A tireless connoisseur of high school hoops

69-year-old St. Petersburg resident is a devotee of girls basketball for the teamwork, the gritty play, the suspense.

Published February 22, 2007

LAKELAND - As the Florida High School Athletic Association girls basketball final four has arrived, so have the fans.

And they're not just students or parents, driving from all corners of the state, sure as sure that their high school will capture a championship this week.

They're also people like Tim Horgan. He could care less who is playing whom. The 69-year-old St. Petersburg resident watches girls basketball for the teamwork, the gritty play, the suspense.

"I love this time of year," Horgan said. "This is my week."

The trek to the final four has been an annual event the past five seasons.

On Wednesday, he was at the Lakeland Center from start to finish, a nearly 13-hour day.

The arena was full of the rollicking rock-and-roll fervor that characterizes girls basketball these days, with exhortatory music pounding through speakers and jazzy dance routines at halftime.

It also was full of some of the sport's most serious fans: the earnest, studious hobbyists, the statistics mavens, the devotees with an eccentric if not obsessive bent.

For the past 24 years, sports has been Horgan's only vice. He started off watching minor league baseball games, traveling all over the state to see every team.

That's when he picked up his trademark Goofy hat, complete with floppy ears adorned with pins.

About seven years ago, he started going to high school boys and local basketball games. Then one day, he showed up early and watched a girls basketball game.

"I just feel in love with the way they played," Horgan said. "They all played so hard, usually harder than the boys."

Now Horgan divides his attention between the boys and girls. He'll come back to Lakeland next week for the boys tournament.

"I've broken up with girlfriends because of basketball," Horgan said. "Nothing gets in the way of that."