A couple of Wednesdays ago, as the University of Miami basketball team took on Duke University on ESPN, a strange noise rang out in the stadium. It sounded like a broken flute — or an animal dying slowly? — and was so loud that Duke's longtime "Coach K" pulled aside a referee to complain. The ref nodded and halted the nationally televised game.
"What was that?" a perky female sportscaster wondered.
Up in the stands, it turned out, a brown-eyed University of Miami senior named Joey Difrancesco was sporting a floppy elephant cap and blowing feverishly on a large pink conch shell. Cameras flashed briefly to a couple of stern-looking security guards as they confiscated it from the hands of the perpetrator. Cameras then zoomed in ominously on the shell as if it were some deadly creature from the crustacean world.
"They literally ripped it out of my hands," Joey says.
After the game, Joey — who has been "mastering" the perfect blow for years and bringing the thing to games for months — went to claim his makeshift horn. He was horrified to learn someone had swiped it.
The shell originally belonged to his great-grandfather from Puerto Rico, he says, and it has more sentimental value than a baby book or family heirloom. "It was passed down through my family for years — do you know how valuable that is to me?" he says, completely serious. "My identity has been stolen."
Contacted by Riptide, Duke basketball spokesperson Jon Jackson was less than sympathetic. "It was a distraction during free throws, and ACC has a noisemaker policy," he says matter-of-factly.
But does he know the whereabouts of the missing conch? Can he offer any leads? Any at all? "Duke certainly doesn't have it," he replies.
Joey has since contacted the supervisor of security at the stadium to no avail. Still seething, he says, "Someone is sitting on a couch somewhere with my shell... laughing."