I’ve not shared how my week-long vacation from college basketball went. I indeed managed to avoid almost all college basketball coverage for a full seven days. I didn’t watch games, read about them in the paper, or follow columnists online. Tuesday morning at about 10:00, I checked the Kansas-Oklahoma score but did not read any stories about the game itself. And that was it. A week to attempt to regain some perspective, to try to remember I’m not actually playing in the games and thus should enjoy it when my team wins and be able to move on quickly after the lose.
Sunday dawned and it came time to test what I had learned over the previous week. Kansas and Oklahoma State were squaring off in Lawrence in what may well have been the Big 12 championship game. (The answer is no, I wouldn’t not have watched this game if they had played on Saturday.) I settled into a seat three minutes before tip-off. When the UCLA-Notre Dame went long, I didn’t panic the way I used to. I calmly read the paper until CBS went to Lawrence about two minutes into the game. It turns out the paper may be the key to retaining composure. Every extended dead ball or television timeout, I worked my way through some more of the Indy Star. Reading about wars, terrorism, disease, and corruption are good ways of remaining level and centered, I think. When KU kept hitting shot after shot, I didn’t get too fired up. When OSU matched every shot with one of their own, I didn’t get frustrated. After a thoroughly entertaining first half that left the teams tied at 39, I calmly went about collecting the trash to take out later in the evening (There’s an analogy there just waiting to be made).
In the second half, KU went up by eight at one point and seemed about to put the game out of reach. Calm. OSU came right back and minutes later lead by seven points with 5:00 to play. Still calm. The only time I lost a little composure was at around the 3:00 mark when Aaron Miles threw a horrible pass to Christian Moody when KU had a chance to cut the lead to two. Unlike a week ago, when I would have thrown things, yelled, and paced, I just sighed and muttered something PG-13. I have to admit, my pulse did finally quicken over the last 2:00 of the game, but who’s would not have? A fantastic game came down to two equally matched teams seeing who could execute best. Wayne Simien hit a shot. John Lucas hit a shot. John Lucas missed a shot. Aaron Miles hit a driving lay-up. JamesOn Curry hit one of two free throws. Miles did the same. Then John Lucas missed a three pointer that would have won the game by a matter of inches. I clapped twice, pumped my fist, and headed upstairs to start getting dinner ready. No hyper-analysis of every wire story as they were posted on-line. No listening to the post-game show. Be happy, move on.
“Sure,” I can hear you saying, “It’s easy to say you’ve changed your ways when you get to watch a great game like that.” I can’t argue with that argument. I do think, however, if OSU had won by one or 20, my evening would have been much different than how I’ve spent other evenings this season after close KU games/losses. I would have been able to talk to my wife immediately. Play with my daughter. Read a book. Basically do all the things normal people do after games rather than obsessing as if I was a coach or player on the team. I don’t think my reformation is complete by any means. It will surely be tested in a couple weeks when the emotional ringer that is the NCAA tournament begins. But I do like to think this was the first step in finding a balance between being a huge fan of a team and managing that fanaticism in a healthy manner.
By the way, contrary to a rumor started by a loyal reader, I will never, ever become a Big Ten fan. If I was left with nothing to watch other than Big Ten basketball, I would surely never watch the game again. Of course, the source that started this rumor has been known to prance around the greater Kansas City area wearing shorts that across his ass spell the name of a Big Ten school that is his favorite team’s arch rival. So consider the source.