Happy Final Four Weekend, friends. And by happy, I mean it’s pretty bittersweet…emphasis on the bitter. I am proud to say that I haven’t cut myself off from all sports civilization for the week like I have in the past after tournament losses, but I will admit, stomaching Erin Andrews’ tweets about eating beignets on Bourbon Street is not the easiest thing in the world. I finally started wearing real clothes, listening to normal music, and getting on with life after a rough start to the week. As my dad insisted after I made my emotional rant after the loss…
…it really starts to get easier to swallow when you realize these guys are just that – guys. They’re normal people. Not the superheroes that I often consider them to be, but human beings. College students. Young men. And the most heart-wrenching part (for them and for me) is seeing the relationships on the court and off, as a tight-knit group of teammates and friends, come to somewhat of an end as the seniors’ (and sophomores’…) college careers come to an end. What he’s referring to in the comment above is the way the entire team came out on the court when Jeremy McNeil was announced on senior day as his family, as he had no family to accompany him for that special moment. Watching all of the raw emotion in these huge, burly guys every year when seasons and careers come to a close is so special. It’s definitely bittersweet.
I’ve had so many great memories of Scoop and Kris over the years, and it’s been so much fun watching them play. Seeing them play their last game and get ready to embrace the inevitable opportunities of the future – hopefully the NBA for Kris and Europe/coaching one day for Scoop – is exciting, but also so sad. One of the major reasons I love college sports so much more than professional ones is that these kids leave it all out on the court, every game. They play with so much heart, and they do it for the love of the game. When there’s million-dollar paychecks involved, the goofy smiles and the tears after losses just seem to disappear…because at the end of the day, it’s a job – just like with anyone else, there’s good days and bad days at work. You can’t blame ‘em. But there’s just something about college basketball that can’t be beat (no pun intended). Anyway, seeing the players around campus has really helped me get back into the swing of things – I think seeing J-South at the Hunger Games last night (true story) really made me realize that life really does go on. I’m actually listening to Jack & Diane right now…irony much? “Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of livin’ is gone.” It’s true. While we’re on the subject, check out this great read about Scoop’s legacy at ‘Cuse. It really sums up what I’ve been trying to say all along. Scoop’s post-loss reaction is exactly what I’m getting at: at the end of the day, all those guys are just human.
I haven’t decided if I’m going to torture myself with final four games tonight or not…my current plan is to have them on and muted in the background so I can glance if I want, but don’t have to stomach every moment. Especially the platforms at the end. THE DAMN PLATFORMS. Ugh. While watching the games isn’t a priority in my life, I do like to speculate about a possible rooting interest for the rest of the tourney…so here goes. Who is the lesser of four evils?
Obviously, I hate Kentucky. I just despise them. I don’t like John Calipari for a number of reasons, the main one being what he’s doing to the state of college basketball. Whine all you want about how it’s not that bad and every school has one-and-dones and nobody’s perfect, but I just don’t like the feeling I get in my gut when I see, year after year, a literal factory of lottery picks who leave school early in a freakishly consistent fashion. So UK is definitely the greatest of the four evils. I want them to lose. I don’t care if it’s tonight or Monday, but I do not want them cutting down the nets at the end of it all. Sure, those guys are great players – like, out-of-this-world talented – but I’m a stubborn, biased girl, and I don’t like them one bit.
Onto Louisville. Of course, they’re our Big East buds. And Pitino has ties to ‘Cuse. On the other hand, I do not like Pitino for a number of reasons – one being the obvious: the affair with Karen Sypher. Then again, judging entire teams for complicated off-court issues is kindof the pot calling the kettle black at this point in time. And Pitino is a good coach. And Kyle Kuric is really cute. So…do with that what you will.
Next: Kansas. This is clearly two-sided for me. I love Thomas Robinson, and he’s probably the easiest kid in America to root for right now. If you don’t know much about this kid, read this. Now. It’s another reminder that the things these kids go through don’t stop on the court…they’re just normal human beings who have to deal with the ups and downs of life everyday, as we all do. Aside from Robinson, I don’t know much about the players for KU. And I will admit, I really don’t have any issues with Bill Self. But hating Kansas has just kindof been a part of my being for a long time – I’m not sure why or when it happened, but I’d guess 2003 had something to do with it. Which makes little sense, as we did beat them for the championship, after all…but still. Something about them just screams “enemy” to my naïve ears. I also have an issue with cult-ish cheering (see my issues WVU, UF, ND, etc…), so Rock Chalk Jayhawk is definitely a negative in this situation.
Last but not least, the good ol’ Buckeyes of Ohio State. While I want to hate them with my whole being right now – and I try to convince myself that I do – it’s really hard. Thad Matta is a great coach. I’ve always liked Aaron Craft. They’ve got a lot of talent and a lot of heart. What hurts the most about the whole thing is that they remind me a lot of us – just the chemistry and team-mentality and even some of their style of play really echoes that of this year’s Syracuse team for me. Obviously, they played a good game last Saturday. I still have a LARGE bone to pick with the zebras, of course, and I refuse to believe that Ohio State truly “overpowered” us, even at center…I just feel in my gut that we could have won that game. It came down more to us shooting ourselves in the foot than anything else for me. Which, in one respect, makes me want to die, but in the other, it makes it a little bit easier to root for the Buckeyes. Obviously, you’d like to see the team that beat you win. And when you go back to the idea that these guys are just that – guys – you can’t help but be okay with that. I know our players would like to see it happen. And I’m on their side above all, so I have to admit I would be too. Will it happen? Who knows. Oh, and if you need another reason to root for them, check this out.
I guess what I’m saying is this: if Kentucky wins, I will roll my eyes and turn the TV off. If Louisville wins, I will smile and softly shake my head as I fondly remember the two great games we played against them and how we beat them, the national champions, twice. If Kansas wins, I will listen to Thomas Robinson’s interview, then mute the TV until One Shining Moment comes on. And if Ohio State wins, I will watch them – platforms and all – and be glad. My heart will hurt, but I will watch them and know that they deserve this. Despite the fact that by beating us, they put an end to one of my favorite fairy-tale-esque seasons of all times – albeit a tumultuous one – I will smile a little bit. I might even watch this video, and laugh. No matter what happens, I will remember that at the end of the day, all of these guys are just that – guys. They’re human beings. They aren’t superheros, although we’d like to think so sometimes. They’re just guys who work hard, put their heart and soul into everything they do, and work toward a common goal of which all but one team will inevitably fail to achieve. Really, at the end of the day, it’s not so much about the destination or the trophy or the temporary bliss – it’s about the tumultuous journey, the crazy ride, and all of the people involved along the way. Basketball is a pretty accurate parallel to life, isn’t it?
PS – Spring football NEEDS to open up…ASAP. And lax needs to win. I swear, this is all an attempt to torture me. The only updates on the status of the football team that I can grasp are via real-life observation and reading the sub-tweets of the players. Come on, Doug! Also, Nerlens needs to make a decision…now. Regardless of what happens, I’m already SO excited for next season. SO. FREAKING. EXCITED. Is it fall yet?
PPS — If this ‘Cuse-less Final Four is getting you down and you need a reason to smile, watch this. Right now. Did I mention I love this team? A lot. Like…A. LOT. <3
X’s and Oranges,