They seem so respectable, these basketball junkies. They don't wear sunglasses to night games or slur their words. They actually seem happy. Who knows? And their cover stories are always so good.
Ask Rich Chivotkin what he does when he isn't hopping around the East Coast broadcasting Georgetown games on the radio for free and he says, "I'm a psychiatrist. That'll be $40, please."
And that maniac at Maryland who hollers, "Eat 'em up, Bear," during the hush before free throws and holds an enormous sign bearing the same words over his head - he's nuts for sure, right?
Well, Emory (Moose) Harmon claims to be the postmaster of Greenbelt. He seems to have papers to prove it.
They are tricky, these superfans, blending into the crowd, holding down sane jobs. Every major-college team in this area jobs has one - a closet crazy, a lovable addict. Together they form a sort of Sideline Super Six, including not only Chivotkin and Harmon, but:
A Plainview, L.I., painter who "lives on the Metroliner" so she can follow the careers of her two sons - one at American University, the other at Fairleigh Dickinson.
A George Washongton mathematics professor who once helped his brother turtlenap the official Maryland Terrapin, absconding with all 1,000 concrete pounds of it in the night.
A Howard public-address announcer named "Wolfman" who taught Adrian Dantley how to play dirty and calls himself "the one and only Mecca for those seeking the truth about deep ball."
A rather mysterious Cathiolic U. fan who hitchhikes to away games and leads cheers, even when he is the only Cardinal rooter in the crowd.
Even in this unique and exotic cast, Chivotkin - the 30-year-old psychologist and volunteer radio announcer - is a beacon of fanaticism.
At the four-day Christmas Holiday Festival tournament in New York, Chivotkin gilled the WGTB-FM airwaves each night with machine-gun patter about shots banked "off the boards and through the cords" and players "stepping up to the sin stripe."
And each morning he was on the 6:30 a.m. Metroliner back to D.C. to meet with patients at 10 a.m. at the Washington Psychiatric Institute. "Had to get back," says Chivotkin. "Christmas is the worst time for my people. They often feel suicidal."
It is the unpredictable Hoyas who make Chivotkin feel suicidal. "They drive me crazy," says the announcer, who hides his bias on the air fairly well.
Although Chivotkin calls the radio "my therapy, my release," it is an outlet that is sometimes "more overwhelming and harder to control than my life or my profession. People can be more obsessive about their hobbies than their jobs."
Certainly Chivotkin qualifies, reading basketball brochures cover-to-cover, then calling colleges direct for more up-to-date dope for his broadcasts.
Chivotkin once greeted Philadelphia sports-writer Dick Weiss by saying, "Did you hear that Mary Ann Ignotovich, the women's coach at Marymount College, is the new assistant at Immaculata?"
He couldn't cope with it," recalls Chivotkin proudly. "He thought he was alone on the Mt. Olympus of trivia and suddenly here I was right beside him. It blow his mind."
If Chivotkin is a fan of all basketball, then Emory Harmon - founder of the Steve Sheppard Fan Club - is simply a fan of Maryland.
"My wife says I'm married to the University of Maryland," chuckles the '44 graduate who was called Moose when he played tackle for Doc Spears' teams. "For 25 years I went to all the games. I love all the teams, but I really blossomed out after my old friend Jim Kehoe became athletic director."
Some would say Harmon exploded. Whether it is a meeting of the M Club or the alumni boosting - arranging banquets, renting buses and getting summer jobs for athletes. "I love it," says Harmon. "It's gotten under my skin I think it keeps me young."
When the devoted Fast Breakers caravan soouthward to Clemson, Durham or Chapel Hill. Harmon is there in one of his red-and-white "hot dog suits."
If a player like Sheppard deserves a fan club, Harmon starts one without ever meeting the young man or asking anything in return. The first time Sheppard met "Mr. Eat 'Em Up, Bear," the Olympics player smiled and said, "I love it." Harmon was paid in full.
And on the bus rides back to College Park that don't arrive until 5:30 a.m., Harmon is the man who never sleeps. His eyes are wedged open from the exhilaration of victory or, worse, "the-what-could-have-been" of defeat.
In the morning light, he takes his pounding headache, his smile and his slap on the back to the Greenbelt Post Office where he is underred by rain ot sleet or N.C. State.
Compared to Chivotkin's love of game and Harmon's love school. Marilyn Greenberg's devotion to her sons, Brad and Seth, almost seems paltry.
For three years, this painter, teacher, art consultant and mother of point guards has commuted from New York to Philadelphia and Washington to see her sons play about 25 games a season. She has made the synchronization of basketball and train schedules an art so as to maximize the games seen while minimizing the time and money spent.
Her worst moment came last season when AU and Fairleigh Dickinson met at Ft. Myer. Arriving hours early, she chose the one impartial seat in the gym, smack at midcourt, and assidously chewed her fingernails to keep from cheering for either son.
While others let their lights burn brightly, Professor Arthur Kirsch of GW has kept his under a bit of a bushel in recent years. Professors of statistics don't blow air horns or throw ice at referees. They just wish they could.
For 30 years, man and boy, Kirsch has followed the Colonials from their old borrowed gyms like Ulime Arena, Quantico and Ft. Myer to the new Smith Center, always applying one inflexible rule: "If it's a home game, I'm there, unlessit snows and the opponent is Brandeis."
In his youth, Kirsch once hitchhiked from Purdue graduate school to a Maryland-GW game. "It was Thanksgiving, 1955, and I sat there with my date and watched Maryland run up the score, 63-6. I've never cheered for Maryland since. I'd choke on it."
In fact, when Kirsch's brother rented a tw truck and winch and stole the concrete Maryland Terrapin from in front of the library, the budding academic was a shadowy accomplice. "I'm one of the few people who know why that Terrapin is now bolted down," Kirsch says.
And when someone spray-painted a blue GWU in the middle of the Maryland footballl field, Kirsch might hafv known something about that, too.
I've got tenure," says Kirsch recklessly, "print what you like." Even the story about how Kirsch used to have his junior faculty members get free tickets they did not intend to use so that Kirsch could take 10 neighborhood children to games? "Yes," he said, "expose the mystery tickets, too."
Kirsch has his mystery tickets, but CU has an entire mystery fan. "He hitchhikes every place we play and sits right behind me and screams like a nut," says CU coach Jack Kvancz.
"I see him hitching in snowstorms. I've offered to let him ride in the team bus, even sleep in one of the players' rooms if he can kick one of the guys out of bed. But he says, 'No, coach, I'll see you at the game'."
The enigmatic man is really Tony Kerwin, a McKinley Tech grad, ex-Navy vet and, at present, an out-of-work construction worker in no particular hurry to jump into another job.
"I'm takin' a year off. Thinking things over . . . wasting time, meeting people," says Kerwin, whose only connection with CU is that he is living at Cardinal guard Mike McNally's parents' home until his unemployment benefits kick in.
"I have a car, buy I'd rather Hitchhike," says Kerwin. "It's cheaper and more educational. I'm good company. When I get to games . . . twice I've been the only CU fan there . . . I tell the people around me they should giveus a break. i can usually get 'em to cheer for us a little. I tell 'em we'd do the same for them. 'Course we prob'ly wouldn't.
"Someday CU's going to have a great team and I'll be able to say I knew them back when."
If Kerwin looks to the future, Glenn Harris sometimes finds himself longing for the past.
"In my days at Howard (1969'73)," says the 30-year-old "Wolf Man," "if you couldn't have some fun at Bison games, you were either an invalid or in catatonic state.You had to grease your back to get in the place."
With bands playing, cheerleaders jiving, rolls of toilet paper flying and Harris dierecting all the mayhem as PA man, "the opposition was too busy toe-tapping to play ball."
Now, Harris claims, "the spirit isn't there. Howard's back to that old bourgy (bourgeois) way of going. Blase." Harris has to go to Capital Center if he wants to hear the fans yell at a visiting player, "Weelcome to the game, jailbird."
Harris - high school and college baseball star, ex-soldier, ex-hippie and friend to man - carries his reputation everywhere he goes.
"I came into a gym the other day," says Harris, "and a guy said, 'the king has arrived. Let me come over here to Mecca and talk some big ball, some serious ball.'
"My rep is so nice, that I can falter on a guy and he doesn't know. You aren't a fan unless you know that Marvin Barnes has a TV in all 20 rooms of his house. If you ain't got a subscription to Basketball Weekly, you ain't into no deep ball.
"Why, I once met a guy from Defiance College and I named him the entire starting lineup of his team. That dude just went off. He said, 'Glenn, you are the king.'"
And Harris smiled, the master of all he chooses to survey, the self-proclaimed honcho of Washington basketball junkies. After all, who invented Glenn Harris basketball, the version on the game in which two players go one-on-one with no fouls called and no holds barred? "It made Adrian Dantley a player," the burly Harris always says.
The light of divine inspiration passes over the Wolf Man's face. "Who," he asks, "started in the same backcourt with Oscar Robertson at Cincinnati in 1958?"
There is silence. And then the voice of the superfan speaks. "Sandy Koufax," Harris says.