Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Learn what it’s like to root for Evil over Good! (Or: A Q&A with Mason fan Shawn Brann!)

I'm not saying this is a file photo of Shawn Brann. I'm not saying it's not, either!

Shawn Brann may not have been the very first George Mason fan to ever stumble across this here blog, but he was certainly the first to drop me a line—two years ago tomorrow, in fact, which was also the day I made my first subtle declaration about how much I liked George Mason. Remarkably, he remained entirely good-natured and thus did not become the first George Mason fan to question my manhood, declare that I deserved every bit of bad karma coming my way, proclaim I was the Art Bell of mid-major blogdom or ask me to perform any number of anatomically impossible tasks.

Shawn and I recently reunited for a spirited sparring session (say that three times fast!) in the comments section of a CAA Hoops post (which no doubt tested the patience of our fearless leader Mike Litos) before calling a truce prior to tonight’s Good vs. Evil Part Deux and agreeing to find out a little bit about each other and our alma maters in a mutual Q&A. You can check out Shawn’s interview with me here. And you can check out my interview with Shawn below. Thanks to Shawn for taking the time to prove that one can worship at the altar of Larranaga and still have some redeeming qualities!

1.) Answer the following multiple choice question: A George Mason fan seated on a crowded bus sees an elderly person climb aboard. He:

a.) ignores him/her as he/she tries in vain to find a seat
b.) trips him/her
c.) mini-Larranaga
d.) all the above

Oh, definitely A. After all, we Northern Virginians are snobs who live in our own selfish worlds. (Just kidding...) Of course, considering our large number of international students, maybe their culture is different...

2.) But seriously: You have been a George Mason fan for a long time, going back to the great old days when they sucked. What was it like at Mason games in the great old days and what it's like to see the progress (grrrr) the Patriots have made?

I started Mason in 1990 during the "heyday" of Ernie Nestor. In fact, we made our first NCAA appearance the year before I arrived, so I assumed the sucking was some kind of curse that I placed on Mason by becoming a student. Those early 90s years were downright horrid...I attended nearly every home game (hey, free tickets) and watched us suffer through single-digit win seasons.

I grew up in ACC territory as a diehard college hoops fan. Plus, I was lucky enough to watch David Robinson play at Navy vs. the University of Richmond during my younger days. I couldn't wait to have a team of my own to cheer for, and dammit, I go there and they suck.

3.) What did everyone think when Paul Westhead was named head coach, and what was the vibe when Big Fat Stupidhead—err, Jim Larranaga—replaced him? Was there a buzz about him or did it come and go with little fanfare?

Oh, the Westhead hype was amazing. PAUL BALL!! Of course, as fans, we quickly realized that losing 150-149 was still stinkin' losing. The hiring of Larranaga was largely unnoticed when it happened. I knew very little about him, besides the fact that he had a pretty good record at Bowling Green. I liked the fact that he had a son who played for him there, too. His first year at Mason was very much the Nestor/Westhead years—not very successful. But, I think even then, there was the hope that he could turn things around. (By the next season, we knew.)

4.) From the little I can stomach reading about Mason, it sounds as if it is a similar school to Hofstra—a very young school that is trying to emerge from its rep as a commuter school. How has the school changed since you were there?

Ah, great question. As a Mason graduate who lived on campus during my entire four and a half years as an undergrad, nothing made my blood boil more so than our commuter school tag. But, things change, even though there are still tons of Northern Virginians who take advantage of a major national and international university in their backyard by "easily" driving to campus (if you can deal with No. Va. traffic and find parking). Mason's current building boom has recently given the main campus a renovated recreational facility (where the Mason basketball team played way back in the day before the Patriot Center), a hotel and conference center, tons of new dorms (including one named "Northern Neck"—the small town region where I grew up in VA), and more arts and classroom buildings. Plus, closer to where I live, the Prince William County campus (which didn't exist when I was an undergrad in the 90s) is now home a major fine arts venue called the Hylton Performing Arts Center. The "brand-new" dorms that I lived in when I was a freshman—called Presidents Park—are now 20+ years old.

5.) What drives us Hofstra fans crazy is we know this rivalry is one-sided—as in we hate and obsess over you much more than you do over us. Who is George Mason's George Mason? Who grinds your gears, as Peter Griffin would say, and why?

This is a two-parter. As soon as I arrived in Fairfax, I was taught to hate James Madison. I couldn't stand those bastards during the early 90s since we sucked canal water and they kept winning and winning and winning...of course, led by that dumb hick coach who used to be at Maryland (who I also hate, cheering for UVA growing up), Lefty Driesell. I still want to punch former JMU guard Kent Culuko, but at least there was some vindication when he became a criminal in the Jayson Williams murder saga (remember that story?). (Editor’s Note: I remembered the story but not Culuko's role. Wild stuff.) We've had their number so much, though, over the last decade. It's been a joy. I ALMOST feel sorry for those ugly purple bastards. Almost.

Recently, though, it's VCU. Even though I don't want to dislike my twin sister's alma mater, the Rams have had our number in big game after big game over the last decade and it eats at me that they get to have a home court advantage every friggin' CAA tourney. Plus, it was so easy to hate Eric Maynor, who couldn't count past 10, but knew how to drive a stake into the hearts of Mason fans. Of course, I was hoping for a down year in 2010-11, but there they go again...being to a 10-1 start in CAA play....arrggghhh.

6.) But seriously, you don't get why we hate everyone and everything from GMU and why we blame you (well, not YOU specifically, but I think you're culpable) for everything associated with the NCAA snub?

Yeah, I get it. Based on your head-to-head record vs. us in 2006 and the Tony Skinn incident (I wonder if Jenkins is worried about his family jewels when he plays us?), I can comprehend the animosity. Still...isn't it time to forgive and appreciate what we accomplished after getting that at-large bid? Shouldn't your hatred be at the NCAA? (After all, everyone hates the NCAA.)

I know the answer. :) No need to respond. GO MASON!!

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