UT hoops halftime shows pass the batonWritten by Matt Sussman | | email@example.com
Stan Joplin’s story has been told over many campfires this year. After years of failed expectations and dwindling attendance, a remarkable run at the end of the 2006 basketball season led to Joplin’s contract renewal. This year, the Toledo Rockets have continued their surge from last year in front of several thousand fans.
Equally impressive from the first 10 years of Joplin’s era is a facet of the game that has no impact on the score, but rather the bitterness of the fans who one day would be sports bloggers: halftime entertainment.
In the past, UT’s halftime shows would consist of either little girls twirling batons or little girls twirling batons. In the rare exception the halftime entertainment wasn’t little girls twirling batons, it was either a pickup basketball game between two elementary school basketball teams or other little girls twirling batons.
This year the halftime entertainment has gone from elementary to … whatever the opposite of elementary is. (Montessori?)
The UT athletic department didn’t disappoint with its first performer of the year. In its home opener against UNC-Wilmington, UT brought in a contortionist known only as Rubberboy. Once he shimmied himself through a toilet seat, it was clearly a metaphorical omen for where the halftime entertainment quality was heading.
Since Rubberboy squeezed through Savage Hall, and our hearts, UT booked several novelty acts, all of which have previously performed for several NBA crowds:
• The Stickman, a dude balancing a spinning basketball on a 40-foot pole and taking a 3-point shot with it.
• The Jabali Acrobats, a troupe of tumbling, flame-avoiding Kenyans.
• The Skyriders, a trampoline trick duo.
• Red Panda Acrobat, a woman flipping bowls onto her head while operating a rather tall unicycle.
• The Piano Juggler, a man who juggles balls downward onto a special keyboard, playing classic songs.
• Quick Change, a man and woman shifting between outfits like nobody’s business.
The UT basketball experience has certainly improved. Well, usually. In the game against Northern Illinois, Quick Change lived up to its name and canceled at the last minute, forcing Savage Hall to bring its B-game, which was nothing more than some man wearing a UT fleece singing a tune from “Phantom of the Opera.” Perhaps that night was the only time I ever prayed for twirling batons.
Matt Sussman runs the sports blog The Futon Report at www.futonreport.net.