Bob McDonough paid a pile for his luxury suite at Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, but he doesn't want to sit there today when his Georgetown University Hoyas play the University of Maryland.
Instead, the 78-year-old Orange County businessman will head to the student section and find someone who will switch seats. Go upstairs and eat the food and drink the booze, he'll say. It's on me.
What drives a man wealthy enough to donate $30 million to Georgetown, rich enough that his alma mater named its business school after him, to leave his castle to sit with the rabble?
The NCAA West Regional basketball tournament comes to Anaheim today with Georgetown playing Maryland, followed by Stanford vs. Cincinnati. The winners will meet Saturday, and the winner of that game goes to Minneapolis for the Final Four championship round.
Don't ask why Georgetown and Maryland, all of 12 miles apart, play in the West Regional while UCLA and USC travel 3,000 miles to play in the East, unless you want to get into sports jargon like "RPIs."
College basketball fans wait all year for the tournament, which began last week. When it starts with 65 teams, it's wall-to-wall basketball as the field is winnowed and CBS flits from game to game. It's your school against their school, the traditional powers against the upstarts and boom time for sports bars. ESPN Zone at Downtown Disneyland opened for breakfast during the first round so people wouldn't miss a basket.
Even people who aren't sports fans get caught up in the excitement as they watch how they're doing in the office pool.
Most Southern California hoop fans will be turning their attention east to see how the Bruins and Trojans fare, but in many parts of the country, the scramble has been to get to the Pond.
Students find cheap flights and crash on the couch of a friend of a friend, while others spend as much as $2,000 to buy a center court seat at the Pond from a ticket agency. Aging alums fly across the country to watch their teams.
Need more evidence that March Madness takes precedence?
Stanford's new president had long been scheduled to speak to Southern California alumni today at the ritzy Century Plaza Hotel. Then John Hennessy realized he had a conflict. A big conflict.
So the Century Plaza meeting was rescheduled for April.
The problem with being a rabid college basketball fan is that during the tournament you can't make plans too far in advance. Every tournament there are upsets galore, like this year, when Hampton--who?--beat Iowa State and Kent State beat longtime power Indiana. One loss--sudden death--and your team is out.
Seventy-year-old Cincinnati alum Robert Tragesser and his wife flew to San Diego on March 14 to watch the team play in the first two rounds. They flew to Ohio on Monday, back to Southern California on Wednesday, and they go back home Monday.
If Cincinnati makes it to the Final Four next week, will they be at the game? "Of course," said Elaine Tragesser, sounding surprised anyone would even ask.
The Tragessers are the lucky ones. They arrived with tickets. If you don't already have them, they're almost impossible to get. Even if hometown fans manage to get tickets, they still have to get to the game.
Fans of Stanford, the only school in the West Regional that belongs there geographically, can scoot down the coast in less than eight hours. Georgetown, Maryland or Cincinnati? Try finding a reasonably priced airline ticket at the last minute.
But that's what Georgetown senior Ryan Dubose did. After he and a friend bought seven tickets, Dubose bought a round-trip ticket from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles for $180.
But all that mattered to Dubose was getting here, since he's president of the student booster club Hoya Blue. "It's just going to be crazy," Dubose said.
They're just the kind of guys who might catch McDonough's eye.
"I want to be where the emotion is," McDonough said, "rather than be with stuffy people my age." Told about Dubose and his friends, he asked: "How do you spell their names? I'll look for them."