Panic Street Lawyer: Hello old friend

Sunday, 07 April 2013 06:00 AM Written by  Jay Hornack

20130407 frozenfourlogo150Immediately after Saturday night’s Eric Clapton concert, it was time for the hard-working staff at Consol Energy Center to get the arena ready for Hockey Week in Pittsburgh, Part Deux.

Part Un was the week of Winter Classic 2011, the outdoor New Year’s Day National Hockey League professional game played on Heinz Field. It ended up a mess, in three big ways: the weather was unseasonably warm and rainy (which delayed the start of the game until the evening), Sidney Crosby sustained his first serious concussion, and the Penguins lost the game.

Part Deux is the week of the 2013 Men’s Frozen Four. If you were oblivious to sports and are reading the phrase “the frozen four” for the first time here, you may think that it is shorthand for four Pittsburgh male candidates for mayor shaking voters’ hands outside PNC Park before this year’s chilly Pirates baseball home opener. No, the Frozen Four refers to the four remaining amateur hockey teams in the Division I National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament. This is the tournament’s 65th birthday -- which makes it 3 years younger than Mr. Clapton – and this will be my first fan appearance at the Frozen Four since 2010.

If you are looking for expert college hockey analysis on this website, I respectfully redirect you to the P-G’s Road to the Frozen Four blog (just as I redirect you to the P-G’s rock music critic if you are looking for a review of Eric Clapton’s rendition of “Crossroads” Saturday night). I can tell you which four teams are playing for the championship this week at Consol: Yale, University of Massachusetts-Lowell, St. Cloud State, and Quinnipiac (the two semifinal games are on April 11 and the winners play in the finals on April 13).

I also do not intend to overwhelm you with a series of statistics on this year’s Frozen Four teams, players, or coaches. I do have one interesting international item: of the 106 players listed on the rosters of these four teams, 30 have hometowns outside of the United States. This fact does not make the 2013 Frozen Four the biggest worldwide sporting event this week (that would be either the April 8 Manchester United v. Manchester City professional football match or the April 11-14 Masters men’s professional golf tournament). But that 28% non-U.S. player figure does point out the increasing globalization of American collegiate sports participation.

The NCAA is in charge of policing all teams, players and coaches participating in national college sports. An AP story pointed out, using football examples: “The NCAA has come under fire for botching the investigation into a rogue booster at [the University of] Miami, and there have been complaints about the way the governing body handled other cases, such as the harsh sanctions leveled against Penn State in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.” But the NCAA and its numerous legal troubles is not my focus of this piece (sorry, Joe Paterno legacy defenders – but I am looking forward to reading your protest handbills outside Consol).

20130407 yalebulldoglogo 150So, what am I writing about in connection with the Frozen Four? Since I write for “the news and opinion crossroads of Western Pennsylvania’s legal community,” I decided to write about law schools. Two of the four teams in town this week are from private colleges which have law schools. Yale (established 1824) was originally named the New Haven Law School. Quinnipiac (established 1990) was originally named the University of Bridgeport Law School. They are located less than 10 miles apart in the “Constitution State” of Connecticut.

While Quinnipiac Law School in its brief history has zero alumni/graduates who have served on the United States Supreme Court, Yale Law School boasts of ten justices, including three on the current Court: Sonia Sotomayor, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas. As I researched the background of these former Elis, I developed a remarkable working hypothesis: Justice Thomas is a big Yale hockey fan. Allow me to test it …

Justice Clarence Thomas (age 65 this June 23, which makes him the same age as the NCAA hockey tourney) attended Yale Law School from 1971 to 1974. Although Yale appeared in the Frozen Four in 1952, they had not been back to the tourney semifinals since -- a 61-year absence before this week. While archrival Harvard was in the Frozen Four in 1971 and 1974, Yale hockey struggled during Thomas’ New Haven years, posting an 8-16-0 record in the 1973-74 season that included a 10-3 loss at Cambridge MA on March 2, 1974 (the lowest point in Yale hockey history was the 1974-75 season, when they lost 14, tied 1, and won 0).

20130407 clarencethomas 150U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Associated PressSince his appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991, Justice Thomas is well-known, by lawyers and non-lawyers alike, for rarely speaking from the bench during oral arguments. Until this past January 14, the last time he spoke was February 22, 2006 – nearly a 7-year moment of silence. The case which caused him to speak in 2013 involved the qualifications of a death penalty defense attorney who attended Yale Law School. After a follow-up comment from Harvard Law School grad Justice Antonin Scalia concerning another male graduate of Harvard Law School, the court transcript attributes these words to Justice Thomas:

“Well --- he did not --- .”

The court transcript notes laughter in the courtroom following Justice Thomas’ words.

I hereby question the accuracy of the court transcript. Although I did not listen to the actual audio of the January 14 oral argument, I submit that Justice Thomas really said:

“Well-a Boola, Boo --- .”

Those words, of course, are taken directly from “Boola Boola,” a “fight song” of Yale. That song, originally composed in 1900, also contains these lyrics:

We'll leave poor Harvard behind so far,
They won't want to play us anymore.

And these:

When we "rough-house" poor old Harvard,
They will holler Boola Boo. (Rah! Rah! Rah!)

Not only was the context for Justice Thomas’ words appropriate, given the Yale-Harvard discussion before the Court that day, but (1) the USCHO.com’s poll the day of oral argument had Yale ranked 12th in the country and Harvard unranked and (2) Yale was playing Harvard in hockey four days later (Yale beat Harvard 4-0 on January 18, 2013). So I think “Well-a Boola Boo” was a little bit of trash-talking, with the justice making up for 40 years of sports suffering.

20101226 consolenergycenter 150Consol Energy Center. Post-Gazette photoI can tell you are still skeptical, and so I saved the best evidence for last. The Supreme Court is not back in session until April 15. So where is Justice Thomas this week, the week that Yale appears in the Frozen Four at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh? Well, two days before the tournament starts, we know he is spending the afternoon at Duquesne University School of Law – two blocks from Consol!

Panic Street Lawyer will tell the justice that you all said “hi” when he sees him at the Yale game(s) this week. In the meantime, I still have to learn the music and lyrics to “Rouser,” which is the title to the St. Cloud State “fight song.” You see, since St. Cloud eliminated my alma mater (Miami University) from the tournament, if SCSU wins the championship, I can make a credible argument that Miami is the real second-best hockey team in the nation in 2013.


The Panic Street Lawyer is a personal opinion column by attorney Jay Hornack. Contact him right here at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and follow Jay on Twitter: @panicstlawyer

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