't blame him for crying. I mean, I actually cried myself," Derrick Mercer said--but they said Jones has several other emotional settings. Like humor, for example.

"Sometimes my players don't get my sense of humor," Jones said.

"We'll just be like Ohhhhhkay," Mercer confirmed. "Some people give the fake laugh, some people will be, like, looking around."

John Vaughan, doing something. (By John McDonnell - TWP)

"He says a couple things and looks at the coaches and the coaches snicker, and some of the players just look around, just trying to think what's going on right now," Garrison Carr agreed.

3) While Jones makes jokes that go over players' heads, the Patriots make jokes ABOUT players' heads. For example, Tate is known as "Tall Head."

"I'll explain: my head is similar to a ski slope," he said.

"See look, the average head starts right there and stops right here," teammate Darryl Monroe said, drawing imaginary lines on Tate's noggin. "But don't you see the axis of his skull at the top and the bottom, so you can actually go like this with two hands," he said, stacking his hands on top of Tate's skull, "and still don't get to the top. Oh yeah, and [Cam Long] has the shortest haircut ever. Turn around, turn around," he instructed Long. "Look at that. All that neck."

4) The Eagles have also bestowed quirky nicknames on some teammates. Like Jordan Nichols.

"We call him 'Sloppy,' " Brian Gilmore said. "He's got such long arms, sometimes he loses balance and control on the court, and then he's just a mess in the locker room."

"He's not really sloppy in terms of his hygiene," Carr clarified. "He's just a messy person."

5) Hold on, for the Patriots' nicknames extend to the coaching staff, where Michael Huger has approximately 17 nicknames, including but not limited to Herschel Walker, Wesley Snipes, Blade and Brother Darkness. "I have every black man in America's nickname," Huger said. "You name it, they've got it."

6) At least one Eagles assistant is too busy being superstitious to have 17 nicknames. That would be Jason Williford.

"When we beat Maryland, I remember him saying wear the same underwear, wear the same socks for the next game," Carr said.

"Wear the same suit, don't change ties, all of that, absolutely," Williford said. "None of those guys believe in that, but I'm totally that way. I try to do the same routine. I normally work out before games; if I rode the bike, I get back on the bike. If I did treadmill, I'll get back on the treadmill. I'll try to do the exact same thing."

7) George Mason's Folarin Campbell tries to do the exact same thing before every game: jump in the air and collide with the team's reserves.

"Just to get everybody hyped, get everyone involved," he said. "Each individual, they're still involved."

I wondered what would happen if he forgot somebody.

"I don't forget somebody," he said. "There's only five out there. I make sure I get all of them."

8) Jeff Jones also jumps on the sidelines. Well, he gets excited, anyhow.

"I see him stomping up and down the sideline and cursing and whatnot, but that's something I've seen from all my coaches, so that's nothing new to me," Carr said.

"I really haven't seen his displays on the sideline, but people have been telling me about it," Mercer said. "A couple fans get their enjoyment. I know they talk about how they love how he'll yell at somebody."

9) Tate, Mason's most blog-friendly player, put down on his personal info questionnaire that he enjoys golf and hockey.

"Not real golf and hockey," noted teammate Vlad Moldoveanu. "He forgot to put on that it's on the Wii that he's got in his room."

Tate protested that he actually does like golf, and that he's actually played hockey."

"Not on the ice though," he admitted.

Not sure how that last one relates to American.

By Dan Steinberg  |  March 17, 2008; 7:01 PM ET
Categories:  College Basketball  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: What I Learned About Storming the Court
Next: WaPo Celebs and Friends on March Madness


Mason and AU used to play in the same league...the CAA v 1.0. I don't mind that AU stole our song (Doc and gang have been playing it all year). Just take good care of it, and good luck in the dance.

For Mason, I only hope the fellas play their little hoohaas off, and represent, if they leave all on the court, I will be happy. (Although I think this game is very winnable, if they bring their A game).

Mason students (and almost students) who are going out to Denver, have fun, represent and please take care, alcohol has weird effects at altitude!

Posted by: Mason fan #001 | March 17, 2008 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Wow Dan - rack up some mileage in the Caravan bouncing between Fairfax and Tenleytown? Nicely done! Although either you know something about school children in Saskatchewan that we don't or you're not planning to travel there anytime soon...

Mason, this year's Wizards! (locker room)

Posted by: Rob Iola | March 18, 2008 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Hey, that last thing pertains to American because we have a mens and a womens (which I play on) club ice hockey team.

Dan I'm also in the pep band and they're flying us down for the game. We're all so pumped and will totally get you updates!

ps - I was in Don Markus's sports journalism class last sping when you came and talked. Never read the bog before that but haven't stopped reading it after!

Posted by: Alicia | March 19, 2008 1:35 AM | Report abuse

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