My last post, How it feels to be a Jayhawk, totally surprised me. It garnered about 25,599 hits, which is a whole lot considering my blog has only amassed 34,491 hits since I created it two years ago. Thanks to everyone who read it, sent it to friends, and commented. I loved hearing from alumni who attended KU before me, and I really loved the confirmation that I’m not alone in my insanity.
I even kinda liked getting a rude comment from an anonymous North Carolina State fan because, dude, your school isn’t even mentioned in the post. Also, Kansas won that game.
But I haven’t written anything since the tournament began, and so much has happened.
On Friday, my bosses told me I could have Saturday and Sunday off to go to New Orleans with my friends. If Kansas won, I could have Monday off, too. If you’ve ever worked the sports desk at a medium-sized paper, you know that three days off over a weekend is big, big deal. The last time I got a weekend off was in May, for my graduation.
So I worked until 1, went home to pack and clean, and left my house at 6:30, running on two hours of sleep. I didn’t sleep again for another 24 hours.
It was worth it. It was so, so worth it.
First, my friends Tyler and Kathleen impulsively bought what they quickly discovered were counterfeit tickets. Oops. The best/worst part was the pin that mockingly says, “I was there!”
Rather than risk getting ripped off again, we decided to watch the game at a sports bar called Extreme. That’s where we ran into Shaka Smart, VCU’s head basketball coach and the man who broke our hearts last year.
Oh, and then Kansas beat Ohio State to advance to the national title game.
There’s something really special about hearing the Rock Chalk Chant echo through the French Quarter.
Tonight, one way or the other, the season ends. It’s Danny Manning’s last game with the team. It’s Tyshawn Taylor’s last game, and likely Thomas Robinson’s last game.
No Kansas team has been more fun to watch.
We’ve seen Tyshawn go from the most frustrating guy on the court – Tyshawn “Turnover” Taylor – to a legitimate leader. In a few months, he’ll walk down the hill. That troublemaker from Jersey will be a college graduate and I couldn’t be prouder if he were my own brother.
Last year, we saw T-Rob lose his mother. This year, we watched him become a man. He’s done what he needs to do to set himself up for the NBA because he has a sister to support. I hate when players leave school early to go to the NBA, and I’m usually more critical than most when it happens. But Thomas Robinson is an exception. Go if you need to go, T-Rob. We’ll cheer for you in any uniform.
We’ve seen Travis Releford get the opportunity he waited so patiently for. How many other players would take a nonmedical redshirt as a junior? At a time when many freshman transfer to get more playing time, Relly cared enough about the team to sit out until we really needed him. At Kansas, you wait your turn, and I love that.
Remember when Jeff Withey transferred, sat out a year, then got a DUI and sat out another semester? That guy is now three blocks away from the NCAA tournament record.
All I wanted out of this team was a trip to the Sweet 16. It was the first year I didn’t demand a national championship, yet here we are.
I have absolute faith in this team. Normally, that’s kind of a scary prospect — we’ve had a few bumps this season. But tonight I’m not scared because I’m OK with the idea of losing. (Of course, all losses are the fans’ fault anyway, right?)
If we win, it might feel a little like 2008. But if we lose, it won’t feel like 2003. This is Bill Self’s scrappiest team, and they’ve given the fans more than we could have asked — and Kansas fans ask a lot. You’ve done enough, Jayhawks. I’ll be proud either way.
But I still want another national championship more than I want anything else in life. So I’ll leave you with this.