Nail-biting basketball

So I made my return to Bearcat Arena this weekend.

And I couldn’t have picked a better game for it.

I’d spent the afternoon in my apartment, catching up on some side projects and household chores. It felt great; this was the first weekend since arriving here that I’ve felt settled and not like there’s something I have to do or set up. One of those weekends where you're feeling so comfortable you'd rather not go anywhere …

So I almost didn’t … But I also knew it would be good to get out of my apartment, go to the basketball game and be part of a crowd. So I did.

All of the parking lots were full, and the closest parking spot I could find was two blocks away. I arrived inside the arena just as the game was getting underway and took a standing position in one of the wings. Initially, walking along the sidelines by myself to find a seat -- by myself -- seemed too daunting; I figured I'd shyly try hanging in the wing for the duration of the game. I really wished Kates was with me … But I soon got tired of standing. And about eight minutes into the first half, I sucked it up and walked down the sideline to an open spot on the bleachers behind one of the baskets.

It’s safe to say the atmosphere at basketball games here has never compared to the raucous game days of our powerhouse football team. Even when the basketball teams have been really good, the atmosphere in the arena has had a dullness to it, which is too bad. I came from a high school where things were just the opposite -- raucous basketball games, but dull football games … Truth be told, after a few minutes of watching the game I was sort of regretting my decision to come and thinking of the other things I could be doing. I’m not the kind of person that likes to spend his Saturday afternoons napping, but even that would have been more exciting.

Then my mood started to change. Our home team had been keeping the game close, but I had no clue of the significance until Dr. Bob, our athletic director, whom I’d been sitting next to, leaned over and informed me our opponent had lost just one game this season and was ranked No. 3 in the nation. Our team, on the other hand, came into the game with a 9-10 record; they were unranked.

Suddenly, I began watching the game with more interest. And at halftime, our team trailed by just two points.

A couple dance performances and a kids relay race later, the second half kicked off. Our boys kept battling and stayed in the game. There were 15 ties, 20 lead changes and no lead larger than six points. In the second half, my heightened interest in the game had me pumping my fists and hollering like an alum should be.

With just more than a minute left in the game, one of our guys hit a three-pointer from the corner to give us a one-point lead. But the opponent scored a jumper on the other end to take back the lead with under a minute to play … On our next possession, our guard drove to the basket and drew a foul. He sank both free throws to put us back in front 60-59 with 31 seconds left in the game.

The opponent missed a jumper and we got two more free throws to seal the upset with nine seconds left. The other team threw up a couple three-point tries in the waning seconds, but it was our day. When time expired, the crowd erupted. We had won the game 62-59 and knocked off the No. 3 team in the country.

I was glad I had come.

* * *

Next, it was time for the nightcap. Kansas at K-State

I returned to my apartment and popped a pizza in the oven for my private party. A few minutes later my laptop was ringing with a Skype call from Kates. My parents also were staying with her and Phoebe for part of the weekend, and despite being separated by hundreds of miles, they were joining my party by the virtues of virtuality.

Having taken great joy in watching the Jayhawks clobber Missouri the other night -- not to mention No. 1-ranked Kentucky‘s loss to South Carolina, I was prepped for another good beating last night and pumped for Kansas's return to No. 1 status ... I had been reading about "The Octagon of Doom" all week, which had me only slightly worried. But I had no idea Kansas State had worked itself up to a No. 13 ranking. Plain and simple, I hadn’t been following K-State.

It turned out to be my second nail-biter for the day.

As we watched the game, we realized my television feed was running about three to five seconds ahead of the feed that Kates and my parents were watching. With every Whoo! and fist pump I made, I was tipping them off that something significant was about to happen ...

Eventually, I started feeling bad enough about ruining any of the game's surprises that I was suppressing my emotions -- which wasn't easy. A couple times I managed to pump my fists without making a sound and averted ruining the moment because my parents were looking away from their computer monitor. Or like when I scowled inside as KU turned the ball over in the final minute of regulation, allowing K-State to send the game to overtime.

There were other moments -- like when Sherron Collins hit a layup with nine seconds left in overtime to seal the win for the Jayhawks -- that I couldn't contain myself and had to jump out of the camera's view to do a little dance.

Ah, the madness. Is it March yet?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The KU KState game really was fabulous. We watched it with friends who graduated from KU and KState - the fireworks in the booth were almost as exciting as the actual game. :)