Weather keeps 'Cats', Niagara's faithful home

Posted: March 17, 2007

CHICAGO - Jamie Yannacone, a '96 Villanova graduate, superfan and radio host on SportsTalk 950, arrived yesterday at the Philadelphia International Airport at 10 a.m. for his 11:50 a.m. flight to Chicago, site of the Wildcats' NCAA Tournament first-round game against Kentucky, figuring he'd beat the bad weather out of the city.

Two women dressed head to toe in purple thought the same. Portal Rogers and Marlene Lewis also were headed to Chicago to cheer on their sons, Roman Catholic grad Charron Fisher and Harry S Truman product Tyrone Lewis, the two Niagara stars who would lead the Purple Eagles against Kansas.

But as one flight after another - first the 11:50, then a 1 p.m., then a 3:30 and finally a 5 - were canceled, the two women and Yannacone realized their cheering would have to be from their living rooms.

Distraught, exhausted and disappointed, they finally collected their bags and headed for home.

"I felt so badly for them," Yannacone said. "We even tried to explain to the people at the counter what a unique situation it was, but there was nothing anyone could do. We thought about driving to Baltimore, but by the time we would have gotten there, it would have been too late."

They were not alone. Yannacone spied his fair share of Nova Nation T-shirts - everyone from students to alums to young families - and figured somewhere between 50 and 75 Villanova fans were left stranded by the bad weather. Judy Martelli, wife of Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli and mother of Niagara assistant coach Phil Martelli Jr., also couldn't make it. Her plane got as far as the runway before heading back to the terminal.

"I'm so disappointed," Yannacone said, "and I know a lot of other people are, too."

Ever optimistic, Yannacone booked an afternoon flight for today, hoping his Wildcats would be in tomorrow's second round. *

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