Dayton Flyers fans miss UD Arena but support team from home on game days

Jay Schwartz, left, and his family watches Dayton play Mississippi State and Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 19, 2020,  in St. Henry.
Jay Schwartz, left, and his family watches Dayton play Mississippi State and Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 19, 2020, in St. Henry.

Fans share their stories of how they’re adjusting to not being able to attend games

The Dayton Flyers athletic department has tried to keep fans connected to the basketball program even though most are stuck at home watching games during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dayton Flyers Gameday app features the “T-Mobile In-Flight Experience,” which allows fans to watch the national anthem, pregame introductions, pregame videos, in-game replays and other arena promotions they would typically see if they were at UD Arena. They can also play around with Dayton face filters while taking selfies and follow the live stats.

Fewer than 300 fans are allowed to attend games because of Ohio Department of Health restrictions on indoor gatherings, and the actual crowds numbered closer to 100 at four home games in December. Only immediate family members of players and other invited guests received tickets.

Thousands of fans around Ohio and the country have done their best to follow the team at their homes. Their game experiences are not the same, but most are grateful they still get to watch the Flyers.

ExploreINSIDE THE ARENA: Fans describe the experience

In mid-December, fans were asked how have they adjusted during the pandemic. Do they have any special traditions when it’s time to watch the Flyers? Did they upgrade their cable packages? Who do they watch the game with? How does it compare to the arena experience? What do they miss about UD Arena?

Here’s how they responded:

Jason Hess, Troy: I don’t have season tickets, but my parents and friends do and my wife and I typically get to go to half of the home games or so. The arena is my happy place. We always get there an hour early, grab a beer, makes some laps and talk with family and friends. I’ve been going to games since I was a very little kid. This year, I’m utilizing the ESPN+ app more and streaming it to our big TV in the basement. It’s just not the same. I still tune in as always. The hardest part, besides not having Obi (Toppin), is picking out what to wear. I can’t count how much Dayton stuff I have!

Tony Peters, Dayton: Flyer Gameday is different for me since the pandemic started. Usually, I would attend at least one game a year, and it’s been a tradition of mine for the last 15 years. This will be the first year that I cannot be at UD Arena with the rest of the Flyer Faithful watching Obi Toppin or Chris Wright fly above the rim, the leadership of Brian Gregory, Archie Miller and Anthony Grant and several other Flyers, including Chris Johnson, Xeyrius Williams, London Warren, Ryan Mikesell, Kurt Huelsman, and many many more.

My tradition is much different now. I’m unable to watch every game on TV. Now on gameday, my phone is locked in on Twitter and the ESPN app. I follow guys like (David Jablonski) to get the most up-to-date info on the Flyers on gameday. I have a newfound respect for media members this year and through this pandemic. As a media member myself, I understand how crucial it is to provide updates for fans following since they can’t attend the game in person. I see now how important it is because people want to feel the atmosphere and feel the Flyers in their games. Things have gotten crazy this year, and I’m thankful we have basketball period.

Steve Kandel, Vandalia: We did not have season tickets last year but made it to many home games, including the game March 7 against George Washington. My father-in-law shares some tickets with us and has long had season tickets in 204. Our home viewing changed drastically last year. Clearly, we did not want to miss a game. We scrambled to add channels when a game was televised. In anticipation of this season, I wanted to cover all of our viewing options.

Andrew Duszynski, Austin, Texas: I moved to Texas about a year ago, and have made friends with some UD grads in Austin. In fact there are surprisingly a few who live in my apartment building downtown. We have them over for every game, usually with a little bit of tailgating beforehand. However, now it has become a party for people on our floor, so UD has gained a bunch of new fans. I already had ESPN+ to watch other college games, so no change there. Our traditions are to drink Natural Light like we did back in the ghetto before the games.

Dan Mudra, Fishers, Ind.: In recent seasons, we have been splitting tickets with another family; so while we didn’t make all home games, we made several each year. Now our basement viewing pub is primed and ready for every tipoff. My daughter who is a UD frosh and pep band member is on the couch with us instead of in the arena raising a ruckus. But, of course, she’s listening intently for the recorded band sounds in the near-empty arena to come echoing over the airways. “There we are!” she’ll say when we hear it and we all dance a little to whatever song is playing.

ExploreTHE LAST GREAT DAY: Reliving March 7 at UD

We make sure food and drinks are all in place, and absolutely nothing will interrupt the game — especially for those ESPN+ games because there is no pausing those broadcasts! We don’t have cable, rather we stream everything. It puts added pressure on my home WiFi. At tip-off, I feel like texting all my neighbors to “Stay off your computers and phone for the next 2 hours! Flyers are on!” It’s a different experience but lots of the same fun and spirited anxious moments we know and love. Until we’re back in the arena, we’ll be in our basement (with 11 or fewer people) hanging on every stream and feed we can find.

Greg Elking, New Bremen: We miss going to campus before the games, scrambling in the parking like bumper cars. We miss the smell of the roasted nuts, walking the concourse mingling with others. We miss the long lines and rush to the bathroom at TV timeouts. We miss the crazy giveaways and people going nuts. We miss the crowd and blue hairs not standing up, but most of all not being in section 313, Row A watching the team come out. Chills! ESPN+ is not the same.

Dan Moore, Oklahoma City: Unfortunately, I live in Oklahoma, so this has been my norm over the past six years after graduating from the University of Dayton. But that being said, I think I’ve perfected it. We used to go to the bars and enjoy the game with some friends. But now there aren’t as many bars open, so I’ve been staying home and watching the games with my fiancée. Generally on gameday, I (if possible and on a weekend) I will smoke some meat and make some Skyline chili dip while having some Miller Lite that tastes exactly like what I would get at the arena. I am glad to be a fan of this school, and every time they play, it brings me a little closer to home.

Carl Nickander, Indianapolis: Me and my two roommates in Indianapolis are 2019 grads, and we all went in on ESPN+ package together, which isn’t much of an investment but something we had to do. We freak out and scream and cry pretty much like any other situation watching the Flyers play. It’s very very fun to have them back on the court and competing after an empty ending last season.

Cindy Giner, Kettering: Definitely miss the arena experience. A cold Bud Light and a pretzel! Daughter cheering on the floor — just the energy! And seeing friends ... that’s the biggest miss. Watched this weekend on a computer sitting on the counter in my daughter’s Berea, Ky., kitchen with grandkids singing “Goooo Dayton Flyers!” We always have to make sure our ESPN+ accounts aren’t maxed out so everyone can watch!

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Jason Beavon, Lebanon: My son and I have been going to Flyers games for seven years, and he’s now 13. We are shared season-ticket holders with my in-laws. We did opt out this season. We miss the bonding time and the excitement of Flyers basketball. He’s been spoiled with successful teams in his life, and it’s hard to not be able to go this year. We did add the ESPN bundle this year and made sure we had CBS and NBC Sports so we can watch the games. Hoping for a more normal ’21-22 season.

Brian Torpey, New York City: I’m a 2007 UD graduate, and my wife Kristen Ehlers is a 2008 graduate. We live in New York City, so most of our gameday experiences aren’t drastically different since we usually watch together from home. The big change this year is there is no building anticipation for the times we will get to catch them live on the East Coast (A-10 tourney, Fordham, St Joe’s, etc). Knowing you’re going to see them in person at some point makes the overall fan experience more exciting. Regardless, we will be glued to the TV each game this year!

Terry and Rita Brown, Washington Township: As UD alums and longtime season-ticket holders, we do have to admit that we’re a bit out of sorts on game days. However, we look forward to each and every one. Pregame starts with donning our Flyers spirit wear and tuning in Larry (Hansgen) for (WHIO radio) pregame after we review our Flyer Connection email for the latest updates. Then the texts start with our son and daughter-in-law (both alums), friends from our class of ’84 and a set of fellow season-ticket holders. We make a point to especially reach out to season-ticket holders and super fans, Dale and Linda Hogenkamp (both in their 80s), who we miss seeing at the arena. And there might be a few Bud Lights for good measure in a nod to Bucky (Bockhorn). Go Flyers!!

Edward Meyers, Tipp City: I have season tickets with my old work buddy (Tod Billing). We have gone to UD games for years now. Don’t miss a game. If they are home or on the road, we are watching with full intent. This year has been a bit different than the past, obviously. This year since Tod and I can’t get together to watch the games, we watch them at our homes and contact one another during the game about what’s going on. This year I have been watching with my wife and son. We usually try to make some good gameday food to munch on all day long and hope for a flyers dub. We love supporting our Flyers and hope for a full, healthy and exciting season of UD basketball.

Duane and Julie Pullins, Centerville: Our new gameday for both Ohio State football and Dayton basketball is terrible to say the least. I am an OSU grad and got my master’s at UD, and my wife got both her undergrad and master’s at UD. We schedule our weekends and game nights around when those teams will be on so we can watch them. Last March, we bought a new television for our basement, a 65 inch, so we could watch what we both thought for sure was going to be a magical tournament run. We talked about how the Elite Eight run had lifted this city up several years ago and dreamed of what a Final Four berth or even a National Championship could have meant. We got it installed the day before the A-10 tournament and were ready to go only to have the rug pulled out from under us at the last minute. We still often look at each other and say “What might have been?”

This football season has been excruciating for me with three cancellations now as well so we joked with each other the other day that maybe it was the new TV’s fault that all of this is happening. There is something special about walking into either UD Arena or Ohio Stadium on game day as the atmosphere still gives us goose bumps and we can feel the electricity in the air. Watching at home is definitely not as much fun as being there in person. We miss the fans, the band, the food (believe it or not) and just the overall atmosphere that is UD Arena on gameday. Another downfall of this is my soon to be 14-year old son was going to go to his first ever Ohio State-Michigan game with me this fall so he is bummed to say the least.

We cannot wait until it is safe to return to UD Arena and watch the Flyers in person. Until then, we are settling for watching them here at home as we recently added ESPN + so we do not miss any games. We are also considering buying NBA League Pass so we can watch Obi.

Lilly Fullenkamp, Russia: This ’20-21 season is definitely different in many ways! I hate that my family and I can’t go to any games this year. The last game my family and I went to was the UD vs Davidson home game in February. We sat in Section 103, Row 2. That game was incredible. Like Dick Vitale says, “The Dayton Flyers, anybody who thinks they’re not real, you’re wacky, you’re wacky, you’re wacky.”

That team would have had a heck of run in the March Madness tournament. Also Anthony Grant and Obi Toppin were selected as AP coach and player of the year. So crazy!

Truly, nothing beats UD Arena. I’ve been to a couple of NBA games, and still nothing compares to the atmosphere and fun at UD Arena. We’ve been watching the games on ESPN+ in our living room. I’m still very happy that we can have a season this year under all the circumstances. I miss the smells of the arena and of course the Donatos Pizza and Lee’s Chicken. How can I forget about the pep band? They are so fun to listen to and watch. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for future years of UD basketball and can’t wait to back to the one and only UD arena. Something about that arena is just so special!

Bob Yux, Centerville: My wife and I are both UD grads as are our two sons. As season-ticket holders, we miss the opportunity to gather with the friends we have gained through the years. UD Arena has been a place where we could count on connecting with good friends both old and new. Until now, we had taken for granted how much we relied on the arena to bring us together. For many years, we have turned on our red and blue patio lights to show our colors and continue that tradition. Whenever possible, we pause the TV and sync the video with Larry Hansgen’s delayed broadcast over iHeartRadio to get the best of both worlds — the visual of the game and the best play-by-play announcer in the country!

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