It’s an interesting dynamic simmering in the Orleans Hotel and Arena for the WCC with Gonzaga fans and how they view BYU fans.
In short, these Zag fans are very nice people. But they are uneasy with BYU fans.
Maybe it falls back to the NCAAs last year when the Jimmer-led BYU team defeated Gonzaga. Things may have been a little more strained when BYU beat the Zags in Provo to go 2-0. Perhaps this proud and traditional WCC power is used to seeing things their way and a newcomer in the neighborhood has impacted a comfort zone. I don’t know.
But Friday night after BYU defeated San Diego, I was waiting in the lobby for an elevator with fans from both sides. When two elevator doors opened at the same time, some BYU fans hopped on one and Zag fans got on the other. I stepped on the elevator with the Zag fans and two nice women immediately struck up a conversation that went like this:
“I’m so glad we didn’t get on that elevator with those BYU fans.”
I could see her point. A teen boy decked out in BYU gear had a sign that said: “We Got the Pope on Our Bench.” It was a remark about Cougar assistant coach Mark Pope.
I thought to my self, if I were a Gonzaga fan who was Catholic, I might be a little put out by that sign.
I thought very little about the incident until the next day when photographer Jeff Allred and I went for breakfast and stood in line next to a Gonzaga fan, a woman in her late 60s. Jeff struck up a conversation with her about the previous night’s games. This woman said, “I hope tonight I’m not sitting by the same BYU fans. I wanted to do this, (showing two hands in a strangling act). If he had set in front of me, I’d have killed him.”
Jeff and I discussed this a bit over our meal. When we left to go back to our hotel room, we again found ourselves at the elevator and a door opened up and a huge crowd of Gonzaga fans shuffled out of the compartment. It was amazing how many people had crammed themselves into the box.
One we got in and pushed the button to our floor, I commented to four people in the elevator, elderly folks, “Can you believe how many people were in here?”
A nice elderly woman replied, ” Yeah. Good thing there were no BYU fans in there with them.”
Gonzaga and BYU tipoff tonight at 9 p.m. (MT). The Zags are favored by 2 points.