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Monday, February 28, 2005

Commentary: Not much to look at, Allen site to behold

KU arena truly something special

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On the outside, Allen Fieldhouse looks like a rundown industrial building. On the inside, it's not much better.

When it's empty, it has the charm of a bus station.

But when it's full, wow ...

There's no better place in America to watch a basketball game.

Allen Fieldhouse, nestled in the heart of the compact east campus of Kansas University in Lawrence, is the home of the Jayhawks.

Booooooo.

Okay, boo the Jayhawks. It's our inherited duty.

But you've got to love this gym.

The old girl is only 50, and she hasn't aged gracefully. Too much noise will do that. She's lived a raucous 50 years.

While watching Missouri play Kansas on Jan. 31 at Allen Fieldhouse, when it wasn't loud, it was really loud.

There's not much else to cheer for in Kansas, after all. We have flat land, yes we do. We have flat land, how 'bout you!?!?

This place drips history. It oozes basketball.

Allen Fieldhouse on Naismith Drive, the House that Chamberlain built.

Allen Fieldhouse, named after Phog Allen, who retired in 1956 with the most wins in college history, 746.

Naismith Drive, named after Dr. James Naismith, the first coach Kansas ever had. And oh, by the way, Naismith invented basketball. Why? To fill the time between football and baseball seasons.

Wilt Chamberlain, arguably the most dominant player in the history of the sport.

Missouri history? Mmmm ... we have Norm Stewart.

Take that.

Oddly enough, two blocks from Allen Fieldhouse is Missouri Street, which is a shortish, non-descript road.

You can almost hear the jokes. It sure doesn't take long to get around Missouri.

Almost funny.

Allen Fieldhouse, this glorified high school gym, was built for one purpose.

Basketball.

Starting a couple of feet behind the benches and press tables are bleachers. The bleachers rise to the top of the 16,300-seat building. No suites. No fancy light show. When the Tigers are introduced at Mizzou Arena, you feel like you're in a video game.

Mizzou Arena is pretty. Allen Fieldhouse is basketball.

Two hours before tipoff, there already are several thousand KU students outside the gym.

The Antlers and 'Zou Crew are fabulous, but the Kansas student section -- besides being about 10 times larger than the Missouri student section -- is something else.

Deafening. (To be fair to MU fans, KU fans have had a lot more to cheer about through the years. Especially this year.)

When Kansas fans know the opposition is banished, they start the infamous "Rock Chalk Jayhawk, K-U" chant. It's basically a Gregorian chant by college kids.

For Tiger fans, it's easy to dislike everything Jayhawk. But if you haven't been there, and if you like basketball, make it a point.

There's no place quite like Allen Fieldhouse.

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