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Old 03-03-2015, 03:38 PM
Joe21 Joe21 is online now
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Default A Little Known Fact

For many years, Fike Field House was the home of the Tiger basketball program. The best compliment one could pay for the facility was that the spectators were close to the action. Sideline bleacher seats extended down to the playing surface and for those sitting on the first row there was about one yard between their feet and the edge of the court. On the north end of the facility was a stage and bleachers were set up on the stage. I don't recall the exact capacity but it was no more than 2,500 - 3,000 fans. This was during the days when there were JV teams so we actually had a double-header, the JV and varsity games.

There were no reserved seats so it was "first come-first served". However, there was an unwritten rule that those who attended the games on a regular basis were granted rights to the same seat. Those in neighboring seats were usually the enforcers should a stranger attempt to occupy the seat. There were no concession stands except for soft drinks so everyone brought a "nose bag" meal and arrived early. Sometimes the fans would swap sandwiches and other goodies. It was a great time to socialize and catch up on on all the latest news with our seat neighbor.

Often times basketball was not the only exciting action in Fike. On several occasions there were electrical fires and we had to evacuate the building. Probably the most notable fire was one that completely filled the arena with acrid smoke. With the help of many huge fans, the air was cleared and the game was resumed after about an hour. Luck must have been with us because every time we had to evacuate the building it was not a cold night.

TV was not yet a factor in televising basketball games and the Clemson games were not broadcast on the radio. Chuck Cooper was a young man who had moved to Clemson a year or two earlier along with his wife. Chuck was employed in the alumni office. Prior to his coming to Clemson he was involved in TV in the Duluth, MN area. Having been involved in sports , he approached Coach Frank Howard about the possibility of broadcasting the Tiger basketball games. Coach Howard told him there was no money in it from the school but he could make the necessary arrangements if he so desired. Chuck contacted the Seneca radio station owner, cut a demonstration tape and made arrangements for WSNW to be the lead station. Chuck would get no pay, just the joy of doing the broadcasts.

Chuck and I had become close friends and were always joking with each other, often times engaged in "double talk". Several days before he and WSNW had scheduled the first broadcast, Chuck asked me if I would work with him as the "color man". I had no experience in this area but agreed to work with Chuck. Our first broadcast was the Duke-Clemson game. The "radio booth" was on the east side of the court. The "booth" was actually a small elevated platform about 15 feet above the floor. To reach the booth we had to climb up boards nailed to the side of the building, somewhat akin to steps leading up to a tree house.

Well, there we were , ready to broadcast the first ever Clemson basketball game from "beautiful Fike Field House". We were scheduled to go on air 15 minutes before the start of the varsity game. We watched the JV game and made some notes to pass along later during the broadcast. We were handed a sheet with the stats of the JV game which we would use during the pre-game segment. I was checking the stats because that was to be my first task as the "color man".

The count down began and when it hit ZERO we were officially on the air for the first broadcast ever of a Clemson Tiger basketball game from Fike Field House. Chuck made some opening remarks re the upcoming varsity game . A short time later he turned to me and said, "Joe will now provide some stats from the JV game". I had no problem with the Tiger stats but then I said, "and now for the Bluke Do Devils". Luckily, I did not realize what I had said. Chuck did not laugh or make any indication that I had made a "boo boo" on my first job as a color man. There was a station break when I finished with the stats. Chuck turned, looked at me and began to laugh and said, "Do you realize what you said"? I never caught my mistake until Chuck told me. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was what happened in Fike Field House before the tip off of the varsity game.

Since this was a non paying task, our out of town games were limited to our trip to Columbia. I thought Fike was at the low end of basketball arenas but the one in Columbia made Fike look like a palace. There were rows of wooden seats that circled the court. Bleachers would have been an upgrade. When we asked the AD where we could set up for our broadcast, we were ushered to a corner area. We were about two or three rows up from the floor. It certainly was not an ideal spot to observe the game. In addition, fans were sitting beside us and were paying more attention to us trying to cover the game than observing action on the floor. I had to compliment Chuck on doing an excellent job in such a difficult situation. I don't even remember who won the game.

Last edited by Joe21; 03-03-2015 at 05:53 PM.
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Old 03-03-2015, 10:36 PM
Robert Thorne MacRae's Avatar
Robert Thorne MacRae Robert Thorne MacRae is online now
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Default Re: A Little Known Fact

Good story Joe. Maybe we should play in Fike while the new facility is built? Some games it might hold the crowd...
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Old 03-04-2015, 09:43 AM
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Will Vandervort Will Vandervort is online now
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Default Re: A Little Known Fact

Good stuff, Joe! I wish times were still like that. Everything is too commercialized these days. Just going to a game and enjoying people's company isn't the same. Everyone is too damn serious all the time. Few enjoy just being at a sporting event.
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