How it feels to be a Jayhawk

My mom taught me the Rock Chalk Chant when I was 3. She had decided to start school at KU and only recently learned the chant herself. My parents were never sports fans, but we lived in Lawrence. All of my earliest sports memories centered on Kansas basketball. The Jayhawks were the first team I ever loved and the first to break my heart.

I still can’t talk about the 2003 national championship game without getting upset. I was 15. It was the first time I’d ever watched the NCAA tournament (I told you, my parents weren’t sports fans). Days later, Roy Williams left and I felt like it was my fault, the way children sometimes blame themselves for their parents’ divorce. This was my introduction to March Madness.

Self respect. Self confidence. Self assured. Self love. The next year was a wild blur of puns. Anyone remember “To Galindo, to the wall”? I could give a shit about North Carolina, too, Mr. Benedict Williams.

My first year at the University of Kansas included an Orange Bowl victory, which was pretty neat. But it was nothing compared to this:

Party on Mass Street

That was 2008. It was Kansas’ second national championship in my lifetime. No experience has ever measured up to the excitement of watching my team win a national championship. Getting engaged came close, but it still comes up short compared to the roller coaster of hearing my friends say “It’s over,” and then watching Mario Chalmers hit The Shot and send it into overtime. Kansas fans will spend the rest of their lives chasing that high.

My generation is particularly spoiled, and I’m even more spoiled than most: In the 3.5 years I was enrolled at KU, the men’s basketball team did not lose in Allen Fieldhouse. At all.

I didn’t realize how different life was in Kansas until I moved to College Station. On my first day in town, my boss gave me tickets to the Texas A&M-Oklahoma game at Reed Arena. I went with my friend Carl, a Kansas alumnus and A&M grad student who was the only person I knew in town. At one point, I innocently asked, “Why do they hang their NIT banners here?” I had never seen college basketball outside Allen Fieldhouse, so I had never seen an NIT banner. Carl’s friends snickered a little as he explained that most basketball programs are proud of their success in the NIT — and A&M has certainly had success in the NIT.

Sure, I knew not all schools had Final Four and national championship banners. Even Kentucky and North Carolina failed to make the NCAA tournament in the last decade. I just honestly didn’t know that teams hung NIT banners. That’s how it feels to be a Jayhawk. You’re a snob and you don’t even know it.

Here’s what you have to understand about Kansas fans: We are sick individuals. We take everything personally. We expect a national championship every year. When our team loses, we blame ourselves. We hold a grudge like nobody’s business. Not only do I still hate Carmelo Anthony, but I hate the Knicks and the Nuggets just for associating with him. I hate Fab Melo because he plays at Syracuse and has a similar name. I hate Syracuse. It’s been nine years. I can’t help it. I’m a Jayhawk.

When you’re as good as Kansas is for as long as Kansas has been good, every loss feels like the end of the world. Kansas fans aren’t used to losing, but we’re veterans when it comes to heartbreak. We’ve been Farokhmanesh’d and Shaka Smarted too many times. We don’t trust mid-majors. We really don’t trust mid-majors with names beginning with B. To the outside world, these upsets are what make March Madness so much fun. To us, they’re personal tragedies.

I know how you feel, bro.

The lede to Tim Dwyer’s wrap-up of last year’s loss to VCU sticks out in my mind almost a year later:

Want to know how much it hurts?

How about this: Thomas Robinson, jersey rumpled on his lap, with the “LR” patch commemorating his late mother staring back at him like an unblinking eye.

Or Tyshawn Taylor, doubled up, face buried in his hands, muffling his sobs as a lone photographer offered a sympathetic pat on the shoulder.

Or the sobs that interrupted Conner Teahan’s answer to a question about Tyrel Reed. Or Reed, the winningest Jayhawk ever, with red-rimmed eyes as he fielded questions after one of the worst shooting days of his career. Or Brady Morningstar, next to him, so choked up that he could barely speak.

Or Marcus Morris, bent double with his head resting on arms folded across his knees and media standing around, waiting for minutes before bothering him with a question.

Or Markieff Morris, sitting next to his brother, staring at a box score with a blank expression on his face, as if looking at the numbers long enough could change the fact that Kansas lost, again, to a team that nobody gave a shot.

Know what I forgot about that game? Kansas lost in the Elite Eight. Finishing among the eight best teams in the nation was a deep disappointment for this fan base. I told you, we’re sick individuals.

So now, just hours away from Kansas’ tournament opener against Detroit, I’m a mess, vacillating between ridiculous overconfidence and extreme anxiety. March Madness is my favorite time of the year. It’s every Kansas fan’s favorite time of the year. Yet I’m so nervous I can’t eat. The tournament means everything.

This season will (probably) end in disappointment for Kansas fans because we set ourselves up for it. We do it every year. But I still picked Kansas to win it all in both of my brackets because I believe in miracles. I can’t help it. I’m a Jayhawk.

Like Chalmers at the buzzer — '08

For more March Madness reading, you really must read this Grantland gem from one of my j-school classmates, Jayson Jenks: Dr. James Naismith, Bill Self, and the history of basketball in Kansas.

137 thoughts on “How it feels to be a Jayhawk

  1. This is soooo good! We graduated in 1963 and feel these emotions intensely. Thanks for putting our thoughts into words.

    • It’s interesting that Ted Owens is skimmed over. The man did coach there for 23 years. He did take 2 teams to the Final Four. He was the 4th coach at KU, being followed by a throng of takers and not givers. He had the winningest record for many years. He gave Brown his lst winning team with HIS recruits, sans Manning (who was packaged with his father). Interesting…just interesting…and most definately sad. Sad for him to read articles like these, which are excellent, but only glorify the “few”.

      • Perhaps Ted Owens isn’t mentioned because this talented blogger is so young… 14 in 2003? Do the math…

        This piece is every bit as good as the Grantland article, and I can’t wait to share it will all my fellow Jayhawks across the country. Thank you!

      • Kansas_T is correct — my age is a factor here. I don’t know much about Ted Owens, so I’m glad you brought him up! A lot of the basketball greats who were before my time aren’t on my radar. I blame my parents. ;)

      • I’m a 2001 Alumnus and a “girly girl” that lives for March Madness! I live overseas now, it’s 4am here and woke up at 1am to watch the second half of the KU/ UNC game. My jayhawk t-shirt, coffee mug, crimson lipstick, and wall of KU glory are lost on collegues from Texas, Florida, Italy, and Canada. My boyfriend didn’t understand the cries of joy coming from the living room a few hours ago. He doesn’t understand why I haven’t gone back, why I now have to research Ohio State, why I must watch clips of their games from this season. He doesn’t breathe or bleed Crimson and Blue.

    • We were at THE Mizzou game. I made it to the first few minutes of the second half then bolted to our car. I knew I was going to have a stroke. Every time I tuned into the game on the radio something awful happened. I concentrated on praying. Just could not allow Mizzou to win! I did hear the final minute, thank goodness.

  2. Nice article. I went to KU in 1974 and had gone to high school in a third-world country, knowing nothing about KU basketball. Everybody told me to buy tickets (in 1974 a student season ticket was twenty dollars) so I did. I’ll never forget the shock and awe I felt at seeing my first game in Allen Field House. It was doubly impressive because I was so naive I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. I moved to Lawrence when I was 11 years old. I didn’t even know what a Jayhawk or KU even was. A lot of my Lawrence High classmates went away to college but I stayed and went to KU because by then it was in my blood. March Madness is a very descriptive term for me. I still remember the first time my girlfriend and now wife witnessed me watching a game. She could not believe I was that passionate about my Jayhawks. She has learned over the years to let March Madness take its course and now roots for the Jayhawks herself. One of my daughters has caught the “fever” and enjoys it just like I do. As you said the high expectations make the losses harder but the joy of being a Jayhawk never diminishes

    • I actually still think my husband is nuts…Its just a silly game although I don’t root for the jayhawks I’m a die hard Texas Tech fan. If you know anything about Texas basketball doesn’t really exist for us. The sport is football :) Long story short I understand. And its very silly to see how jayhawks react.

  4. You took the words right out of my mouth…being a KU fan started as a family tradition for me, too, though it was my extended family. I grew up at family gatherings marked by watching games together and it was clear that our blood ran crimson and blue. When I volunteered to serve a full-time church mission for 18 months (which meant I would not have access to any means to watch games or really even get scores) and I received my assignment dates, I took note that I would miss two March Madnesses before I even noticed that I would miss two Christmases at home. You wanna hear about a sick Kansas fan? I truly take it as evidence that God exists and loves me personally because the first season that came up after I got home was the 2007-2008 season we won the National Championship.

    Now I live in State College and I totally get the PSU football fans here because it’s the same for them.

    Rock Chalk!

  5. I sent this link to one of my Wildcat friends and she seemed to think that us blaming ourselves for a KU loss was “a bit of a fib”. I tried to explain that there is always SOMETHING we can come up with to blame ourselves. always… I bleed crimson and blue! March is my favorite time of year just because it means we have another chance at the title! This is awesome! You’ve hit the nail on the head with this one! =]

    RCJH!

    • I graduated from high school with a 3.6 GPA. I could have gone anywhere, had offers to everywhere (academic and athletic). I chose KU because KU is as much a part of me as my heart or my lungs. I graduated from the then #2 Journalism school in the country and work for a company that people literally line up to work for and beg for a shot. RCJH WE ARE KU!

  6. Do people that go to Kansas get jobs in this economy? What do you need to get in there… like a 24 act? At least you have basketball I guess…could be worse

    • I can’t speak for everyone *who* (not “that”) went to Kansas, but I found a job in my field right after college. No employer ever asked me for my ACT score, but I got a 28 and I feel OK about it. Troll on, Internet troll. Troll on.

      • I graduated high school in 1994 with a 2.4 CPM, and a 22 on my ACT. but now i am a VP at one of the most prestigous media companies in the world. Rock Chalk!

    • Some people I mean I’m not a Jayhawk fan but what the crap does this article have to do with jobs after school? nothing! I find it simply disgusting how because you disagree with something you (society) feel the need to hammer anything ever said. I guess my point is this article is about pride in a school and pride in a community. Has nothing to do with the ACT or professions. With that said the fact that you didn’t use your own name shows your immaturity. To all you Jayhawk fans that love your school you shouldn’t let people like this get to you. I mean how many championships do you have? :) All that hard work justifies anything anyone can ever say…..My husband is a huge Jayhawk fan. Although I am not. I mean what can you say that’s bad about the basketball season! Good luck these next few weeks!

  7. You so hit the nail on the head with this. I too was raised to love the Jayhawk. My extended family has such strong KU and Lawrence ties–all the extended members of my family reaching back to my great-great grandfather are buried in the same cemetery as James Naismith. My great aunt was buried two days after the KU win over Mizzou. We concluded her graveyard service with the alma mater and Rock Chalk Chant.

    I HATE Carmelo Anthony, see red whenever I see Syracuse Orange, and walked around in a daze for the week after Roy announced leaving for UNC. At the end of the day–even close days like today–it is still incredibly sweet to be a Jayhawk fan. Thanks so much for putting these into such strong (and HONEST) words!

    RCJHGKU!

  8. Yes, my sentiments exactly! I’m a fellow Kansas grad – who also started her career as a sports copy editor in Texas (first at the San Antonio Express-News and later the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). The NIT and “NCAA First Round” banners other schools hung always confused me, too. Thanks for summing up so well what it means to be a Jayhawk, and good luck in College Station!

  9. Beautiful article. This captures what so many of us feel. In my 4 years at KU (83-87), I never missed a home basketball (or football) game. Non-Jayhawks just don’t get it.

  10. I haven’t read the article yet. Have to fill this in first which doesn’t seem right. I am sure it will be a good article since it’s about KU and fans!

    • Now I read it and it was ROCKCHALK right in. One of my best memories occured in NYC after the Danny and the miracles won the national title. I dressed our six kids in KU garb and everywhere we went we heard shouts of “rock chalk”. It felt so fine! Being a KU fan is a beautiful thing. It feels even more amazing after a game such as the “43 second” miracle victory over purdue!

  11. I hope the current players read this and understand what every Jayhawk is feeling right now. Great word here. You captured the feeling of all of Jayhawk nation.

  12. Absolutely love this post~speaks right my heart. I was Junior at KU in 2003 and will never forget all the emotions of that year! I’m going to ask my husband who did not go to KU to read this…he thinks I’m cuckoo…

    • I am the husband of a KU fan. We have lived away from the mid-west for quite some time so I don’t get the full effect of the KU Nation back home – only her. My first reaction after reading and wiping the tears of laughter from my eyes was to say “you Jayhawk fans ARE all alike”. While I have become a fan over the years I will never reach the full intensity of those who attended. Great article that succinctly hits the nail on the head for the Nation – Jayhawk Nation.

  13. I believe there were never more true words written than those you have put on this page. As a military wife, I move around on a regular basis. I have experienced the land of the “Boomer Sooner” (YUCK!), to the land of the SEC. Most can’t understand why I can so passionately wear my KU shirt, and hang my KU flag on my home in these areas. Your article states a great explanation of this! ROCK CHALK JAYHAWKS!!!!!!

  14. The first songs I taught my 3 sons are: “I’m a Jayhawk” and “Crimson and the Blue”. When our two year old sees a tiger he says “bad guy”. I’ll brainwash my kids and hope they love KU. I hope they’ll attend and graduate from KU many years from now. I hope my father in law and I will be setting in our seats and have the kids come over to see us at games. I love this article. Every KU fan can tell you why it’s their fault that a game was lost. Other teams fans don’t understand at all.
    RCJHGKU

  15. Great article! I got a bit teary just reading it. I have traveled quite a bit and everywhere – I mean EVERYWHERE – I have been I have seen a KU fan. There’s nothing better than seeing our beloved Jayhawk on a ball cap in a piazza in Rome, a crimson and blue sweatshirt on a cold day in the Upper Peninsula, or a t-shirt walking by on a beach in the Philippines. You nod as you pass by and can’t help but send a “Rock Chalk” out toward them….and then you get a “Go KU” in return. Yes, my friends it’s good to be a Jayhawk fan!

    • We travel a great deal, and watch for Jayhawks too. One of us (husband, myself, or kids) is usually wearing a KU shirt for the same reason.

  16. AWESOME, YOU TOTALLY EXPLAINED MY “BLEEDING BLUE” INSANITY.
    UNFORTUNATELY MY DISEASE ALSO INCLUDES THE FOOTBALL TEAM, WHICH HAS ME BLEEDING HEAVILY MOST THE TIME.

  17. This is a great article. I have already taught my sons the Rock Chalk Chant. I have a little KU book that I read to them and Rock Chalk was one of their first words. My two oldest share a room and last night they were doing the Rock Chalk Chant. It is great to be a Jayhawk!

    • I went to KU because it was two miles from my parents’ homes and one mile from my high school, it has one of the best journalism schools in the country, and it’s just generally a cool place. I didn’t follow KU basketball closely until I was in college.

    • Dear Hayden,
      There is no way you can understand us if you are not one of us. I am sorry for you.

    • The benefit of being attending KU is that not only do we have a tremendous basketball program (as detailed above), we also are among the best public universities in the nation. I chose to attend KU because of this, and later became a Jayhawk fan (I am not originally from Kansas). There is not another university or college in Kansas which can compete academically with KU. There are not many other universities or colleges in the country which can compete with KU, either. We’re lucky that way – good academics, great basketball team, lovely community, tremendous pride passed on to friends and family.

  18. Awesome story–I did not go to KU but my daughter is graduating from KU in a few months. She has met so many wonderful people there. Anxiously awaiting the game on Friday. RCJH forever!!

  19. Sarah,
    Thank you for putting on paper the way I feel. If you were to change the 2003 Final Four to the 1969 Orange Bowl my friends would have thought I had written this, if only I wrote as well as you!

    Once a Jayhawk, Always a Jayhawk!

    Mike

      • No, I was a 10 year old kid who sat in the bleachers at 4 games that year. The night of the Orange Bowl I had worked the entire second half tearing up newspaper to make confetti and when we stopped the 2 point conversion, I let it rip! I was crying as I picked up all the paper. I was remembering that in Miami while watching the trophy ceremony.
        Rock Chalk!

  20. I grew up in St. Louis to a mom who attended Mizzou (only one year) with Aunts & Uncles who went to Mizzou and graduated. It was expected I would go there or to another Missouri school. I wanted to go out-of-state and found myself attracted to KU (I wanted to major in journalism). We went on a campus visit and I fell in love. I knew nothing of college basketball or the Jayhawks and my fall visit was in 1988. I started school in the fall of 1989.

    I will always be a Jayhawk! I love them with my whole heart. The first time I went to the Fieldhouse, I was transformed. Heck, even going to a football game, when our football team sucked, got me charged up. The Rock Chalk chant, our alma mater, everything!

    My first major heartbreak came in 1991. I still hate Duke and Christian Laettner and will never like them. Many of my friends feel the same. Grudges are hard to let go (oh, really can’t stand the Duke coach). Unlike your generation, I love Roy Williams to this day. He did what he needed to do for his family (who all lived in NC). I could forgive him that when NC came calling a second time, especially now after Self brought us to the championship game in 2008 and we won!!

    Rock Chalk!!

    • Great article about being a true jayhawk fan. Sunday night I was sick,
      as usual, watching the second round, knowing this would end badly. All the teams and all the “mean” players’ names, including Cuttino Mobley of URI, swirled in my head from years gone by, and then, vindication. I
      taped the game and watched the last part again and again, still not believing. I am a Jayhawk, living in Texas. Thanks and enjoy your wedding, planning and all.

  21. During the 2008 NCAA tourny our and friends and us wore the same clothes, went to the same house, and sat in the same seats to watch the games…you think we don’t blame ourselves when our Jayhawks lose? In fact, my husband and I DON”T have anyone to our house to watch the games because we suffered 2 big losses doing that. I did not graduate from KU but I work in Lawrence as a chip vendor. It’s like a major holiday every round we win…my blood runs Crimson and Blue. We love our Jayhawks.

  22. This is absolutely the most dead-on accurate description of life when you bleed Crimson and Blue. People think I’m a little nutty–but it’s the most amazing thing. This rang so true, and you don’t just get it–you read this and feel every emotion you write about. I can’t talk about the 2003 Game, and it still pains me to see any replay of the 2008 game and Chalmers’ last shot…even though I know the ending! Thank you for this amazing insight! ROCKCHALK!

  23. Sarah, I loved reading every word of that piece. Upon completion; concurring with the realization that we are indeed sick, only made me smile. I love you for writing this, keep up the good work and get in touch when you can. Rock chalk Jayhawk. Your former neighbor and friend.

  24. I enjoyed the part about Syracuse and Carmelo Anthony. Bobby Hurley and Christian Leattner still give me the chills in the 1991 Championship. I was 11. Growing up 20 miles away from Lawrence, has defiantly spoiled me my WHOLE life… Thanks for the article

  25. Great post. You nailed what it means to be a KU fan. I went to a small bible college in TN in the early ’90s and thought everyone there was dyslexic because they all talked about UK basketball. I had never even heard of the Kentucky Wildcats. My loathing of Duke stems from KU’s loss in the final four in 1986. There is nothing sweeter than a KU victory and nothing more heartbreaking than a KU loss.

  26. Never could afford KU, but I’m a proud Kansan! I bleed chrimsom and blue as a KU fan, I hate losing more than I love to win! I live in Texas now and feel like I’m surrounded by the enemy. I go to Kansas vs texas games and am the only guy sporting a jayhawk tshirt, backwards KU ball cap in a crowd of Texas team fans and screams my head off, daring a Texas Frat boy to “get some” I’m one of “those” Kansas Jayhawk fans… Not just basketball but John Brown!! FU Mizzou:)

  27. Wow. This article captured my experience/relationship with Jayhawk basketball spot on! I thought I was the only one who felt that way about Fab Mello.

  28. Thank you for capturing the essence of Jayhawk Nation so accurately. This is perfect for those who just don’t get it. Keep bleeding Crimson and Blue down there, girl! Pi love! – B

  29. Fantastic article! Anxiously awaiting Friday… I was a freshman for Danny Manning and went to the game.. Like you I have never experienced anything like it and will forever bleed blue! Great read! Rock chalk!!!

  30. Confession of a Jayhawk… | Arianna's World

  31. The part about your engagement coming in at a close second after the national championship is EXACTLY what I tell everyone when they ask me about our championship.

  32. My dad is from texas… he was a die hard texas fan.. then he moved to kansas and now its in his blood :) i went to school in texas. a private school without a football program :) and im not old enough to really remember the syracuse game but i still hate the team

  33. In life, we all want connections – with family, friends, our work. We want to be in an environment that we can embrace. That happens every day at KU and happens especially during every home game at Allen Field House. That connected feeling was capturing perfectly in your blog entry. The other night I tried to explain to my neighbor, a smart, empathetic woman, what KU basketball means, what it is. When i finished, she just looked at me sideways and said, “Uh huh.” I shouldn’t have expected anything different from a Colorado grad. My connection came from ’79-’83 as an undergrad – Ted Owens final four years. Sweet Sixteen my soph year but losing campaigns in the others. My fraternity brother was the team manager and we played half court ball in Allen on Sunday mornings. I can’t remember if I was ever hung over. Then Larry Brown came and the real fun started. I graduated, but stayed in Lawrence. I ran stats during games (we used a mimeograph machine-kids, look it up) or ran camera for Sunflower Cablevision telecasts (anyone remember Rich Bailey?) I interviewed Coach Brown and his summer camp assistant, John Calipari (a little oily, even then). Time and distance has taken me from Kansas, but the internet and ESPN keep me close. I took the 10 year old son to his first game this year and folks, we may have a future Jayhawk. Fingers crossed!
    Thanks again, Sarah, for the article, for creating a forum where we are sharing our Jayhawk love stories, for furthering our collective connection. It feels damed good.

    Rock Chalk Jayhawk, Hail to Old KU!

  34. This is sooooo TRUE! None of my non KU friends understand what March is like for me. this article sums it all up! Rock Chalk!

  35. I was 10 when I watched my first championship game. I still remember going to the parade downtown. Then again in 2008. I was 31 years old and it all seemed like a dream. When Mario hit that 3, my legs buckled and I dropped to the floor. My sister thought I had had a heart attack. I was in the fieldhouse watching with all the fans. When I was sure we’d lose the game, I was angry that I was there. I wanted to be alone if we were going to lose. I’m so glad now that I was there cuz the feeling was incredible when all us strangers rushed the court. I wish I could have partied on Mass Street that nigh,t but I had to drive back to Overland Park and be at work the next day at 8 a.m. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep that night with all the adrenaline running through my body. I used to spent $200 to see a game at AFH, but last August I was accepted into Grad School at KU and I have student tickets. I am 35 years old and I am in a camping group. I don’t care if I am the oldest one there. I have and will do crazy stuff, like be at the Fieldhouse at 6 am on a Sunday for camping lottery. I camped for almost all the games this year. I was there, standing behind the basket, when KU beat Mizzou for the last Border war game. There are only 2 basketball games I’d love to relive. The 2008 championship and that Mizzou game. I also was in San Antonio last year when we lost to VCU. I was with my brother in the nose bleed seats. I listened as VCU’s large fan section mocked us at every turn. Their band even interrupted our pep band every chance they got. It was beyond heart breaking to leave that game and then remain in San Antonio with all the other KU fans. The next morning in San Antonio, I saw a couple who we had met at the KU/VCU Pep rally. They were on the riverwalk and they had such a dazed look on their face. I knew exactly how they felt. KU basketball is our religion and the Fieldhouse is our church. No other school will ever come within an inch of what we have at KU. Ever.

  36. I thought I was ridiculous for resenting Fab Melo for having a similar name to Carmello Anthony. Thanks for clearing up my own self-doubt! This article brought back a lot of great memories, even in bad times.

  37. I could have written this article – OK, maybe not so eloquently but with the same meaning! I live and breath KU basketball and have since I entered the University in 1978, My emotions are all over the board during March Madness – it’s a love/hate relationship I have with the tourney. I LOVE winning but am absolutely devastated when we lose. No matter the outcome though, I will be back in Allen Fieldhouse come fall when the next season of Jayhawk basketball begins! ROCK CHALK forever!

  38. When Derrick Rose hit the shot-clock beating, off-balance bank shot 3-pointer (it was later ruled he had a toe on the line) to put Memphis up by 7 with about 4 1/2 minutes left, I left the watch party I was attending in Lawrence in got in the car to drive back to Topeka. I was convinced it wasn’t our night. I heard about The Shot from Bob and Pipe. Thanks to media timeouts, timeouts and lots of commercials, I saw a good chunk of the overtime. I’m still convinced KU won because I left the party and shook up the mojo. What a night!

  39. Someone directed me to this post, specifically, because I too am a Jayhawk. Loved it. I can’t believe you didn’t watch a March Madness until age 14, but better late than never! I was 10 during the ’88 championship and I will never forget staying up to watch and skipping school to attend the parade. The love for KU is a special thing, and you expressed it well. Thanks!

  40. Great article, you describe very well some of the emotions I have felt over the years. I am a long time Jayhawk fan (going on nearly 50 years). In those years it has taken me to the highest hightes (winning the national championships in 1988 and 2008), and the lowes of lowes (loseing in early round games to Bucknell and the whole B group) . Through all the years one thing that stands out to me is this. I’m a Kansas Jayhawk born and bread, and when I die I’ll be Jayhawk dead.

  41. A KU fan friend of mine sent this to me. I am not a KU fan, but I really enjoyed it because I couldn’t care less about basketball, I am a hardcore football fan – I am a Cornhusker. I bleed Big Red. As a Cornhusker many of the details of this blog could be replaced with Nebraska’s details.

    Please don’t hate me yet – Since we are out of the conference, and we hardly play basketball, when I pay attention to college basketball, I find myself rooting for KU. Also, I live in Kansas City.

    As a Husker, each time heartbreak is experienced by KU fans I fully understand and sympathize. We know that pain oh so well now. Good luck in the tourney and with NC State KU fans…. :)

  42. Sarah,
    Thanks so much for describing perfectly what it is like to be a Jayhawk. I can remember being 8 yelling at the TV because the Jayhawks were losing to Nebraska and the thing I was most proud of was the “KU is number 1 in the nation” sticker my dad got me later that year in 1988. Now being 32, not much has changed. I still yell at the TV. If we win I am up for at least an hour afterwards waiting to watch highlights on ESPN and posting on Facebook and Twitter. My husband hates it when KU loses because I am not a pleasant person for at least an hour later, the next day I analyze what I could have done differently to help the Jayhawks win. When we won the 2008 championship I was jumping around the living room and crying at the same time. It was on wonderful feeling. I believed that anything was possible and I felt like a winner. I felt so blessed to experience something as great as the 2008 season. As long as Bill Self is the coach I will always see a possibility of a national championship every year.
    Rock Chalk-Nicole

  43. Wow! How can you hate people that you have never met??????
    Hmm is KU the only Kansas college? According to you they are the only college. I for one am a fan of my team whether they win or lose. BTW- we very rarely lose!!!!!

    • She did not say she is not a fan if they lose. In fact, with the Jayhawks, that is why losing hurts so much, because we are ALWAYS dedicated fans and love and support our team and the entire Jayhawk Nation, no matter what. We feel the pain and disappointment of each loss for our team not to spite our team. She also did not address any other Kansas colleges because this is a post about the University of Kansas not the State of Kansas…

      • So I guess you still feel it’s okay to hate people you have never met.
        Carmelo Anthony is wonderful person. Fab Melo is just an innocent college student.

      • I am sure Carmelo Anthony and Fab Melo are both fine individuals, but I can’t bring myself to like them. The good news is I will likely never meet them, and they will never know that some KU fan in Texas resents them because of a game that happened nine years ago. They’re public figures. They don’t care if another school’s fans hate them.

  44. My husband would be proud of me for even reading this lol. Well needless to say he is a huge fan. And the rest of his family. Its just interesting to me to read this because I see my husband get mad at himself for the loss of a game and we aren’t even in the same state :) I guess it does go to show that All Jayhawks are the same. I’m not a Jayhawk fan but I have KU memorabilia all over my house. I don’t see to many hate comments on here but there isn’t much that anyone can say with all the success in the program so if your a Jayhawk fan your doing something right. I am from Texas so basketball isn’t really a priority for us :) Good Luck Jayhawks. Don’t have a heart attack! I think my husband had a minor one this last game.

  45. Nice work!! I’m a J-School grad from 2004 myself. I was studying abroad in Paris when we played Maryland in 2002, and I made sure that I was in London for the Final 4 to give myself a better chance of seeing the games. When I found out that the satellite feed was down for the country, I was devastated. Still, I found an all-night Internet Cafe and listened to the entire radio broadcast on a handheld phone connected to the computer – keep in mind it was the middle of the night in London. In 2003, back in Lawrence (thank god), I partied on Mass Street when we made it to the F4 and to the championship game. I watched the Syracuse game from the comfort of my room because I couldn’t chance jinxing by mixing up my routine or potentially punching a wall at a bar. Alas, I never saw a championship team during my tenure. I envy you and your class for what you experienced.

    And to your point about still hating Syracuse: not only do I still hate them, but I, to this day, hate the entire state of Rhode Island for 1998. Just to mention one.

    • Don’t be so jealous of Syracuse that you have to hate them. They are an amazing team with an incredible coach! Maybe we will get another match up soon and then we will see. If KU even makes it that far.

    • For me it would be the 1997 Arizona game, that should of been us cutting down the nets that year. I hated Arizona since, to this day if I see a Arizona team playing I would cheer for the opposing team in any sport. But the Rhode Island one was bad too, I used to live in Houston and at that time Cuttino Mobley played for them and I still remembering booing him every time he was introduced at the Rockets game.

      • Definitely agree about Arizona in 1997, and I know we were the overall #1 that year, but I think the sting is reduced given that Arizona won it all AND beat two other #1 seeds. I think Rhode Island in ’98 just compounded the frustration from the year before…plus they didn’t do much in the tourney after beating us.

  46. What a great piece that captures our Jayhawk generation! I’m KU class of 2010 so I was also a student for the 2008 championship. I moved out of Kansas for the first time last August to go to grad school at Duke…so you can imagine how I feel like the only Jayhawk around. :)

  47. Amazing article!!!
    I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal, West Africa in 2003 and 2004, so I missed both of those notorious March Madnesses. I swear to you, it was my only regret of the entire Peace Corps experience.

    Packages took 3-6 weeks to reach me from Kansas. My family and friends back home were sworn to secrecy as to the winner of those tournaments, while my mom mailed me the games on VHS tapes so that I may watch them at our Peace Corps regional house in the capital, Dakar, weeks after the games took place. I cried like a baby when I watched those games. (hell, I have tears in my eyes NOW as I type this!) What a team. What a tradition.

  48. This is a wonderful blog that is being shared all over FB today. Thanks! Pretty much describe how this KU alum/KU employee feels.

  49. You speak the truth for the Jayhawk Nation, Sarah!! I was lucky enough to be at the San Antonio 2008 chanpionship game. Walking back to the hotel after the game, my non-KU friends asked why the KU people were so quiet. I told them we were so completely filled with happiness, we didn’t want any of it to escape. Hours later, when I went to bed, it was to the sounds of the Rock Chalk chant echoing softly up and down the River Walk. My heart has been broken more times than I can count over KU basketball, but that night more than made up for it! RCJH!

  50. Incredible article!!! I lived in Olathe from the time I was 3 until I was 10. My brother went to KU, my sister went to KU (still works for them) and I went for a year. I live for the basketball season, and spend the majority of March as a bundle of nerves. The other night when we came back and won, my sons and I were jumping up and down, almost crying. It’s a good thing my husband wasn’t home…never would have lived that one down ;)

  51. HI – I’m Kerry and I’m from Texas. I love the article & your passion for the game. I just married a Jayhawk and you know what?

    My 13 year old niece – she’s great at soccer, smart girl. She’s going to Kansas, though she doesn’t know it yet. My future kids? They’re going to Kansas and they’re gonna love it.

    It is my mission in life to encourage the children of my family to pursue a high school career that leads to attending KU.

    According to what I’ve seen, it will be an amazing experience that continues to fulfill them long after they walk the hill.

    Oh by the way – my sweet soccer playin’ niece? I’ve successfully convinced her that burnt orange is the color of Hell. Scoreboard.

  52. I grew up in Lawrence butbhave since moved on. I still have a drawer full of jayhawk t shirts and proudly wear them everyday during basketball season. I know many people that say they are UNC or Duke fans that dont have near the level of devotion that the average KU fan displays on any given day.

  53. I am the mother of 2 graduates and a junior at KU. I also teach at KU. I grew up on the east coast, went to University of MD. and it was just a school. Just a school. No emotion- a place to spend four years and get a job.
    Fate brought me to Kansas and my life changed forever. As I drive from OP to Lawrence everyday, as soon as I see the buildings on the horizon I feel like I am home. Sort of like Dorothy seeing the Emerald City. My students think I am a little nuts but they understand and love it. I love the Jhawk colors, I love the buildings, and I love Lawrence…but more than life, I love my Jayhawk basketball.
    Games are tough. I don’t like drama. I don’t like confrontation. I like my games with a big lead the entire time. Unfortunately, I don’t always get my wish. I have three autographed basketballs from different years and they have their places right with wedding and family pictures.
    When I hear our songs at the local sports bar that caters to KU fans, my heart beats out of my chest. I look at strangers wearing Jhawk clothes and I have instant friends. Unfortunately, it works the opposite with MU and KSU.
    Thank you for writing this piece. You capture the hearts of Jhawks everywhere.
    OH>……..Did I mention I am also the mother of the crying Jayhawk in the picture?

  54. Fantastic blog article sent to me by a friend. I laughed throughout and even teared up because I so completely identified and don’t even know you – that’s how it feels to be a Jayhawk!

  55. Great article. Outsiders can’t understand the significance or passion of KU basketball unless you experience it first hand. I’ve taken several friends and family members to games and they all leave better for the experience. At the very least, they leave with respect and admiration for what should be on every sports fans bucket list.

    When I was in high school I was recruited to play football for the Jayhawks. On my recruiting trip I was fortunate to witness the greatest sporting event of my life; #1 Oklahoma vs #2 KU for a nationally televised game. The whole experience left me so overwhelmed I turned down other offers from better football schools to attend KU. In 2008, I took my two sons to AFH to watch the Nat’l Championship on the video board. With the exceptions of their births, it was one of the most special events we’ve shared. We still talk about it every March and my sons ask if KU makes it to the Final 4 if we can do it again.

    Yes, it’s that special.

    PS Please, Charlie Weis, make KU Football relevant again.

  56. For a non KU graduate, the passion of the fans can be overwhelming and a little scary. Although it does appear somewhat irrational to an outsider, the intensity of fan support cannot be in doubt. My thanks to Katy K. for sending this article to enlighten me.

  57. Texas culture shock.! I lived in Dallas for twenty years. I had never been to a college basketball game outside of “The Phog”. My first foray into college basketball in Texas was at The Frank Erwin center in the early 90′s. Can you say “Golf clap”? I embarrassed my friend who was a UT guy, due to the fact that I tried to stand a LOT during the game so our Jayhawks could feel my love. I think I got hit with lots of popcorn and definitely some bored scowls as we spanked some longhorn bottoms…It was awesome when we formed the big 12 because that gave me the chance to see a ton of KU games in Texas for cheap tickets that would have cost a fortune in Lawrence. Simply put, every experience outside of AFH is a disappointment. I took my friend the UT guy to a game at The Phog. He finally understood, enough said.

    • I had the same experience going to a Georgetown game the year after I graduated from KU. The stadium was half empty. The only people who seemed interested in cheering were the cheerleaders. It was stunning.

  58. Sarah,
    While reading this article I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, it really struck a nerve. My wife and I are both die hard fans having finished BOTH our undergrad and Masters degrees at KU, but it didn’t start out that way for me. I was born, bred, and raised a bleeding Husker! My parents both finished degrees at UNL, were lifetime Alumni members, we made the pilgrimage to Lincoln (a nine hour drive from where I lived) a few times a year for the gathering of the faithful (some people call it football), my Mom was the president of the Alumni Association of Western Nebraska, and she worked for the University in the College of Nursing. As you might imagine I was a bit of a black sheep when I chose KU out of my list of 17 schools. Even growing up a part of the Husker fan base, celebrating back to back to back national championships under Tom Osborne, meeting Tommie Frasier and Brook Berringer, and standing in the midst of the third largest city in Nebraska (on game day) could have prepared me for what it meant to be a Jayhawk.
    I remember moving into the dorms, with three other guys who were leaving deep family school traditions for KU. One from Texas, one from Mizzou, and one from Oklahoma, all who had parents just like mine. I remember my first Traditions night, a short 24 hours after arriving on campus, where I first learned about the scourge that is Misery. After I understood it was kind of like the Colorado Buffaloes just with more darkness and evil thrown in it made perfect sense. I have vivid memories of building the football program under Mangino, I remember my first experience in Allen Fieldhouse, and I still get goose bumps every time I hear the Rock Chalk Chant. We were luck enough to get season tickets in Allen Fieldfhouse this year and I will never forget what I felt like for the last 3 minutes of the KU Mizzou game, or the three days afterward! It was absolutely magical.
    My Wife and I now live in Lawrence, she works for the University and my 3 year old absolutely knows Rock Chalk and GO KU! He cries when his Jayhawk pajamas are dirty and get’s excited about watching Thomas Robinson on TV. Even at 3 years old he knows why we skip the purple cat in Brown bear brown bear and why people who wear black and yellow are bad. Every Christmas our house turns red and blue with lights that dance to the Rock Chalk chant (you were right, we are sick individuals) and could easily purchase a majority of our christmas shopping list at the bookstore.
    My in-laws are rabid fans and even my mother, a die hard Cornhusker for 25+ years is now a convert! A self described “Husker Hawk”, who much to her chagrin has accepted that her grand-kids will grow up Jayhawks. Thank you for putting into words, the indescribable feelings I’ve got to have over the last 10 years being a part of the best school, the best fans, and the best place to play basketball anywhere in the world.

  59. I am also a very sick person, and my in-laws are just now starting to understand what it really means to be a jayhawk.

  60. Roy left, get over it. He’s a good man and everyone needs change in their lives. If there’s one thing you still have to learn about basketball – even at KU – players will come and go, coaches come and go sometimes too. You didn’t even stay in Lawrence yourself.

    • Marshuck, I believe the writer was explaining how she felt at the time Roy left. Nowhere in the article is it implied that she feels that way today. The main subject is not about Roy leaving, it is about what it means to be a Jayhawk.

  61. WOW!! I couldn’t have said it better. I have been called “sick” many times. I grew up in Texas and I rooted for A&M. (didn’t much care for the longhorns, everyone else did!) I married a man from Kansas and hadn’t really attached to a Kansas team. I still rooted for my Aggies. We went to Kemper Arena and watched the tournaments. I will never forget the year I truly became a J-Hawk fan. Darnell Valentine played on the team and so my madness started. I now have so much KU “stuff”. Bathroom, bedroom both decorated for KU, several items in other room, my Christmas tree is all KU. I have even been asked if I own any other clothes beside KU. I guess this is why people call me “sick”. All I have to say is “Yes, it is great be a Jayhawk!”

  62. You’re ridiculous. Every major college is snobbish about their team and sport. I’ll bet that Texas A & M Football feels the same about your football team. ha ha ha…and btw…rock chalk jayhawk is the dumbest thing everyone’s ever heard. Go NC State!

  63. Jayhacks suck! This is the dumbest example of fans patting each other on the back and telling each other how awesome they. LIving in kansas sucks so bad it is only march that makes it tolerable. Ha ha ha….Wolfpack!

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  65. Sarah thanks for starting this great confessional for Jayhawks like me even who have moved far away, grown up and had children and who are still die hard Jayhawks who mindlessly hum the fight song while getting in early gardening in March! I now live in WA(state), and proudly have a Go Jayhawks banner displayed at my house every year at this time. I have two sons, who grew up listening to me cheer at the top of my lungs or put on a barely brave face during the low moments, but who finally got to stand in the middle of Allen Fieldhouse on vacation one summer, and heard the roar of all the fans echoing through time, and they finally understood the magic that is Jayhawk basketball. I never miss a game on tv, or listen to it on the computer or Pandora radio. My son’s friends ask me about my bracket every March, even though they know who I have going all the way. When Nick Collison played for the Seattle Sonics, my husband (another Jayhawk) and I took my son and his friend to Nick Collison night, where we met hundreds of other Jayhawks from all around the region, and we were all sitting in the same section of Key Arena. We chanted Rock Chalk Jayhawk, did the wave and wore our KU gear and for that night we were Jayhawks first – Washington residents second. It was great to see so many of us in one place so far away from Lawrence. In my office even, out of a staff of 20, 2 of us are Jayhawks!!!! Every year one of my friends sends me something Jayhawk-related for my birthday or Christmas since she knows my heart is still in Lawrence. Some of those have made it to my office, including the stuffed Jayhawk that is prominently displayed in my office, but my favorite is the little pin that is attached to my monitor that reminds me everyday – Once a Jayhawk – Always a Jayhawk! So very true!!

  66. Nicely put! I thought I was a true Razorback Fan until I got out of the Air Force in 1970, and started KU. It is totally incredible how one game in Allen Fieldhouse with 17 thousand people screaming at 115 decibles for a preseason game can both illuminate and infect a true fan. If Kansas had been playing Arkansas, it probable would have taken a second game. Thanks for a truly captivating piece!

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  69. Why am I just now seeing this?! It’s brilliant. I actually starting crying in the middle of it, if that tells you how much of a hardcore KU fan I am…without even being a student there yet—2 more years, can’t wait to make my Jayhawk status official. I completely identified with your writing, at times I forgot that these weren’t my own thoughts….are you my long-lost twin? (I wrote a personal narrative for my english class almost exactly like this!) But I’d just like to say thanks for the awesome read, it’s the best feeling to know there are other people out there who are crazy, heartfelt Jayhawk fans just like me!

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  73. Great article! I love in Melbourne, Australia but grew up in Lawrence and went to KU. Graduated in ’96. Your 2008 was my 1988. I was 14 years old. People ask me why my car number plates say RCJHKU. I might direct them to your article. :0)

  74. Stop your whining… always the whining and crying from you KU fans. Anyone who has been to college and has any interest in sports feels this way about their team. We are just not all pussies.

  75. Typical KU fan. Totally delusional and didn’t even attend for 4 years. Please go worry about something more important than College Basketball.

    • Aw Chip, do you have a chip on your shoulder? Instead of hating on this article, you could write an article about a passion that you have, then post it online, and read hating comments from someone on the planet that doesn’t understand your passion. That would help remove your chip, Chip.

    • Obviously, Herb waited until this year so he could post that we only had one National Championship in 25 years. Two in 26 for basketball isn’t bad.

      Herb, How many National Championship has your team won in the last 25 years?

      KU has two more National Championships in the last 25 years. The men’s bowling team won a National Championship in 2004 and the women’s track team won the 2013 National Championship.

      That would make it 3 National Championships in the last 25 years. Suck it Herb

      Oh, and Happy Birthday Sarah!

  76. Graduated in 2005 still pissed at Carmelo Anthony and the loss in the 2003 title game. 2008 was amazing and Mass Street was nuts. Hopefully we go all the way this year RCJH!!

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