I have to have passion in my life. I am very passionate about a lot of things. Several years ago, here on Duke City Fix, I professed my love and passion for basketball. Let me clarify, Lobo basketball. So when I had the opportunity to interview someone as passionate about Lobo basketball as me, I was pretty excited.
For those of you that go to the men’s games, you know about tattoo covered, über- Lobo fan Snake. (If you are wondering about his nickname, he is a herpetologist) Here is a guy that knows more about the Lobos than me. Let me tell you, I know a whole lot about the Lobos – he knows more!
Mark Tischenor, aka Snake, was Bob King’s ball boy in the early ‘70s. He was also a ball boy for Stormin’ Norman Ellenberger. He used to go to the practices at Johnson gym and was always early for every game. It was his dad that got him interested in the Lobos and basketball. It was my dad that got me interested in the Lobos and basketball. In the early days of The Pit he sat in Section 7, Row 8 and would always sneak his way down to the bottom. Our seats were in Section 24, row 42. We were at the bottom.
Although Snake is just a few years younger than me, we’ve lead parallel Lobo fan lives, except for one thing. I was never a ball boy/girl. I always wanted to be one, but never got the opportunity. One of the most poignant stories he told me was when he was a ball boy. He remembered a time when Bob King and his wife were heading down the stairs to their seats. Mr. King was already retired but still went to the games. He said that Mrs. King was holding onto Coach King helping him down the stairs because he was old and was having a hard time walking. The unthinkable happened, they both fell. Snake said he ran over to them, helped them up and told them that he would help them down the stairs any time they went to a game. He was true to his word.
When Bob King died, Mrs. King gave Snake Coach King’s game tie. She also gave him one of his sweaters and asked him to be a pall bearer at his funeral. He says that he has some nice Lobo memorabilia, including a warm up jacket that Michael Cooper gave him in ’77-’78. But the tie and sweater are his most treasured. When I went to interview Snake, I took my stuffed Louie Lobo that my dad gave me in 1966. Not a lot of people can appreciate that I still have that stuffed Lobo, but someone like Snake totally can.
I asked him why he felt The Pit was such a special place. He said that basically it’s just a big hole in the ground, but when all kinds of people fill it they all become one. Everyone in the building is there for one thing, the Lobos. He now sits in the front row of the student section.
The student section is right next to where visiting teams sit. Snake is definitely a “no holds barred” kind of fan. You are fair game when you come to The Pit. You have to endure the passion and wrath of Snake. As a matter of fact, he goes to the games at least two hours early to “greet” the opposing teams as they get off the bus. I asked him what he says to them and he says he welcomes them. He tells them, “Welcome to hell!” and then proceeds to intimidate and taunt them. All the Mountain West coaches are aware of Snake and ask their players to keep their headphones on and look straight ahead when they get off the bus. It is those other teams who have never been to The Pit before that are completely caught off guard when they encounter him. Players from outside of the MWC don’t know how to handle him and often yell back. He said they usually tell him to shut up or call him a crack head. He just laughs it off.
I asked him about what he thought were the most memorable games in The Pit. He said when we beat #1 ranked Arizona in 1988; the recent win against BYU this year; and of course in 1977 when the Lobos beat 6th ranked UNLV. There were twenty thousand people crammed into The Pit. The fire marshal was going nuts threatening to shut down the game. Snake was a ball boy at the time and was sweeping the floor because asbestos was falling from the ceiling onto the floor.
I asked him about who would be on his all-time Lobo basketball team. Bob King, of course would be the coach, then for the team, Ira Harge, Mel Daniels, Royce Olney, Rob Robbins, Michael Cooper, Kenny Page and Danny Granger…and he did say Dairese Gary would be in his top 10.
Snake and I did talk about a few other things, but time was limited. We both agree that no matter what they do to The Pit, it all boils down to the game, the players and the fans. Now that we’ve officially met, I guess we can continue our conversation about the Lobos. Maybe I’ll even go early to a game and help him “greet” the opposing team!