If you’ve followed me on Twitter over the past two years (or if you’re Irish Illustrated writer Pete Sampson), you’re aware of my obsession with comparing the heist crew from the movie Ocean’s Eleven to Notre Dame sports.
you're putting together an Ocean's Eleven crew of Notre Dame players to pull off the heist of the century...who ya got?— Not a Fan of Football (@Psully226) August 25, 2016
I asked him that every week for the vast majority of the 2016 football season, you guys.
And despite finally getting an answer out of Pete in which he matched up current and former ND players to the characters in that movie, I’ve still had a heist crew-sized hole in my heart that can only be filled by a true Notre Dame squad consisting of members who each bring a specific, singular expertise to the table to combine and create something perfect that could not be accomplished by any individual on their own. I had not been able to find it, no matter how hard I searched.
That all changed on Saturday, January 27th, 2018, on the Purcell Pavilion court roughly 45 minutes after the Notre Dame Fighting Irish had dropped a close game (its fifth loss in a row, at the time) to the Virginia Tech Hokies.
That encounter would change my view of the Leprechaun Legion forever, as I spoke with 60% of a crew so perfectly intertwined that I knew I’d finally found what I had been yearning for in Notre Dame sports all along.
I found the perfect Fighting Irish team, greater than the sum of its parts, and it had been right there in front of me, going buck wild on the Purcell Pavilion video board this whole time.
It was the fall of 2016. Notre Dame students and big-time Irish hockey and basketball fans Dan Ridzik, Justin Ricciardi, Cole Murphy, and Simon Mariani had a conundrum.
You see, those guys LOVED to create funny signs to hold up at games, and had had a lot of success with the clever phrases they scrawled onto poster board to enhance their heckling of opposing hockey teams.
Just some of our action from pregame, let's finish up with a win! pic.twitter.com/yDqMK1pRhZ— ND Whiteboard (@ND_Whiteboard) November 12, 2017
There was a slight, wasteful catch, however.
“We figured, there’s gotta be a better way than just going through 10 signs every game,” Ridzik, an electrical engineering and physics major, theorized. “So one of my friends, who’s actually the backup punter on the football team, had an extra (dry erase) whiteboard lying around. I asked if I could use it, and we’ve been bringing it to games ever since.”
ND vs Chicago ¿State ?— ND Whiteboard (@ND_Whiteboard) November 16, 2017
Tip off at 7 pic.twitter.com/c0HdzXShPp
This stroke of luck proved quite fruitful for what became a tight-knit quartet of super-fans, as Ridzik and Mariani faithfully attended hockey games with the Whiteboard, while Ridzik, Ricciardi, and Murphy manned the ‘board at basketball games for the majority of last season, where it has had an even stronger impact.
“We wanted to take it to basketball because you can get a much more intimate feeling with the guys,” Mariani, an Accounting and Economics major from New Jersey and Siegfried Hall, explained.
“We’ve had guys like Theo Pinson get really on us, and (Jalek) Felton on North Carolina, he was very annoyed with us. So we’ve gotten into the heads of some guys and it’s really fun because their first instinct then is to not look at the court, but to immediately look at us for reactions.”
This whole practice of getting inside opposing players’ heads is referred to as “chirping” by Ricciardi, a Finance and Economics major from Mount Vernon, New York and Keough Hall. He and Ridzik actually formed their friendship around the concept one day while waiting in line for a basketball game.
“I was waiting in line for a game and Dan was the only one in front of me. I got there two and a half hours before tipoff, so I thought, ‘Wow, this kid’s gotta be as crazy as me,’ ” Ricciardi said.
“So I introduced myself and we started talking about Giants football and the friendship started from there. Then, we talked about making signs to chirp the opposing players, and he mentioned he could get a whiteboard so that we could do a bunch during a game. Thus, the Whiteboard was born.”
From there, Murphy, a sophomore Finance major from Tulsa and Keough Hall, quickly hopped on board with the crew, forming a triumvirate of teasing; a chirp chapter; a trash talk trio; an insult ensemble; a crushingly creative club (you get the picture).
By the end of the 2016-2017 basketball season, Mariani joined the ND Whiteboard hoops crew as well, fitting in seamlessly with the group. The four of them did their thing, chirping at opponents and gaining plenty of fame on campus as they visibly led the student section in chants and jokes from the front row.
“Some people around campus say hi to me and say, ‘Hey, you’re the front row guys!’ Ricciardi said. “I just laugh and respond, ‘Yeah, man, thanks. I better see you at the next game.’ So that’s pretty cool.”
With a team of four firing on all cylinders with their Whiteboard, it just seemed perfect. How do you even improve upon that?
As the ND Whiteboard Crew was creating, delivering, and raising the Whiteboard “chirping” idea from its nascent stages, Atlanta, Georgia native Brandon Hardy was enjoying his freshman year at the University.
He lived in Fisher Hall — where he became friends with Ridzik — and had just started working toward what is now his double-major of Accounting and Political Science. In his free time, he enjoyed going to various Irish sporting events and getting rowdy in the stands with his peers.
Fate is a fickle, particular, beast, though, as Hardy’s destiny involved much more than being just another fan in the crowd during his time in South Bend. On a spring break trip abroad, he happened across an article of clothing that would change his life forever.
“I was in London for spring break last year, and I saw a gold jacket,” Hardy said. “I said to myself, ‘Oh, that’s really nice,’ and gold’s my favorite color, so I picked it up. Then I started wearing it to basketball games, and then as football season came on this year, I started wearing it to the football games.”
If you follow Notre Dame football at all, that is probably where you first noticed Hardy and his consistently shiny presence in the student section. He was always near the front row, sporting gold, and going bananas during the Irish’s 8-1 start to the season.
There’s more to this young man than just one article of clothing, though. Hardy said he tired of wearing just the jacket, and considering gold is his favorite color, he assembled an entire wardrobe for his newfound role in the crowd.
“I still have the original gold jacket, but I also now have a bomber, I have a blazer, I have a short sleeve shirt, a long sleeve shirt, and I have two pairs of gold shoes,” Hardy rattled off. “It’s a good way to show my school spirit and stick out in the crowd.”
People began to identify him all around campus as the kid who wears gold. He said he especially could feel it after a specific football game this season.
“A lot of people know me for it, and I think that moment came when I was at the USC game and Chase (Claypool) jumped in the crowd and knocked me out, and that was on NBC,” Hardy said.
“And so for everybody from that moment on, I think, it became a ‘that’s him’ kind of thing. And then when I was at the Citrus Bowl, they put me on the big screen and on TV for about 5 of 6 seconds, and then everybody was like ‘oh, that’s gold jacket guy.’ “
Considering Hardy’s reputation for being in the front row of games and rocking out in his gold jacket, along with his budding friendship with Ridzik forged in the fires of Fisher, it only made sense that the two ND fan sensations would team up as one cohesive unit. I unwittingly noted this fusing of two top-notch fan experiences in a basketball game recap last season.
Now, this fantastic five can’t imagine life in the front row without each other.
“We can’t work without each other, we have to have each other,” Hardy said.
Ridzik agreed wholeheartedly, expounding on Hardy’s statement. “If I had to give everybody a kind of role, Simon’s the Thinker. I’m the Writer. Brandon’s the Hype Man. Cole is the Roaster. And then Justin’s just...I don’t even know how to describe him.”
“He’s the Talker,” Hardy finally asserted. “He talks, a lot.”
From there, Mariani upgraded Justin’s role. “He’s the Yeller.”
“Yeah, he’s the Yeller,” Ridzik agreed.
Hardy, too, voiced his concurrence. “He’s the Yeller. You need somebody like that. And he’s definitely that person.”
The Thinker. The Writer. The Hype Man. The Roaster. The Yeller.
Is it just me, or is this sounding like an Ocean’s Eleven-esque crew assembled to pull off the
heist student section front row antics of the century?
As Ridzik said in response to whether or not people recognize Hardy on campus, “Is the Pope Catholic?”
Together, this amazing crew holds down a perpetual presence in the front of the Leprechaun Legion, cranking out hilarious sign after hilarious sign while Hardy serves as the impetus for a lot of the student section’s hype and dancing during games.
Those roles, and that position in the front of the Leprechaun Legion, have been earned by way of countless hours spent arriving early and waiting at Purcell in order to secure the best spots.
I asked Ridzik, Hardy, and Mariani how early that actually is, and although it’s not like at some bigger schools where students have to camp out to ensure good seats (I do not believe Notre Dame even allows camping out), it’s ridiculously early for Notre Dame basketball games.
“So, the game today started at 8 pm,” Hardy explained. “I got here at 4. So, I’d say an average of 4 hours before the game starts.”
Ricciardi actually did the math last year on how much time and effort the group put into getting there early to execute their signsmanship, and he sent the stats in all their glory to Mike Brey in an attempt to score some seats for the ACC Tournament title game last season.
“I mentioned my 28 hours of service and sent an attachment of a picture of Coach Brey and I singing the Alma Mater after the Wake Forest game,” Ricciardi said. “Coach Brey loved it, and said he would love to leave me and my dad tickets. My parents were going crazy when he answered, but deep down I knew Coach Brey would pull through.”
Clearly, these guys were doing great work in the front row, if Mike freakin’ Brey was willing to acknowledge it and reward that work with some free ACC Championship tickets.
Hell, Brey even tweeted out a picture of the crew in a message expressing his adoration of the Leprechaun Legion’s fandom:
Love our team & love our fans!— Mike Brey (@NDMikeBrey) February 2, 2017
We're going to be in this together for the rest of the year. pic.twitter.com/lLvaOyx9MQ
The dedication is truly remarkable, as Ricciardi explained to me that for the Duke game last year, for instance, he and Ridzik arrived at 10:30 AM and then waited the whole day for the 8 PM tipoff.
“It depends on the game,” Ricciardi said. “Non-conference games we usually plan for around an hour and 45 minutes before tipoff. ACC games are usually 3-5 hours before tipoff.”
“Our strategy is, we enter a different gate. I’m not gonna say which gate, obviously,” Ridzik said, cautiously laying out how the group scores the seats they do. “We enter a different gate and we walk around to get into here. So essentially, we’re in and then we just walk back out just to be where we have to be.”
Hardy also noted that the new ticketing technology on students’ phones allows for easier scanning into the game, although Mariani isn’t impressed with the scanning expertise of one specific usher who holds up his line of students.
“It’s usually a 3-to-1 ratio with him. 3 people for the other guy and 1 for him. If you’re lucky. On a good day.”
It hasn’t all been secret, Ocean’s Eleven-esque
vault arena entrance strategies and fun times in the front row, though.
With sign-making at college sporting events, specifically in the heavily-monitored student sections of a school like Notre Dame, comes the constant threat of censorship. As funny guys looking to heckle opponents as effectively as possible, the Whiteboard and Gold Jacket crew have had their fair share of “incidents.”
“There were multiple games last year where I was threatened to be thrown out,” Ridzik said. “I actually just tweeted out today that we have to retire the ‘Drinks Beer With a Straw’ line.”
Well it looks like we have to retire "drinks beer with a straw" as we were told by the administration to take it off the board for the third time...— ND Whiteboard (@ND_Whiteboard) January 28, 2018
Mariani said the tale of censorship woe gets even worse. “Last home game against Louisville, I mean, I go with puns off of people’s names and then just stuff about the schools — because that’s as much as we can do. And there was a guy for Louisville sitting behind us who was taking pictures of us the entire game, and they got posted on Reddit’s College Basketball Subreddit.”
“He tweeted the pictures out and somebody stole them from his Twitter account and posted them to Reddit,” Ridzik said.
Mariani then explained why that became an issue for their reputation. “A whole bunch of people were like ‘wow, that’s the best they could really do?’ We called out the Reddit user, and they did say that was our best sign yet, but it just shows how far we can’t go. Some of the comments we got on Twitter were pretty bad after that game.”
“It was definitely a low moment,” Mariani concluded.
I mean... who hasn't yet..? pic.twitter.com/lAZSsVRDTp— ND Whiteboard (@ND_Whiteboard) December 3, 2017
Ricciardi has probably had the most run-ins with “the man” considering he is, after all, The Yeller.
“I hate being censored, and have been easily over a dozen times,” he said. “I’m usually the hype man that is constantly going crazy and arguing with every call the refs make, so casually the words that flow out from those screams aren’t always best.”
Ricciardi explained how Robert, the usher for their section, usually has to come over and ask him to calm down.
“But it never works,” Ricciardi insists. “My responsibility as a courtside fan is to make opposing fans’, players’, and coaches’ lives absolutely miserable. I want the other team’s players to know that they aren’t welcome here and that this is war, so anything goes.”
Ricciardi has gone so far as to ask an unidentified Florida State player if he (Ricciardi) could take his (FSU player) sister to prom.
“I got talked to by the ushers for that too.”
Despite the censorship and the negative effect it has on the Leprechaun Legion’s reputation around the country as a solid shit-talking entity, the Whiteboard and Gold Jacket squad have churned out some spectacular signs, interactions, and memories at Notre Dame hoops games.
Whether it’s Mariani enjoying all the Hot Takes the group throws together about current events, or Ridzik’s favorite one-liner roasts of opposing players like “Dunks Oreos in Water,” the group has been a source of entertainment for anyone observant enough to catch their messages and Hardy’s limitless Hype Man energy from across the court or on the Purcell video board.
Hardy mentioned his favorite moment, when the group picked out a player on the Bethel basketball team, Dominic Genco, to heckle mercilessly during ND’s November exhibition against the local school’s squad.
Mariani gave me the quick scuttlebutt on what happened.
“He was listed on their roster sheet at 6’3”, and there’s no way he was bigger than us. He wasn’t even as big. He must have been 5’10”, and the entire game we’re just yelling at him, like, ‘Is that really your height?’ Mariani explained. “Then we’d say things like ‘You’re never gonna get in,’ but then he actually got in for the last minute and a half.”
“So then we start rooting for him, and he takes a three pointer. He missed it, but on the next possession he got fouled and we just erupted in cheers,” Mariani continued. “He made one of the free throws, and we acted like we had just won a huge game, like against UNC a couple years ago when we stormed the court. And then he made a layup after that, and it was just unbelievable.”
“It was pandemonium,” Ridzik added.
The man.— ND Whiteboard (@ND_Whiteboard) November 4, 2017
@DG_10_ thank you! pic.twitter.com/wsZcid1bwd
There’s more to this rivalry-turned-friendship, though.
At a later game against Ball State, Genco was in attendance as a fan, rooting for some friends who played on the Cardinals. The Whiteboard crew wrote on their sign, “Hey Genco, remember us?”
“He just waved down to us, and that was a pretty cool thing to see,” Mariani said, with perhaps a hint of happy tears in his eyes.
Murphy’s favorite Whiteboard message the group has come up with is one of his own creation. He had the fantastic idea, in honor of Maui Brey, to write “Mike Brey needs to get lei’d” on the ‘board. This sign was quickly censored, unfortunately, but it was definitely a great attempt to combine Whiteboard humor and the greatness that was Maui Brey.
Ricciardi has a few memories he cherishes, as well.
“I really liked last year when we got the whole section to chant ‘MANBUN’ at Kyle Guy (Virginia) whenever he got the ball. That was a lot of fun,” Ricciardi said. “As for actual (Whiteboard) material, when we played Mount St. Mary’s this year I wrote that Junior Robinson (their 5-foot-something point guard) is the toy in a Kid’s Meal, and that got a lot of love.”
This group is good at what they do — entertaining — but perhaps even better at doing something much more important: bringing people together.
Whether it’s bringing the Leprechaun Legion together for devastating chants, bringing the Notre Dame Twitterverse together with fantastic tweeted photos of the Whiteboard, forging a kinship between ND students and Bethel College athletes, or just uniting a group of five unique guys together as the ultimate fan crew, this group is the ultimate testament to that.
The fab five of fan antics definitely doesn’t do what they do for the purpose of making friends with enemies, though, as Ricciardi has made very clear.
Instead, they look to help get into the other team’s heads as much as possible, and they usually follow a very specific and effective methodology in order to do so.
“Justin usually says he goes for the - what is it, the GPA boosters?” Ridzik asked.
Ricciardi can confirm.
Im there in spirit, just make fun of the GPA boosters for me https://t.co/yVqfNBIHwr— Justin (@J_rich_10) January 28, 2018
“I love making fun of the classic white guy on the end of the bench who I call the ‘GPA booster,’ he said. “I love heckling them because they usually snap back because they aren’t used to any sort of attention. Otherwise, I just pick funny names of players, or a player who I think is overrated, like Theo Pinson on UNC or Kyle Guy on Virginia.”
“He usually goes after those guys, and once he goes after them, he starts off on just little comments like ‘you’re trash,’ and then little by little, we get into it,” Ridzik said. “Then, we find the Twitter account they have.”
Mariani explained further that they look for specific reactions from their targets, as well. “The big thing we look for is if they look at us — that’s when Justin changes his mood from just ‘you’re trash’ and he’s like ‘we’re in your head, we’re in your head!’ Then that’s when it escalates.”
Can anyone from Tech confirm this? pic.twitter.com/hUHf2kMjnI— ND Whiteboard (@ND_Whiteboard) January 28, 2018
“That’s when the Whiteboard picks it up, we find their Twitter, and we go from there,” Mariani said.
Ridzik used the Genco example to explain how the group uses players’ Twitters against them.
“Specifically with Genco, we found his Twitter account. I forget what we put on it (the Whiteboard) from his Twitter, but we found his @ and we put that on the bottom of the Whiteboard as well.”
Mariani interjected, saying, “We put ‘Bring Back the Flow,’ because in high school he had really long hair.”
Ridzik added, “And because his name is Genco, we played off of it as Geico.”
“We wrote ‘Switching to Genco Could Save You 6.3% on Car Insurance’ because he was listed as 6’3” on the roster,” Mariani said.
So, to sum this crew up, they work as one high-functioning unit in the front row of Notre Dame basketball games in order to:
- Conduct Twitter research dating back to players’ high school days
- Scrutinize every bit of information listed on teams’ rosters
- Utilize all that dirt in carefully crafted roasts written on a dry erase board and shouted incessantly at the players
And, of course, all of this happens while the group, and the student section, is being led in jaw-dropping dancing and hype manufacturing by Gold Jacket Guy, who has to have the highest video board appearance rate of any fan in Purcell Pavilion.
Ocean’s Eleven wishes they could work that smoothly and efficiently as a group in similarly volatile circumstances and have those kind of results, folks.
The Whiteboard and Gold Jacket crew know they only have a few years of this remaining before they go their separate ways to pursue various careers, and so they’ve obviously thought a great deal about the legacy they hope to leave in the front row of Purcell, and about whether or not they will continue to pursue the heckling and front-row-dancing game at a professional level.
As for just legacy of wins and losses, it’s clear the kind of dominant success that the group will leave in its wake. Since the group began making signs for hockey games in mid-January 2016, the Notre Dame hockey team is 31-12-5 in home games.
Similarly, since the Whiteboard debuted at Purcell, the men’s basketball team is 23-6 at home. That’s a 54-18-5 combined record since this group began doing its thing (not to mention the 8-1 record Notre Dame football has in games Gold Jacket Guy was in the front row dancing for...).
So, considering that kind of success, will these guys go pro in something other than sports — i.e., sports fandom/chirping???
“I mean, I’m the one who’s probably going pro first,” Ridzik said. “I’m a senior right now. Right now I’m gonna get a draft grade, and we’ll see where it goes from there. But these guys? They have time to up their draft stock.”
Ricciardi hasn’t considered going pro at all, and he backs that up with very logical reasoning. “I already consider myself a pro chirper. I’ve had some of the best players on other teams talk back to me or curse at me, and I love it because it means I’m in their heads.”
The stats speak for themselves in terms of Ricciardi’s professional-caliber chirping, by the way: “Recently, Theo Pinson kept pointing at me and saying stuff to Luke Maye because I was making fun of both of them. Last year, John Collins from Wake Forest (now on the Atlanta Hawks) explicitly told me ‘just shut up, man,’ so that was cool as well.”
“I wish I could get paid a salary for chirping, but I don’t think the University would ever consider it — unless Coach Brey were our president,” Ricciardi concluded.
It was at that moment that I felt it was necessary to ask Hardy point-blank if he was considering turning pro in the front-row-hype-man game, considering his celebrity status and soaring stock as Gold Jacket Guy.
“I’m stayin’,” he confidently declared into the tape recorder app on my cell phone. “I think once my time here is done, I’ll still love Notre Dame and I’ll still come to the games, but THIS part of me, I think, is gonna be over, because I can’t keep up with the young guys. I’ll be older, and it’ll just be a different time in life. I think these 4-5 years (Hardy is considering an MSA after graduation) here are great, and I’m just gonna do that and take advantage of that while I’m here.”
Mariani agreed with the sentiment, and is focused on the lasting legacy the group will leave behind when it’s all said and done.
“There are always other people who can fill in for what we do, and hopefully we inspire future Notre Dame students to come to ALL the games — not just the big ones,” he said. “For them to want to go to the games and to do similar types of things — that’s what we’d love to see in the future.”
Ridzik then summed up what he expects from the Whiteboard and Gold Jacket crew’s legacy.
“I’m sure we’ll find somebody to pass it down to. I mean, my goal is to really pass down the board to these guys, and then they can figure out who’s gonna be ‘The Writer,’ etc.”
“Other schools seem to have this, or at least on Reddit they say they have this, but we’ve never seen it,” Ridzik said. “We’ve been out there. So if we inspire even other schools, we’ve made an impact on college basketball, and college sports in general. That’s one thing that I’ll be proud of.”
So, next time you watch a Notre Dame basketball game (or hockey), look out for the guys who put in hours and hours of waiting time, meticulous research, impressive ingenuity and creativity, and an unbelievable passion for Notre Dame sports into their cheering in the front row of the Leprechaun Legion.
Like that perfect Ocean’s Eleven crew that features every individual skill needed to combine and make something impossible happen, The Thinker, The Writer, The Roaster, and The Yeller will be there on your TV screen (and on the Purcell and Compton video boards), tossing up another hilarious roast of an opponent while The Hype Man grooves alongside, driving the student section into a fevered frenzy of gold (and blue, and green).
As a fan, you can learn a lot from these guys and their fandom of ND sports. Standing up and making as much noise as possible while being extremely engaged with what’s happening in the games is the ONLY way to be a fan.
Maybe that's what he was always yelling to his players about .... pic.twitter.com/hY9DgIybic— ND Whiteboard (@ND_Whiteboard) January 16, 2018
But as people, we can learn even more from their dedication, togetherness, and fiery passion for something they believe in and love.
These guys are the heroes that a hurt, struggling Notre Dame hoops program needs right now, and the beacons of light that the #1 ND hockey team needs to guide it to a championship.
May their efforts over the next couple years not go unnoticed, and may their legacy of showing up — no matter the stakes or the adverse censorship thrust upon them — last for generations as similar groups of students take up the cause of heckling opponents, hyping up the student section, and bleeding blue and gold like their lives depended on it.
I asked these guys a few other questions that really just didn’t fit in with the flow of the story, but I wanted you all to see their answers. Here they are, in all their glory:
Would you rather fight one Geben-sized Matt Farrell or two Farrell-sized Martinas Gebens?
Simon Mariani: I would rather face one Geben-sized Matt Farrell, just because I know Matt Farrell wouldn’t have someone else to pass it through my legs.
Dan Ridzik: I would have to go with one Geben-sized Matt Farrell, because I think Matt Farrell will have a little big of mercy on me...maybe...I think.
Simon Mariani: He would essentially be LeBron James.
Brandon Hardy: Yeah, and I’d agree. One Geben-sized Matt Farrell, just because everybody else chose that.
Justin Ricciardi: This one is easy for me. I would SO rather fight two Matt Farrell-sized Gebens, because Matt is scary enough at his size, and having a Geben-sized Matt Farrell would be beyond intimidating.
Who is your favorite Brey — Mock Turtleneck Brey, Maui Brey, or Scruffy Brey?
Poll of the day, what ya got? pic.twitter.com/PiulGyrCe7— ND Whiteboard (@ND_Whiteboard) December 3, 2017
Simon Mariani: It’s definitely Maui Brey, especially after the way we performed this year, and showing that even in times of adversity, coming back against Wichita State in the final, we played really some of our best basketball of the season and it was awesome to see the guys win a title there.
Brandon Hardy: Yeah I’d have to say Maui as well. I wish we were there for that. But just watching him on TV, he looked really cool in it, so I think for me that’s my favorite one.
Dan Ridzik: I hate to make it a trifecta, but Maui Brey was just off the charts. You can’t...the way that he...I don’t even know how to describe it. The way that he attempted to be out there, it’s random. And he had the same coaching mantra that he always has — the same fired up attitude — just wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
Justin Ricciardi: My favorite Brey is Scruffy Brey, because it makes him seem like just a normal dad. We all joke that Coach Brey is the (Leprechaun) Legion’s father, and the scruffy look really plays into that.
Do you think that’s the answer for this team right now -- to bring back Maui Brey?
Dan Ridzik: Well, that’s actually one thing we had to have taken down from the whiteboard. We put...well, Cole actually came up with it. He said, “Mike Brey needs to get lei’d.” So that wasn’t our best moment.*
*Pat Rick caveat: As noted above, Cole definitely disagrees.
Simon Mariani: I was telling him the whole time, “No, no, no, no, no. Just no.”
Dan Ridzik: We did get it up there.
Simon Mariani: For 3 seconds...Going back to the favorite Brey, I do have to give a special shout out to Scruffy Brey, because whenever he makes an appearance, we know we’re on a really long win streak. So that’s one big plus and always why he has to be one of the favorites there.
We just saw a pretty awesome unicycle act at halftime. How would you compare them to Red Panda, and what are your overall thoughts on Red Panda?*
*Pat Rick note: These interviews were conducted roughly 5 days before some awful, terrible person stole Red Panda’s 30-year-old unicycle from the baggage claim at the San Francisco airport. All of us here at One Foot Down hope Red Panda is reunited with her baby as soon as possible, and that the culprit is punished to the FULL EXTENT OF THE LAW
Simon Mariani: Red Panda will always hold a special part in our halftime performances, because when I was a freshman here two years ago, she was our halftime entertainment against UNC, when we upset them when they were #1 in the country. I think we were down 9 or so at halftime but we came back right after halftime, chipped away the whole time, and finally we got over the top in the end. We stormed the court, and just for that, she’ll always be the best.
Dan Ridzik: Red Panda’s just top-line. You can’t mimic her. She can’t be replicated. 100%, I would say. Like, those guys (Semcycle Unicycle Mayhem) were great, and I didn’t even know what I was watching half the time. I have no idea what I was watching there. That kid was juggling on a unicycle. I can’t even juggle, like, tissues, if I tried.
Brandon Hardy: I would have to agree with that. Some things are just legendary — you can’t really replace it, and when we’re done here at Notre Dame, I think we’re gonna be that too. I think it’s gonna be tough to replicate that because of the impact we’ve made, especially in ND sports, in basketball for sure, and hockey.
Justin Ricciardi: Red Panda is awesome, and seeing her perform at halftime was super cool. I still have no clue how she’s that good at what she does, but it’s a hell of a show.
I want to give a special thank you to Dan, Brandon, Simon, Justin, and Cole for all the questions they answered for me, but even more so I want to thank them for being the kind of fans that Mike Brey’s basketball program both deserves, and desperately needs. Without guys like them, Purcell would be a hell of a lot less rowdy and a hell of a lot more inviting for opponents (which would be terrible).
I HIGHLY recommend you follow ND Whiteboard and Gold Jacket Guy on Twitter, because they are very entertaining and dedicated ND fan accounts and most of their best signs and pictures also get posted on Twitter (in case you don’t get to see them in person).