The kids are all right
Saturday night, as the UConn Huskies battled the Kentucky Wildcats for a berth in the national title game, there were several very high-pitched voices that stood out in the crowd of more than 75,000. With each UConn bucket, they screamed "GO HUSKIES!" and with every Kentucky possession, they yelled "DEFENSE!"
My ears ringing from what could kindly be called squealing (and more appropriately be called screeching), I turned around and saw the front row behind me was filled with kids who looked to be about 6 to 12 years old. As loud as they were, they were too darn cute to be annoying, and their enthusiasm sure beat that of the sparsely-attended UConn student section.
"Well..we're just..." one of the girls trailed off. "Um...just 'cause..." another started and stopped.
I asked if their parents were UConn alums, and they said yes, they were all cousins -- the father of one pair of girls was a Huskie, and both the mother and father of the other three youngsters were alums, as well. We chatted about the Huskies' mascot, Jonathan, and discussed the undeniable cuteness factor of Blue II, the Butler bulldog.
Finally, I asked who their favorite players were. The oldest girl, Katie, reeled off nearly every member of the Huskies squad and said, "I don't dislike any of them, they're all so nice." When I asked how she'd gotten the chance to meet the players she finally gave up the info they weren't sure they should share earlier.
"Well, our grandpa is the coach," she revealed. "Our grandpa is Jim Calhoun."
Ah ha. That would explain the seats, and their enthusiasm, and the very loud, very involved heckler sitting just behind them for both games: Jeff Calhoun, Jim's son, a former UConn guard and the dad of two of the girls, Avery and Reese.
Both Saturday and Monday, Jeff's voice cut through the shrill sound of the kids, chewing out the refs for every call he didn't like. "How do you get two shots? It was over the back! That's one and one!" "Wait 'til you watch the tape and see how bad you are!"
Early in the second half tonight, the combination of heckling and screaming caused the reporter to my left to first plug his ears with his fingers, then put in his headphones.
When the final buzzer sounded, signaling UConn as the 2011 National Champions, Jeff and all the kids went nuts, and even the biggest stickler couldn't fault them for their excitement. What a memory for some very lucky, very proud grandchildren.