Bonesville: The Authoritative Independent Voice of East Carolina
Daily News & Features from East Carolina, Conference USA and Beyond

Mobile Alpha Roundup Daily Beat Recruiting The Seasons Multimedia Historical Data Pirate Time Machine SportByte™ Weather





Put your ad message in front of 1,000's and 1,000's of Pirate fans. Call 252.637.2944 for flexible options & rates.





The Bradsher Beat
Friday, October 26, 2007

By Bethany Bradsher

Fan experience trying for Graham

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

Every year as the Homecoming game approaches, media members inevitably ask the players and coaches about the event. After all, when you cover a team for 11 straight weeks you’ll grasp at any unique hook for a story.

Skip Holtz and his players gave the appropriate answers this week about Homecoming: It’s a special weekend, a good catalyst for fan spirit.

But in the intense routine of preparing for a Division I football game, the Homecoming festivities are not really even on the radar for the ones who will occupy the trenches Saturday against UAB.

Just ask Eric Graham, who started 33 consecutive games on the ECU offensive line and graduated in May. He doesn’t have far to travel — Graham is living and working in Greenville — but he is altogether less than enthusiastic about the prospect of “coming home” to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium this weekend.

Graham certainly cares about what the Pirates do on the field, and he isn’t unsentimental. It’s just that there are a few things about the whole football-game-as-fan experience that take a little getting used to when you’ve been putting on pads and a helmet since you were a Pop Warner tike.

The seats are too small for Graham’s 6-foot-6, 332-pound frame. He doesn’t drink, and he inevitably ends up sitting near drunken fans that feel the need to offer their own nuggets of coaching advice over their beers. Those are Graham’s friends out there, and he usually agrees with the decisions the coaches are making, he said.

“I just don’t like dealing with all the extra coaches in the stands,” said Graham, who was named second-team All-Conference USA in 2006. “I went to one home game and I left early. I just couldn’t take it.”

He has watched the rest of the games, home and away, from the comfort of his couch, although he is reluctantly planning to brave the stands again Saturday, he said, especially if former teammate James Myrick makes the trip from Virginia.

He apologizes in advance if someone in front of him stands up and he has to stand in front of you to see the field, he says. When he opts to stand rather than squeeze into his seat, he blocks more than one fan behind him.

Graham still prefers the wide-open spaces found on the field, or the even larger stadium he helped occupy during the three months he was in camp with the Carolina Panthers. He played during the Panther’s mini camps and training camps and saw time during each preseason game, but he was asked to turn in his playbook the day before the final cuts were made.

“Before the very first preseason game, I actually went in the stadium about two hours before,” said Graham, who is now working as a mentor with Carter Behavioral Health Services. “I was thinking, ‘Wow, I actually got here.’”

His stay in the big game was all too short, of course, but Graham hasn’t quite given up on the idea of playing on. He has tried out with both the Arena Football League and the new All-American Football League, which is set to begin play in 2008 with six teams.

Of course, as Graham is cramped in his stadium seat, there will be plenty of fans around him who have warm feelings for Homecoming weekend, especially for those coming to town for alumni reunions like the some-400 returnees expected for the Black Alumni Reunion or the special festivities for the Golden Alumni class of 1957.

In fact, maybe it would be a good idea to sit brand-new football alumni like Graham with the Golden group. They’ve acquired enough wisdom over the years to refrain from drinking excessively and cursing the coaches, and they’re likely to stay in their seats so that Graham doesn’t have to stand and create a major viewing obstacle.

It’s just a thought.

Send an e-mail message to Bethany Bradsher.

Dig into Bethany Bradsher's Bonesville archives.

10/26/2007 02:37:03 AM

©2001-2002-2003-2004-2005-2006-2007-2008-2009-2010-2011-2012-2013 All rights reserved.
Articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files and other content originated on this site are the proprietary property of
None of the articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files or other content originated on this site may be reproduced without written permission.
This site is not affiliated with East Carolina University. View's Privacy Policy. Advertising contact: 252-349-3280; Editorial contact:; 252-444-1905.