GLENDALE, Ariz. – Lights.
Fans in their Kennel Club shirts flocked to a room tucked away underneath the stands of the University of Phoenix Stadium.
Ellen Dunn stayed close to the crowd of about 100 Gonzaga fans. She followed the sea of blue and red to a stage hidden by black curtains and flooded with stage lights. The heat from the bulbs was almost worse than stepping out in the desert sun that simmered just beyond the stadium walls.
Dunn found her spot along a catwalk set for the entrance of the Final Four stars. CBS photographers adjusted their cameras and took note on their director’s final instructions. Dunn listened, too.
Fans smiled at each other, fixed their hair and waited. They weren’t sure what to expect in just a couple of minutes, but they were excited.
One by one, Gonzaga’s star players slipped through the curtains and walked down the catwalk. They strutted through the large crowd of screaming Gonzaga fans, who clapped and cheered and reached out for a high five.
Once all of the starters had paraded through the set and smiled at the cameras, the Gonzaga fans quieted down and looked for an exit. They made a beeline for the dining area backstage to grab a bite to eat.
Dunn grabbed some water and found a seat at one of the round tables. All around her, fans were switching out their red and blue Kennel Club shirts for some maroon Gamecocks gear.
Dunn followed suit. She slipped on a new shirt with South Carolina written across the front. She was a South Carolina fan now – or at least for the next hour.
Dunn is part of a Scottsdale (Arizona) talent agency called Signature, which hires actors in Arizona for various projects. CBS asked the agency to round up about 100 extras that could act as fans for each of the four teams on Thursday. The footage of each individual player walking through the crowd of actors wearing the team’s colors will most likely be used by CBS for player introduction purposes ahead of Saturday’s national semifinals.
Dunn said it wasn’t hard to act excited to see the NCAA stars. She loves college basketball and she was soaking up all she could from the Final Four.
“Even if you’re not (a basketball fan) it’s super fun,” Dunn said.
She said she he couldn’t help but wish it was her Arizona Wildcats walking through the curtains instead of the Zags.
“If only this was Arizona,” Dunn said. “I’d be going crazy.”
Fair enough. After all, the Zags are in some Wildcat country now. But there were a few real Gonzaga fans hidden among the crowd of Arizona, Kentucky, Kansas and Xavier fans.
Laurie Flood said she’s pulling for Gonzaga after her team, Michigan State, fell out of the NCAA Tournament in the first week. Her roots in the Northwest steered her in the direction of the Zags for the remainder of the tournament.
Flood was born in Moscow, Idaho, and lived there until her family relocated to Boise when she was one year old. She stayed in Idaho for six more years and then moved to the south side of the country where she has remained.
Flood and her friend Suzanne Kraekel traveled nearly two hours north from their homes in Tucson, Arizona, to get behind the scenes of the Final Four.
“This is really fun,” Kraekel said. “It’s just hard to be enthusiastic for so long.”
Especially for teams that they’re not enthusiastic about. Kraekel lost out on seeing her Kentucky Wildcats when they fell to North Carolina last week in the Elite Eight.
Kraekel had to pose as a Tar Heels fan later in the day, but she and Flood have no problem faking their die-hard fandom.
“We’re use to pretending,” Flood said.
Some of the talent agency’s designated “captains” started directing the actors back out of the dining area. Flood and Kraekel gathered their Gamecocks gear and followed the crowd of the so-called South Carolina fans down the hall and to the hidden room of lights and cameras.
It was time to pretend again.
Follow along with the Zags
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