The University Daily Kansan staff did a great job with today’s front page. I hear it’s Malcolm’s first “good paper” of the semester. High five!
You’ll have to forgive Kansas fans if they’ve been sore losers lately. We’re not used to losing. We’re not good at it. I know that sounds like a humblebrag, but I mean it.
The last time Kansas lost three games in a row was in 2005. I was a senior in high school. My youngest sibling was not yet born. Remember my sorority sister Katie Morris, the Bill Self for President girl? This what she wrote in her Xanga after that loss:
Like I said, it’s been a few years since Kansas had a week this bad. And the last time Kansas lost three consecutive games to unranked opponents? That was in January 1988. I was born Feb. 17, 1988. These events are literally unprecedented in my lifetime.
Even our football team didn’t lose three games in a week. Bill Self loses gracefully. The rest of us fall into a heap on the floor because we’re, collectively, a mess.
The Oklahoma State loss stung because I had started to feel like it was impossible to lose in Allen Fieldhouse. Stupid, stupid Sarah Kelly and your hubris.
The TCU loss hurt a lot more because I couldn’t understand why a team that just lost on its home court would follow that up with such a lousy performance. At halftime, I changed my clothes and my location, but it wasn’t enough. When the second half went as bad as the first, a stranger at Sully’s Grill asked me if I needed a hug. I did need a hug.
But I saw the Oklahoma loss coming. From the beginning of the game, the ESPN guys couldn’t stop talking about the losing streak. After every commercial break, they’d open by reminding me that the last time Kansas lost three in a row, the third was to Oklahoma. I could see the sky about to fall. The Oklahoma fans chanted “overrated,” then rushed the court, which is kind of embarrassing for them. But not as embarrassing as losing three straight games to unranked teams.
My only break from this horrible week was when Missouri came to Texas A&M and lost. A friend gave me his tickets, but I couldn’t get anyone to go with me. Around here, asking someone if they want to go to a basketball game with you is like asking if they want to go to the gym. Some people are into it, and most people will humor me now and then — especially since my work schedule only allows me to attend a handful of games. When they’re tired or cranky or just not in the mood to deal with things, most people will find a way to skip out on a college basketball game.
But I’m not most people. I’m a sick individual. And when I’m tired or cranky or just not in the mood to deal with things, I need basketball. I need to find comfort in a familiar pregame ritual. I need to be in a room full of people who all want the same thing in the same moment. Sometimes at work I stream radio broadcasts of random basketball games just for the soothing sound of sneakers on a gym floor.
So I went to a basketball game alone for the first time in my whole life. It was scary and awkward and occasionally boring, but it was wonderful. My adopted team, scrappy and unranked as they are, beat the team I most despise and for a few hours I found peace in a sport that had caused me a lot of anguish over the week.
Part of me was proud of the student section for knowing not to storm the court and part of me desperately wished Missouri was ranked a little higher so I could finally participate in a court storming.
Losses only hurt if you care. You can pretend you don’t care, but I think fans of the Chiefs and the Royals will tell you what you already know: You still care.
Bill Self is still the only coach in our hearts, right? And Elijah Johnson might be playing like “Bad Tyshawn” these days, but you remember how that ended, right? If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance Kansas is still your team, so let’s make it work.
Kansas dropped from No. 5 in the Associated Press poll to No. 14 today, while Kansas State jumped from No. 13 to No. 10. That means Kansas is the underdog in tonight’s Sunflower Showdown at Allen Fieldhouse. I haven’t eliminated the possibility that Self blew the last three games to get KU playing in the right state mind tonight. He’s crafty, and he knows his team.
So please, as always, be diligent with your pregame rituals and have faith. I won’t be able to watch the game because I’ll be at work, so your participation is important. Also, it’s Ben McLemore’s birthday.
I like to end my basketball posts with suggestions for further reading, and today’s is a good one. From Jesse Newell of The Lawrence Journal-World — Amazing grace: Jeff Withey made grandmother proud, proved to coach he belonged.