College Basketball is not exactly a big topic here at WFNY. While we pride ourselves on being your source for all things Browns, Cavs, Indians, and Buckeyes (oh, and Blue Jackets – sorry, DP), there are sometimes events that transcend our little bubble here.
Today is the start of one of them.
In the interest of full disclosure, I graduated from the University of Kansas and am about the biggest KU Hoops fan you will find. I was there for the Paul Pierce/Jacque Vaughn/Raef Lafrentz era. In four years of college, we were 58-0 at Allen Fieldhouse and were a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament three times. The other year, we were a #2. In each of those four years, we failed to make the Final Four, the most memorable was the ’97 choke job against Arizona in the Sweet 16 where the Jayhawks were #1 all year and the odds-on favorite by everyone to win it all. My college friends, none of whom were from Cleveland, were quick to point the dirty finger at me, claiming I infected KU with “The Cleveland Curse.”
While I struggled with The Drive, The Shot, The Fumble, and Jose Mesa (just six months after enduring the horrible KU loss to Arizona – nice year ’97 was for me, huh?), I had more misery to deal with.
In 2003, Kansas made their second of back to back Final Fours and got to the title game against Syracuse – the school my older brother attended. One of us was getting a ring, the other was keeping the curse alive. I watched as Syracuse Freshman Gerry McNamarra hit six three-pointers in the first half while Carmelo Anthony ate our lunch. However, Kansas remained right there. That’s until free-throw shooting did them in. Nothing like losing 81-78 and seeing a 12-30 from the free throw line stat staring me in the face. Oh, did I mention Michael Lee’s wide-open three to tie the game in the last two seconds was blocked out of nowhere by Hakim Warrick?
Things changed for me two years ago when Kansas Guard Mario Chalmers hit “Mario’s Miracle” to force overtime, where KU eventually beat Memphis to take the 2008 National Title. In one of my old blogs My Teams are Cursed, I described the feeling of finally, after 32 years of misery, seeing the first championship of my lifetime.
As the clock hit zero, I didn’t know what to do. I hugged my boys, I teared up, I stood in disbelief watching as the KU players and coaches celebrated. But more than anything, it felt as though the weight of the world was off of my shoulders. I seriously felt different. Something that has lived with me for 32 years had died. One of my teams actually won it all and the championship I had so badly wanted was here.
While, a KU hoops title was special, it will never top seeing this city’s reaction to its first championship since 1964. I shutter to think what a scene that would be like here. (Lets hope that happens this summer!)
So why am I wasting your time telling you about my history with Kansas basketball? Well, partly because as a Cleveland fan, you can certainly empathize with my sports upbringing and how I became the fan that I am – jaded, yet passionate.
But the real reason is because it is tournament time! Yes, the NCAA Tournament starts today. To me, it is the perfect sporting event that passes through all boundaries. Everyone from my mother to my eight year old nephew fills out a bracket. The first weekend of the tournament might as well be a national holiday. More people take off of work these next two days than any other day next to the day after thanksgiving. Here’s one for you, Some urologists say they have 50 percent more patients undergoing the procedure just before the NCAA Tournament kicks in.
More disclosure: (no I’m not having a vasectomy today) I’ve never been more swamped at work (contrary to popular belief, this isn’t my real job, though I wish it was). I’m sick as a dog. My wife, who also right now is in bed with a respiratory infection, is due with our second child in 10 days. We have a three year old son who has decided that now would be a good time to adopt himself into the “terrible two’s,” and my dog, who sleeps in bed with us, loves to keep me up all night because she snores.
But you know something, I don’t care. Because today is my Christmas day. I will sit back, take a deep breath, and strap in for four consecutive great days of college basketball. The road to my second title starts tonight in Oklahoma City as my beloved Jayhawks take on 16th seeded Lehigh. It could be the start of a big year for me personally – the birth of my second child, a KU national title, and a Cavs NBA title.
That, my friends, would be perfection.
photo via KUsports.com