It’s not easy being green and gold.
Sometimes it stings to bleed the colors of USF, creating wounds that won’t heal over.
Bulls fans feel the pain.
They’ve been hurt. They’ve been scorned before. They’ve received a Dear John letter from a lover known as the other team. It’s tough to see losses, to take them with every cheek a fan can turn. Scars won’t always fade.
This is the story of Demetri Houmis: graduate student, Bulls fan, former part-time employee at USF.
He had a job working at USF as a computer trainer for the Health Sciences Center. That was before the Conference USA men’s basketball tournament.
He and a friend traveled to Memphis — a 15-hour marathon through five states — to watch the men’s basketball team in what was supposed to be a quick, though not all that painless, game against Houston.
But it didn’t end at the first game. The team kept winning. It upset Houston and blew right past Cincinnati, but fell to Memphis in the semi-finals.
Demetri wanted to stay. He wanted to see history in the making. Who could blame him, when the basketball team has had little history to brag about?
He called in to work, said he was going to stay another night — he wouldn’t even have made it in time after the late game against the Bearcats, which ended well past 11p.m. Eastern time — and thought everything was peachy.
So he stayed.
After the 81-68 loss to Memphis, Demetri had to return home to his regular life at USF, where he was continuing his education and career at the school he practically called his temple of worship.
When he got back, he was dismayed to find that he was being terminated from his job at USF for not showing up for work, even though he called in. And what he found even more amazing — besides being fired from his job for only his second so-called unexplained absence — was that he felt he was being fired for being supportive of USF.
For bleeding green and gold. For being a fan.
“I think (some fans) are not supportive enough of (USF’s) sports,” Demetri said. “Everything seems so separated from each other. There’s a gap between the university and athletics that I just don’t understand. There’s one game a year for faculty and staff. That basically sums it up.”
Demetri was using this job as his stepping-stone to move through certain ranks on campus and keep his career at USF.
“USF means a lot to me, including my job,” said Demetri, who received his bachelor’s degree in management information systems. “I wanted to be more a part of this university as an alumni and as an employee. My goal, as it has been all along, was to pursue a career at my alma mater, and then this just happened and didn’t help.”
Demetri has suffered like many of those who reluctantly fill the stands for any sporting event that the athletic department has to offer. He painstakingly watched the women’s basketball team struggle against TCU in its conference tournament. He was confused like everyone else at the men’s basketball team’s 55-47 loss to St. Louis on Feb. 9.
And now he has nothing to show for it except a sinking feeling that is letting him know he somehow has to try to piece his career back together.
“To me it seems so ironic that I was at a USF event and I ended up being a day longer and got fired by USF,” Demetri said. “What if I had had a flat tire or car trouble, even if I had come home after the Cincinnati game? What then would have happened? Would I still have my job?”
Those are good questions, Demetri. They may go unanswered. But there shouldn’t be anything lingering.
Someone should answer those questions for Demetri. He shouldn’t be punished for being one of the few students who didn’t take off and leave when he graduated.
He wanted to be institutionalized. He wanted to be a Bull for life. He didn’t mind the bleeding in green and gold. He didn’t mind the scars.
Demetri just wanted to be supportive; he wanted to feel like he belonged.
He lost his job for being a fan, and he deserves to get it back.
Give him his job back, USF.
Hasn’t he — like every Bulls fan — suffered enough?