I’ve never known the true joy of introducing someone to Allen Fieldhouse, but this weekend I came close when I brought my friend Meghan to see Kansas play Texas in Austin. Meghan went to Clemson and saw her fair share of quality basketball as ACC teams came through, but all she knew of Kansas basketball was what I’d forced her to watch on TV and all the stories she patiently endured because sometimes I just can’t stop talking. I admit, most of my KU tales sound like exaggerations. You have to see it to understand.
So off we went to Austin.
The Texas game turned out to be a quintessential Kansas game as the Jayhawks started slow and sloppy and took an 11-point deficit into halftime.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “Bill Self gives the best halftime speeches. He’ll get it turned around.”
If you saw the game, you know Bill’s halftime speech didn’t set in for a while. Some fans like to heckle opposing teams; I heckle my own team because that’s the performance I care about. Somewhere between “Hey Withey, you gonna block something today?” and “Oh OK, just go ahead and give them the ball!” Meghan pointed to the clock and said, “This isn’t looking good.”
There was about 5 minutes left. “I’m not worried,” I said.
It was then I realized I’d reached some kind of Kansas fan nirvana. I was watching the only team I’ve ever loved do all the same things it’s done to induce a number of public meltdowns and private heart attacks, but I felt fine.
As I pondered inner peace and living without fear, KU took a 64-60 lead with 2:12 remaining and the fans broke into a truly impressive “Let’s go Jayhawks. The Texas fans booed and hissed and stomped their feet, but you can’t drown out Kansas fans.
Our team is never perfect. The fun is in being really, really good but still mortal. Kansas always puts on a show, and that’s why the fans are so willing to watch them on the road.
Some other highlights: Meghan ran into Todd Reesing and, having no idea who he was, chatted him up while I stood there, speechless, like an idiot. Later, four people dressed as foxes (or something) drove past us in a convertible and waved. We think they were furries. And I got to see my college friends Kathleen and Tyler for the first time since our Final Four adventures in New Orleans.
Now a quick word on tonight’s Sunflower Showdown: I like Kansas State. They’re scrappy, they always hire fun coaches, and they wear purple. But I simply can’t allow them to win tonight’s game. We’re building a case for a No. 1 tournament seed, so everyone be diligent with your pregame rituals. And I highly recommend Matt Norlander’s perfectly timed post on CBS Sports: Why Kansas is the best basketball state of the modern era.
Ad astra per aspera, y’all.