- The Washington Times - Friday, March 24, 2006

Father and son Kevin and Matt Milas lead double lives when it comes to college basketball.

Enjoying a couple of beers at Clyde’s before the second half of the Sweet Sixteen began last night, the green-and-gold-clad duo lifted up their George Mason University T-shirts to reveal Georgetown University logos.

“As soon as the [Mason] game’s over, we become Georgetown fans,” said Kevin, a 54-year-old Georgetown graduate, as he revealed a bag containing two Hoyas hats for the later game.

George Mason tipped off against Wichita State at 7:27 last night at the Verizon Center, while Georgetown faced Florida in Minneapolis later in the evening.

“I see the two Georges making it through,” added Matt, 24, a 2004 George Mason grad.

The two were not alone. Eager fans crowded sports bars and restaurants in Chinatown yesterday in the hours leading up to the NCAA tournament at the Verizon Center, taking advantage of big-screen TVs, chicken wing specials and free T-shirts.

“It’s gonna be very, very busy,” said Cory Hughes, a bouncer at D.A.’s Regional Food & Drink. Mr. Hughes said the bar saw a record crowd during last year’s tournament — in which no games were played in the District. “We anticipate beating that [record] tonight easily,” he said.

Mr. Hughes said he expected an hourlong wait to enter the bar as game time approached. “There are definitely benefits to being a block and a half from the Verizon Center.”

Ryan Ponton and Bruce Pier, medical students on spring break, arrived at Clyde’s around 3 p.m. yesterday to enjoy the pre-game festivities, which included live radio broadcasts and several large-screen TVs.

“You get sucked in,” said Mr. Pier, 28, who is from Louisiana. “Everybody’s just jumping out of the woodwork on the bandwagon. It’s fun to be part of the excitement.”

Mr. Ponton, 24, was rooting for George Mason since his alma mater, the University of Virginia, didn’t make the cut.

Ten feet away, Danny Namorato of Bowie stood at a crowded bar sporting a UCLA jersey and downing a Heineken.

A self-proclaimed Syracuse fan originally from Staten Island, N.Y., Mr. Namorato said he and a friend would be pulling for George Mason later from their Verizon Center seats.

“The teams thing don’t matter,” said Mr. Namorato, 26. “My team’s out, but I’m as excited as if I were watching my own team playing.

“That’s what the tournament does, it brings people together.”

A few bar stools down, friends Laura Wood and Marquette Rogers said they had been at Clyde’s since early yesterday morning, soaking up the atmosphere of the Sweet Sixteen.

“The thing about March Madness is it’s not even about sports anymore, it’s this crazy cultural phenomenon,” said Ms. Wood, 39. “Strangers are sitting around talking about basketball over a beer. For like three hours, nothing else matters.”

Mr. Rogers, 31, said he took the day off from his job as an information technology consultant to sit at the bar and watch several radio shows being broadcast live from the restaurant yesterday.

“She e-mailed me and said ‘Are you coming?’” Mr. Rogers said. “So I took off work. … It brings you back to college.”

Upstairs at Clyde’s, lobbyist and Penn Quarter resident Rob Smith entertained two friends in town from Atlanta for the tournament.

Mr. Smith said he was pulling for George Mason as well and was excited to see his neighborhood come alive.

“I’m excited for the area to be jumping,” said Mr. Smith, 34. “It’s gonna be a zoo all weekend; it’s gonna be great.”

Down the street at Fado Irish Pub — one of the three-dozen locations in 10 states and the District where Patriot watch parties were planned — George Mason students Amy Goldsmith, Michelle Ragnetti and Amanda Powers stood out in the dimly lit bar by wearing bright gold shirts and handing out signs supporting their school.

“It feels like we go to a real school,” said Miss Ragnetti, 22. “To have this in our last semester — I’m so glad I didn’t graduate on time.”

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