The mourning after

Sigh. I’ve written too many of these types of posts over the years.

My beloved Kansas Jayhawks -- the No. 1-ranked Jayhawks and the overwhelming favorite to win it all -- were dethroned by the feisty No. 9-seeded Northern Iowa Panthers yesterday. My tournament bracket, which shimmered with success after all the first round upsets, is dead. And my interest in the rest of the tournament has been blown to bits.

My bracket also lost out on the Villanova, Murray State and New Mexico games. As of this morning, I sit fifth in the office pool, and I still have three Final Four teams playing, but with Kansas -- my national champion -- out, my stock is sure to drop.

After watching Villanova get knocked out of the tournament, I donned my Jayhawk blue and hit the road to my friend Tom’s house for the big game … Kansas didn’t look good from the start, of course, but I was quick to deny that. Nothing to worry about, it’s only the first half, I said.

But the game’s second half wasn’t any better than the first. Tom and I were on our feet in front of the television for the last 12 minutes, bemoaning every ill-advised shot, mishandled rebound and turnover. Even little Kieran was shouting at the TV and beating his toy drum in frustration, “Oh no! Come on!”

Then, then! With the minutes waning, the Jayhawks showed some fight! They stole two consecutive inbound passes! They closed the deficit to one point! Our hearts were pounding! They had a chance!

And then, as fast as the Jayhawks appeared to have turned a corner, they ran into a wall. Sure, I’d celebrated Ali Farokhmanesh on Thursday night for his performance against UNLV and the game-winning three-pointer he drained to beat them, but I was loathing him last night … With about 30 seconds left in the game, Farokhmanesh brought the ball down by himself and had three -- three! -- Jayhawks circling him. And all three of them left him free to take the shot as though he had a force field bubble protecting him. If there was one guy the Jayhawks shouldn’t have given space to shoot, Farokhmanesh was THAT guy!

Season over.

Within seconds, Kates, who had been watching the game in K-Town and texting me throughout, was calling my cell phone. I looked at the caller ID and rolled my eyes. “Doesn’t she know better?” I said to Tom.

“Hello.” I answered the phone as if someone had just died.
“Are you ok?” Kates asked
“Yeah, I’ll be ok.” I should give her credit -- she knows my Jayhawk passion well enough to immediately offer support in these tough times.

In the minutes afterward, Tom and I wandered the room, lamenting the loss and making comparisons to other Kansas bracket busters. Bradley in ’06. Bucknell in ’05. Syracuse in ’03. Rhode Island in ’98. Arizona in ’97 …“That was brutal” … “That may go down as one of the biggest Kansas chokes” … “I feel like going outside and just burying my head in the snow” ... “Hey, 2008 was fun!” ...

The TV analysts discussed and showed the KU miscues over and over and over. My social media pages started lighting up with messages about busted brackets, crushed hopes and teasing from KU-haters. A Jayhawk nation was stunned and left wondering … how?

The thing is, we know how. We’ve watched this scenario play out again and again for Kansas in the tournament, and it makes me pause every year when I begin to fill out my brackets. Looking back on the season, and past defeats, Tom and I came to the realization that this year’s team lacked a killer instinct. They were complacent. They tended to play to the level of their competition. Joe Posnanski also has a great blog post this morning explaining exactly those themes.

We dined on some homemade tacos and watched Kansas State win its game over BYU with glazed eyes. I’ll be cheering for Kansas State in the tournament now, if only to salvage some pride for the state I love.

By 10 last night I was working my way back to The ’Ville, dealing with the cherry on top of our emotionally challenging day -- 8 inches of snow on the first day of spring, not to mention the start of the university’s spring break … We’d heard the weather forecasts but chose to ignore them. Then the white stuff started falling around 4:30 Friday afternoon, and when I heard the snowplow outside my window yesterday morning, I figured the scenery wasn’t to my liking.

Nonetheless, I ventured onto the roads and handled the weather just fine. I’m from Wisconsin after all! … Coming home last night was a little tougher. By then, several more inches had fallen and I had an amusing time pushing my Little Green Machine through it just to get out of Tom’s neighborhood.

When I hit the Interstate it became apparent that the snowfall must’ve made the Missouri plows too nervous to even clear the roads. But again, I handled it, cruising past the less-confident drivers at a steady 40 mph and proudly displaying my Wisconsin license plate on my rear -- if only for a few more months.

Just when my focus on all the snow had nearly helped me forget the shock and sadness of the Kansas loss, Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day” started playing on my iPod and conjured all the images from the game. Ugh.

Oh, but life goes on. Like the others, this loss won’t change my life. And there will be a new season of Kansas basketball to celebrate next year.

Today’s a new day. And baseball’s opening day is just weeks away.

Some good reads about yesterday’s tournament action ...
a Big reason Gaels are moving on
a Kansas, Villanova bust Obama's men's bracket
a Day 3: Kansas Falls, Kentucky Explodes
a Northern Iowa Coolly Upsets No. 1 Seed Kansas

1 comment:

Matt and Lynne said...

Can't believe I missed this post: KANSAS STINKS!

Ah, I feel better.