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View from Final Four’s worst seats: ‘It’s the white ants versus the blue ants’

Andrew Pastwick, 42, of Las Vegas watches the Auburn/Virginia semifinal game from seat 3 in Section 30, Row 31 during the NCAA Final Four men’s basketball tournament at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press)

MINNEAPOLIS — Brian Shorthouse and his son Nathan went to the Final Four last year in San Antonio and sat in the last row, and they weren’t too happy about it.

So last April, on the first possible day they could, the two Toronto residents ordered their tickets from the NCAA for the Final Four at U.S. Bank Stadium. They paid $500 total, and figured their seats had to be better than last year.

“We’ve moved up one row,” Nathan Shorthouse lamented Saturday. “Now, we’re in the second-to-last row.”

So there the Shorthouses were Saturday night to watch the two semifinal games. They were so far away it was pretty much a rumor that there was a game being played way down there.

“It’s awful,” Nathan said. “The players are about the size of my thumb.”

The Shorthouses’ ticket package includes Monday night’s championship game. After that, they’re planning on making their annual trip to the NCAA tournament by going to a regional site instead. The Shorthouses have been to eight straight tournaments, five times going to a first-round site and once to a regional in addition to their two Final Fours.

One row behind the Shorthouses, though, Andrew Pastwick was speaking with pride about how he was sitting in the worst seat at U.S. Bank Stadium, which drew 72,711 fans to the semifinals. Actually, Pastwick was in a three-way tie with Ron Klotter and his son John from Chicago. They were the three occupants of section 301, row 31, in the upper corner of the stadium.

“It’s the white ants versus the blue ants,” Pastwick said of Virginia wearing white uniforms and Auburn wearing blue in the 63-62 Cavaliers win prior to Michigan State facing Texas Tech.

Pastwick bought his ticket online for $192 for Saturday’s two games only. He bought a $150 round-trip plane ticket on Spirit Airlines from Las Vegas, where he lives.The flight got in during the day Saturday and he was scheduled to leave at 4 a.m. Sunday. He brought no luggage.

“I knew it was the worst seat in the place, that’s why I chose it,” Pastwick, 43, said while sipping a beer. “I could be sitting and watching the game in a casino. but I came to have some fun and do some drinking.”

The Klotters, at their first Final Four, were having plenty of fun, too. They paid $230 each online to just attend the semifinals.

“I did know (the seats were the last row),” Ron Klotter said. “I was actually excited. My theory is you either get the best seats or the worst seats.”

Did Klotter consider paying thousands of dollars for one of the best seats?

“No,” he said.

Those in the last row were able to have some reasonable idea what was going on by looking at a video board hanging over the court. But the players on the court looked smaller than the letters at the bottom of an eye-examination chart.

“If I did this bad on my eye exam, I’d be in trouble,” said the elder Klotter.

Since 1997, the NCAA has been playing games at indoor football stadiums to pull in bigger crowds. CBS play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz said he believes it has worked out well.

“Think of how many people are trying to get in just to see it,” Nantz said. “They don’t care if they if they have the greatest view in the world. They don’t care they’re in the upper deck corner. They want to be able to say they went to the Final Four.”

Duane Head, 54, of Blackshear, Ga., can relate to that. He is attending his 16th straight Final Four and always goes for the cheapest seat he can find. Head paid $265 online for Saturday’s and Monday’s games.

“And I’ve got my own row all to myself,” Head said.

Head sat in section 302, row 30, seat 1. He indeed was in a row that had just one seat.

Head at first claimed his view wasn’t too bad. Then he was asked to not look at the video board, but only at the court to describe the action.

“That’s No. 5 of Virginia driving in,” he said.

Sorry, a replay on the video board showed it was No. 11, Cavaliers guard Ty Jerome.

Still, Head was enjoying himself. And he’s planning to be at next year’s Final Four in Indianapolis.

As for the Shorthouses, they will attend a regional next year instead. Brian Shorthouse, 62, will be glad to be at a venue where he doesn’t have to hike so far to the top that a Sherpa would come in handy.

“I think I felt something in my heart when I walked up,” he said, making a mock gesture of having had heart palpitations.

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