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GO TEAM GO

Story by Jenna Wise Photography by Harold Leath

Everybody loves going to ballgames and other sports events - right? It's time to dig out your team sweatshirt and review the words to your team's fight song. Do teams still have fight songs? Sure they do. Regardless if your game is competitive baseball, soccer, cheerleading or basketball, every team needs fans following it on the road to cheer it on. Go Team Go

Recently, Posh photographer Harold Leath and I "hit the road" to attend not just one, but two Murray State University basketball games to get the taste of being on the road with our team. Our team? Yes, Harold and I are both graduates of Murray State - of course, we will not tell you exactly how long ago.

So, the goose bumps on our arms when we entered the still darkened CFSB Center in Murray - walking right through the archway that the ballplayers would be entering a short time later -- were genuine.

What a night! Never expecting to sit on Press Row on the arena floor with "All-Access" press passes around our necks, we certainly got to see ALL the action. Not only could we view the remarkable Racer ballplayers and coaching staff, but we had amazing views of the spirited cheerleaders (with their legendary mascot Dunker, of course) and the equally talented dance team, as well.

As luck would have it, a video screen, showing instant replays from the game, was placed on the table next to where Harold and I were seated. You can believe it was interesting to watch this brand new technology being used by the referees as they came over to check out a few questionable calls.

My grandson ZT was extremely interested when he heard me talk about this. Mostly, he just could not believe we were actually sitting on the gym floor. WOW - we could not believe it either.

We did stroll around the rest of the exciting CFSB Center, however. Walking around to visit the university's store - where I bought a nifty sweatshirt to wear at the "away" basketball game we were going to attend the very next week - we also got to listen to the snazzy Murray State University Pep Band. This group, which has to be the most lively pep band ever, had its drummer sitting "front and center" of the band and seemed to be generating more spirit than could be imagined.

In circling through the nice-size crowd of Racer fans, I ran into Jim and Sue Cash, friends from Paducah who had given me a business card of Dave Winder (assistant athletic director of media relations at Murray State University) during a Paducah Area Alumni gathering that was held at Paducah Beer Werks in the fall of 2016. Jim and Sue had told me that perhaps Dave could help me arrange a Posh photo shoot at a Murray State basketball game.

Little did I know that Dave would be such marvelous help in arranging two photo shoots - one for a "home" game with the Detroit Mercy Tigers at CFSB Center and another for an "away" game" with the University of Evansville Purple Aces at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana. Dave also provided interesting details about the team and coaching staff, plus he gave some scoop about the arena.

I have to admit that I really did not know that the 8,600-seat arena center was renamed in 2010 the Community Financial Services Bank Center, in honor of the bank's long-time support of Murray State University. The arena, which opened in 1998, had previously been called Regional Special Events Center - bet that sounds familiar. And, of course, many folks fondly recall memories from Racer Arena, home of Murray State Basketball for 48 years. That arena, located on the main campus, is still standing and has been given a thrilling new purpose as the home of three-time Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) Murray State volleyball, winning the league the last three seasons: 2014, 2015 and 2016. (Tidbit: MSU was a founding member of the OVC in 1948.)

Back to the basketball game. Everybody did assigned "jobs" exactly right. In their 92nd season as a team and 69th season in the OVC the Racers played that game with their hearts and won. Matt McMahon, in his second season as head coach, is continuing the traditions he was part of with winning teams at Murray State University basketball while serving as assistant coach. (Tidbits: McMahon, a native of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, graduated from Appalachian State. His wife, Mary, is a former standout for the Furman women's basketball team.)

Watching Coach McMahon's staff work together was enjoyable. It was easy to see that all of them understood the team's goal to continue the streak of having 30 straight winning seasons. Of particular interest to Posh photographer Harold Leath was being able to see his long-time family friend serving as a manager for the team. What a remarkable young man, and what a great opportunity for Blake Wetherington.

Suddenly it was time to head to Evansville for another incredible adventure as a Racer fan. It really was all about the basketball game, but Harold and I working as a travel team for Posh magazine gave us an excuse to investigate a good restaurant on the way to the game. You do understand? Go Travel Go

The Red Geranium Restaurant in New Harmony Inn was chosen - and what an astounding decision. New Harmony, Indiana, is an historic Utopian town that is rich in art, architecture, antiques and more. Savoring a delicious brunch on the way to the game was delightful, seeing original Picasso art hanging on the restaurant walls was a surprise -- and then finding out the nephew of our waitress at The Red Geranium is a drummer in Murray State's Pep Band just made our day. Go to New Harmony when you have time to stay and enjoy all it has to offer. (www.NewHarmonyInn.com)

Time for Game Two

MSU fans were lucky to have an "away" game relatively close and in such an extraordinary venue as the Ford Center. Opened in downtown Evansville in 2011, the 11,000-seat facility was designed for sports events, concerts and other special events.

Speaking of special, once again we were treated royally with all-access credentials and press row seats - just do not know how we will ever sit anywhere else. Mostly, I want to emphasize that it was an honor to be there supporting the Racers in Evansville. The lesson Racer fans learned that day, and what fans of ANY sport hopefully remember: You win some and you lose some. Let's think about that as we cheer on all our teams and each other.

Meanwhile, Murray State is having a great year. I have enjoyed my new passion of reading every single article about my team in the paper and am so proud that their games are carried so often on TV these days. Take note that the OVC Tournament will be held March 1-4 at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville. Good luck, Racers.

Hey, there is so much all of us can do: read the paper, watch TV, listen to the radio, attend games both home and away -- and cheer. GO TEAM GO.

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