The day after. Feeling about 80% better, although it was a rather restless night of sleep.
I thought a lot about what winning a national championship would mean to me, as a fan and alum, over the weekend. The reality, of course, is that it really only gives me a chance to buy a bunch of new t-shirts and ultimate bragging rights on anyone else until the next championship is won.
But there really is more to it, isn’t there? It’s an indescribable feeling. Part satisfaction, part joy, part relief, part giddiness that takes you back to your childhood, before you became cynical and every game your team won was a little miracle.
Here’s kind of a funny story. Growing up, I loved baseball. Loved, loved, loved it. I seriously thought I would be a professional baseball player when I grew up. I was an ok player, I generally made the All-Star team when I was in the older half of each age bracket, but it’s not like I was bursting with talent. I tolerate basketball. I played it each winter but wasn’t very good at it and got little joy from it. Almost every year, my basketball team would win the championship. I was happy but not overjoyed when we won. I was always on horrible baseball teams, and it killed me. Then, finally, in the seventh grade, I was on a really good baseball team. We made it to the championship series, won the first game, lost the second, and had the lead late in the final game of the series. I hadn’t done shit at the plate that game, 0-2 with a walk, but I had made two pretty good catches in centerfield, one of which saved two runs. In the sixth inning, we were up one, were into the other team’s bullpen, and I knew if we got through that inning, we would add a couple more runs and win for sure. So, when we got the third out, I put my head down and ran towards the dugout, knowing I was due up second and had four hits against the other team’s pitcher that season. Then, out of nowhere, the leftfielder tackled me. WTF? It wasn’t the sixth inning, it was the seventh. The game was over. I had totally missed the moment I had been waiting five years for: winning a baseball championship.
Why does that matter? That’s kind of how I felt last night. Not that I lost track of time or anything like that, but I just laid on the couch all night, never getting too up or down during the game, covering my head with a pillow and hot water bottle during time outs. When Mario Chalmers hit his shot (which is already my desktop wallpaper) I hopped up and let out a grunt, half pleasure, half pain. Like Darnell Jackson, I had thought the game was over with about 2:00 to play and had been busy reflecting on the season, and accepting I got what I had always begged for this time of year: KU playing good in a season-ending loss. But, the moment that shot went through, I knew KU was going to win. I mean, there was no way they couldn’t. They controlled the first half, let it slip away in the second, and then with some help from Memphis, snatched it away. That was a punch to the gut no team could recover from. And like Mario’s three against Texas a year ago, you could see it energize KU. They knew they were going to win. A dunk, a lay-up, a defensive stop, and the rest of overtime was just a matter of running out the clock. And now, what KU fans had been waiting for for 20 years had finally come.
I finally stood up in front of the tv, raised my arms, and watched the final seconds tick away. And then I sat down again. Too much standing. It began to hit me, how much I had hoped for this and here it was. I tried to hold on to the moment, because that’s all that really matters, is the moment. After that, it’s all reflection and perspective and ultimately it becomes history. I made sure not to think that I had suffered for this or that I deserved it somehow. As I’ve said over-and-over recently, I’ve been very luck as a KU fan over the years. All the shitty tournament losses made this win all the more sweeter, but in no way were we KU fans owed something because we survived those moments. Sports will always break your heart. There is always another game, another tournament, another season to bring you down to earth after the wins. But I am very fortunate that I’ve now watched my favorite team win the ultimate championship twice.
There’s much more to catch-up on from the weekend, and obviously a lot going on in Lawrence that could make Kansas basketball look very different next October. We’ll get to that eventually. For now, I’m going to bask. And go order some shirts.