Watching the No. 1 Zags up close and personal seems to be a rarity these days.
But one fan has managed to snag courtside seats to each game every season for the past 25 years, and it only costs him three hours of driving time.
Since 1993, Mike Bestrom has made the roughly 150-mile round trip from his home in Colville to Spokane to sit on the sidelines and work as the Zags’ official scorekeeper.
Bestrom started keeping score for the Zags in 1992 when he lived in Spokane Valley. A friend from his fantasy baseball league helped set up an interview with Gonzaga’s assistant director of athletics for the vacant position. Bestrom kept track of all the statistics for the fantasy league at that time when there was no luxury of tracking the numbers online.
“I did all the statistics by hand once a week,” Bestrom said.
His love for the numbers landed him the job.
The following year, Bestrom and his family moved to Colville, a little more than 70 miles north of the Kennel. But a 3-hour round trip between the towns – sometimes twice a week – didn’t deter Bestrom from being at the scoring table in his black and white striped official’s shirt for every home game.
“At that point they started getting really good, and I thought, ‘Well, OK, I might just stick with this for a while.’ And it’s turned into a pretty good gig,” Bestrom said.
The Eastern Washington alumnus admitted he never rooted for the Zags before he started working for the team, but the Bulldogs almost immediately took hold of him. After more than two decades of watching the Zags rise to the top, he’s been converted to rooting for the red and blue.
“I’m a pretty serious fan now,” Bestrom said. “We have to be neutral here (at the scoring table), but when I’m at home watching away games, my TV is in danger a lot of times from flying objects.”
Bestrom often made game day a family event and got his kids to root for the Bulldogs when he first started working for Gonzaga at the Martin Centre.
“No one came to the games in ’92,” Bestrom said.
Back then, there were a lot more empty seats in the Kennel, so finding courtside tickets on game day was fairly easy.
“I’d bring them to two or three games a year. They’d sit right behind me,” Bestrom said.
“They grew up to be huge Gonzaga fans,” Bestrom said.
Bestrom, who works as a medical records director at a nursing home, said he’s even managed to get a number of his coworkers and friends in Colville to follow the Zags – especially this season.
“Not on purpose,” he said. After all, the No. 1 Zags “are also on TV and in the newspapers, so it’s a big deal anyways.”
Bestrom, who’s turning 65 in a few months, said he’s not sure how long he’ll stay as the scorekeeper. But as long as he can keep up with the scorekeeping duties, he certainly doesn’t mind driving a few hours a week to watch one of the best teams in the nation play just a few feet from his seat.
“There’s 351 Division I schools and I get to sit here and do this for the top-ranked team in the nation,” Bestrom said. “It’s pretty cool.”
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