I watched a few minutes of the ESPN 30 for 30 episode “Requiem For A Conference,” about the classic Big East conference, Sunday evening.
Then, Tuesday, I watched the last ten minutes or so of the West Virginia – Georgetown NIT game. Georgetown played the game at their practice gym, thanks to the circus being booked into the normal home court. It was awesome. The arena was packed, including a healthy WVU contingent. And the building was so small you could clearly hear Georgetown students screaming at Bob Huggins.
“Hey Bob, you’re fat!”
“Hey Bob, you’re awful!”
“You’re wrong, Bob! Sit down!”
Watching vintage and current Georgetown made me realize how my loyalties have changed over the years. When I was a kid, I pulled for the Jayhawks each night they played, but I also fell in love with other teams. Georgetown, in the Patrick Ewing era, was one of those programs.
They were just so fun to watch. They had the cool uniforms and awesome shoes before anyone else started mixing up their looks. Ewing was an iconic college player. And the team, as a whole, was a giant F-you to the basketball establishment, which appealed to my young, contrarian nature.
The day after the epic 1982 national title game, where the Hoyas narrowly fell to North Carolina, one of my fifth grade buddies and I practiced blocking each other’s shots across the court, just like Ewing had done all night to the Tarheels.
The Hoyas weren’t the only team, though. The Illinois team of 1988-89 was one of my all-time favorites. The late 80s, early 90s UNLV squads were fantastic. While the Jayhawks were always my favorite team, in any year I would have a handful of teams I checked scores for each morning, hoping that they would have won.
Even in random games I flipped by, I would always find a reason to root for one team or another. It might just be one team had better uniforms, or another had a player I liked, or maybe there was some story line the announcers were pushing that I bought into. Whatever it was, I could quickly establish a lock-solid argument for wanting Team A to win.
Which is kind of weird. Because you never really love a much as you do when you’re a kid. That early passion is so much more elemental and all-encompassing. Yet I think a lot of kids my age were like me. Whether they were Missouri fans or K-State fans, they also like UNC or Virginia or Louisville.
I guess some of my behavior can be explained by KU not being an elite team when I was first discovering college basketball in the late 70s and early 80s. Not until Danny Manning arrived in the fall of 1984 was Kansas a team that sat high in the polls each week and was a threat to go deep in the tournament in March. So while I listened to each KU game1, when they inevitably lost in the Big 8 tournament and their season ended, I moved on to the Hoyas or whoever I was enjoying that year.
Now, though, while I may enjoy a team’s style of play, it’s hard for me to get invested the way I used to be. I’ll often only strongly pull for a particular team if their winning somehow helps KU. I admitted earlier this year that I really enjoyed watching San Diego State play. But other than the afternoon they went to Lawrence and won, I haven’t watched them again.
I was trying to think of some lesson in there, some nice way to wrap it all up in a little nugget of meaning. I can’t, though. I kind of miss that ability to watch, and find joy in the play of, several teams. But I have to admit I wouldn’t trade having KU be good every year to get that feeling back again.
- That’s right, kids. I listened to most KU games on the radio because only a handful each year were on TV. ↩