Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Rock Chalk Jayhawk

It's barely 6 a.m., and I'm downstairs as Allie decided to cover the 5-6 a.m. shift for her sister and is crawling around on the floor.
Normally I'd be pretty grumpy right about now.
Not today, and probably not for a while.
There are so few times when you are truly, 100 percent rewarded for being a fan of a team. Let's face it. Disappointment lurks at the end of every season, and if there's not disappointment, there's either disgust (my Kansas City Chiefs were a perfect example) or heartbreak (my Colorado Rockies).
Even when you've had a great season, as the Rockies did last year, there's the end, when they were swept by the Red Sox (and rightly so, the Sox were better) and with that end comes a bitter pill.
But Monday, and now Tuesday morning, and Wednesday, and the rest of the year, there is only joy, and that's so rare in sports, it's makes you wonder sometimes why you're a fan.
Why would I give so much of my spirit and, hell, let's face it, my soul, to Kansas? There was a lot of great memories and elation, to be sure, but every season ended in disappointment, and not just disappointment, really, but heartbreak, the kind inspired by one-outers on the river.
"Why do you do this to yourself?" Kate would ask me.
It was hard to answer her, except there was this: I graduated from Kansas, where basketball is really a religion, not a sport, and the team gave me the best memories of my school career as a member of the basketball band, traveling to the tournaments, leaving Allen Field House with my ears ringing, being treated like rock stars on campus, the only time band members ever sniffed cool.
You can't just set that aside when you graduate. If anything, it gets stronger because you always want to relive those magical years of college, when you were young and optimistic and ready to take on the world.
So I sit here, reading all the stories, and this, ultimately, is the reason you are a fan, is because if you are loyal, and you stick with your team through all the years, eventually, chances are you will get to experience a moment like this one.
I experienced it in 1985 with the Kansas City Royals, and I've never forgotten that team. The Royals, for the most part, have been a joke since then, a bad punchline, a symbol of the inequity of baseball's payrolls. Yet I'll always look at them as champions, and I'll always worship George Brett.
It is a drug, the ultimate high, and yet it lasts for not only months but possibly years. I didn't quite know what to feel when the final seconds of overtime ticked away. Something like this soaks in, over time, as you see the parades and everyone talks about your team and you can wear your Kansas gear over and over and strangers will point to you and say, "Hey, nice season."
I'm also glad that Kansas and Memphis delivered a classic. I watched the game with one of my best friends, who grew up in Kansas, over at a house he was sitting, alone, just the two of us. It gave me the freedom to scream. And he said to me, "Wouldn't it be sweet to win on a shot at the buzzer?"
I thought he was nuts. We'd already survived Davidson, and games like that shorten your life span. But he's right. Not only playing but winning a classic, a game that people will talk about for years, is the best feeling you'll never get.
OK, OK, this isn't the birth of my twins or Jayden. This isn't the day Kate said yes. This isn't the day I graduated from college. This isn't even the day I finished all the 14ers in Colorado.
It's just the best day I've ever had as a devoted fan. There are very few times you get to feel this in life.
I'm gonna savior every second.
There's a reason why our fight song is titled "I'm a Jayhawk." You are not just a fan. You just are.
I'm a Jay, Jay, Jay Jay Jayhawk, and today, I couldn't be prouder to say it.


WillWonka said...

Nothing better than your team winning. Enjoy the feeling!!!

StB said...

There was some important game the other night?