ZAGmania Soothes the Winter Blues
By ZAGmaniac Marianne Love
for Sandpoint Magazine Winter Edition
Within minutes of setting foot in the United States for a student exchange with local host parents, Will and Debbie Love, Switzerland’s Laura Schmid learned two essential words for getting along with her new family.
“Go ZahhhhhgS.” she uttered in a barely audible, tentative tone, while heading to Sandpoint in August, 2014.
Before returning to Switzerland six months later, Schmid knew the drill. She owned Gonzaga Bulldog apparel and had worn it to a ZAGS game, sitting just above the team in the Bulldog Kennel at McArthey Athletic Complex.
Twice weekly, along with her extended family of ZAGmaniacs aka Love’s and Tibbses, she sat in in front of TVs getting acquainted with coach Mark Few’s men’s Bulldogs while munching on sumptuous, often theme-oriented ZAGS-game lap meals. She learned of ZAGS past successes, including their No. 1 ranking and 17 consecutive trips to NCAA tournaments.
With time, she could easily shout out an emphatic, very audible “GO ZAGS!!!”
Schmid experienced a full-fledged indoctrination into a contagious seasonal epidemic aka fanaticism that consumes her hosts and countless other area families from late October to (hopefully) April.
Though it has no official name, ZAGmania seems an appropriate moniker for the seasonal obsession many locals consider the perfect antidote to winter blues.
Some fans’ homes are almost completely wallpapered with several years’ worth of Zags team and “Go ZAGS” posters. In other homes, fans follow unwritten but clearly understood gag orders during games, subtlely outlawing non-ZAG-oriented conversation.
Yelling “YES!” and pounding on fellow ZAG fanatics after baskets---definitely allowed.
Retirees Carrie and Roy Jacobson follow a slight modification of the above.
“It’s a ‘Do not disturb mode’ while we watch,” Carrie says.
Meanwhile, Rose Greene and her parents, Lisa and Dale, practice strict rituals for each game.
“I wear one of my Zag jerseys (I have three) and always take my Zag pillow, blanket and lucky keychain,” Rose explains. “My mom always puts a Zag rug in front of the TV and makes sure that our Spike bobblehead is watching the TV. We touch his head before each game.”
Sometimes, other fans like Tim and Connie Rosco (Connie’s feet sweat during nail-biter ZAG games) embarrass themselves publicly by thinking of “their” ZAGS as center of the universe.
“We found out the hard way that you don't cheer for the Zags when you are in a Red Robin restaurant in Bend, Ore., while they are playing against Arizona!” Tim recalls. “It was the 2nd round of the 2003 NCAA tournament. GU lost in double overtime 95 to 96. A great game, but we were 2 out of 100 people there [cheering] for the Zags. It was impossible for us to not be cheering them on and loudly.”
And, then there are “religious fans,” like 83-year-old retired teacher and devout Catholic Lasean Driggs.
“I have a red [ZAGS} sweatshirt and blue long-sleeved [ZAGS] shirt,” Driggs, a member of St. Joseph’s parish, says, “I often wear them to church . . . as I greet at church before masses, I compliment anyone wearing ZAGS apparel. Sometimes we talk about the game played the night before.”
Lasean says she does not pray for the ZAGS to win, although “I might cross my fingers at free throws . . . .”
So why such adoration toward one team?
Locals do avidly support other regional athletic teams, but with the ZAGS, it seems that unifying passions prevail.
“It’s a small market that plays big-time basketball,” says retired educator Tim Ross, who not only follows the ZAGS but also has nearly 30 years of attending NCAA tournaments under his belt. “We like the ZAGS because they [generally] keep their players for four years, and you get to know the team . . . we almost know them as family.”
Colorado transplants Lynn and Marcy Wise, avid followers of both GU men and women’s basketball teams, credit the coaching staffs.
“They don’t cheat,” Marcy says. “The program is run well. They recruit good people and make good men and women out of them.” Marcy Wise wears ZAGS gear “24-7” and happily gets distracted talking about her favorite team. Once the season starts, she spends the bulk of her days posting on the Gonzaga University message boards as “ZAG Grannie.”
“I usually start with Craziness in the Kennel,” she explains. “I carry that all through the season, posting lots of pictures and comments, and starting separate threads for Vegas and the NCAA tourney games.”
The couple manages to attend 12-14 games a year, thanks to their membership in the Bulldog Club. A $250 donation enables members to purchase whatever extra tickets are available after students, staff and season ticket holders’ seats are guaranteed.
Sometimes opposing teams do not use their allotment, opening up the extras.
Other fans score seats, thanks to what diehard fan Kim Puckett calls “trickle-down tickets,” obtained by “knowing someone.” These opportunities occur whenever generous season ticket holders don’t attend every single home game and share the wealth.
Still others attend games for a variety of price tags by watching for tickets on E-Bay, Craig’s List or social media.
There is no cure for the annual onset of ZAGmania among fans watching from home or in the Kennel, and that’s perfectly okay with those afflicted.
When ZAG games begin each fall, they simply say, “Bring on the insanity!”
Toward winter’s end when that bittersweet day comes, marking the ZAG’s final loss---hopefully in the NCAA Tournament--- fans like Tim Ross and educator Laurie Tibbs exemplify typical reactions.
The ZAGS T-shirt goes back in the drawer until fall at Ross’s home, while, after the final buzzer, Tibbs simply sits back in her chair, sighs, praises the team and then announces, “Okay, it’s spring; time to move on to outdoor projects.”
Once more the ZAGS have done their job.
For more information about the Bulldog Club or securing tickets, visit the following:
AND, THE BEST PART, THE JOB IS NOT YET COMPLETED. DANCE ON, ZAGS! CONGRATULATIONS ON A GREAT VICTORY OVER SETON HALL LAST NIGHT!!!
Next game: Saturday, 5:30 p.m. PDT. ZAGS vs. Utah Utes on TNT.
Next game: Saturday, 5:30 p.m. PDT. ZAGS vs. Utah Utes on TNT.
To see this story and others in the current edition of Sandpoint Magazine, pick up a copy around town if you're local or visit the following link.